Beards and Business at Craft Lake City’s DIY Festival
Salt Lake City—Thousands of attendees were able to sample the wares of local artisans, food vendors and businesses again at this year’s eighth annual CRAFT LAKE CITY DIY (Do-It-Yourself) FESTIVAL. For many local companies the DIY Festival provides a platform to get their product in front an audience; more than just advertising and community building for the local product scene, this is essential for healthy growth.
Beard grooming, seen by many as a niche pastime rather than a fundamental practice, is making a push for the mainstream. Two vendors were ambassadors to the crowds at DIY Festival on behalf of the beard grooming industry.
OLIO SKIN AND BEARD has been around since 2009. Owned and operated by husband and wife Derek and Jennifer Williamson, Olio has been growing steadily for the past seven years, thanks in part to festivals like Craft Lake City’s DIY Festival.
“This is our first year at Craft Lake, we don’t know what to expect right now, we’re really excited,” said Jennifer.
“We primarily sell at the farmers’ markets, like the Downtown Farmers’ Market, Park Silly Sunday Market, and then we do big festivals and shows like this,” said Derek.
SILVERBACK GROOMING COMPANY is the new kid on the block when it comes to local beard care. Owner and operator Brandon Shillig works as a wilderness therapist, and in his spare time owns and operates his beard oil company.
“I’ve been selling on Etsy and little tiny venues. Hopefully this [DIY Festival] can be my big break, where I can start taking off with this,” said Shillig.
Olio started with skin products, and branched out to beard care after Derek was hesitant to grow a beard in a dry climate. Olio has a wider focus than just beard care products, offering a variety of skin care and tattoo care products.
” Probably what sets us apart the most is that we’re local, small batch and everything is completely handmade. We know exactly what’s in our items,” said Jennifer.
“We source our ingredients. We blend them. What’s different with us is we’ve done a lot of research. For instance, our beard oil—most beard oils out there have a base of coconut oil, a large molecule; [it] makes a guy feel greasy through the day. Ours absorbs fully within four minutes,” said Derek.
The origins of Silverback Grooming are similar; Shillig said he was looking for a way to combat having an itchy beard without breaking the bank.
“I saw the Egyptians, the Greeks, and those ancient civilizations would oil their beards. My mom’s always been into essential oils, and so I thought I’d start making my own,” said Shillig.
The customer interaction offered at the DIY Festival allows Olio and Silverback Grooming to communicate the value of their products.
“We thought we would be coming out selling beard oil, selling soap, but a lot of our time is spent educating too. Which we’re fond of,” said Jennifer, “It does take a lot of education. It’s not something you just pick up. There’s questions on our product, and you have to talk to people.”
Shillig says he wants people to move past their preconceived notions about beard grooming.
“There’s that old-school side of the people that have beards, where if you oil your beard you’re a hipster, and it’s not manly if you take care of your beard. From the outside it seems like a niche item, but I really believe that since I’ve started using beard oil that it’s really helped the health of my face and beard,” said Shillig. “I don’t feel less masculine because I take care of my beard.”
Shillig’s branding is representative of his stance. He said the silverback gorilla is his favorite animal, and thought it communicated everything he found appealing about beards.
“They seem so serene, wise and they’re powerful. I focus all my scents, names, and branding around different apes,” he said.
Branding is just one of the difficulties that Olio has faced as small business.
“We were in a sales background. We’ve done what we can, just visually trying to get people into our booth. That’s one of the challenges. You don’t think that you’re doing this on your own, but suddenly you become your own PR, your own advertiser, your own salesperson,” said Jennifer. “So that’s been very different, it’s been a learning process.”
Shillig, who makes all of his products by hand, said his biggest challenge has been trying to find enough time to balance out running Silverback Grooming with his job, hobbies, and spending time with loved ones.
Despite the challenges of operating a small business, companies like Olio Skin and Beard have found a way to make it work. Olio partners with other small businesses, like The Bean Whole Coffee (to develop coffee-infused skin products), and Garrett Michael Barber Shop (to sell their men’s products), and venues like Craft Lake City DIY Festival are very conducive networking and building those local relationships.
“I do believe a lot of our good luck comes from us caring about other local businesses, and sharing in their success. It is a great product, but a lot of it I think is our attitude toward other local companies,” said Jennifer.
“Part of us being in business is being part of the community,” said Derek.