Most businesses start with an idea before getting the right resources to make a product. With Beekman 1802, it was the other way around. Founders Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge had bought a farm together in upstate New York in 2006. Once they lost their New York City jobs in the recession that followed, they had their mortgage to pay and a bevy of goats (owned by a friendly neighbor of theirs, grazing on their land).
“We Googled ‘What can we make with goat milk?'” Ridge said on this week’s episode of the Glossy Beauty Podcast. The first thing that came up, unsurprisingly, was cheese. “But you have to become a Grade A certified dairy, and there’s a lot of expenses with that. The next thing on the list was goat milk soap.”
Ten years later, their beauty business is a successful one — it accounts for 90% of company sales. This is in no small part thanks to the couple’s skill at marketing it on air at QVC and HSN (by way of Evine, now ShopHQ), Facebook Live and YouTube.
“I always say TV retail is like door-to-door sales except you are knocking on 120 million doors at once,” Kilmer-Purcell said.
Ridge added, “That’s what unlocked the potential of the brand. Otherwise we’d have just kept growing very slowly, very organically.”
The two joined the Glossy Beauty Podcast to talk about starting the business with “less than zero” dollars, cold calling department stores and their interest in investment considering the very ripe beauty M&A scene.
Here are a few highlights from the conversation, lightly edited for clarity.
Surviving the 2008 recession
Brent Ridge: “We were thinking ‘Oh my goodness, how are we going to cover the mortgage on the farm and feed these 80 goats?’ We Googled ‘What can we make with goat milk?” And of course the first thing that comes up is cheese. The next thing on the list was goat milk soap, so we found a local soap maker, Deb McGillicuddy, and she taught us how to make it. We started using it and thought ‘Wow, this is really good, the goat milk is really good for the skin,’ because the winters are so harsh up there. Having come from the city, I did cold calls to virtually every beauty department in the city — Saks, Barneys, Bergdorf, Henri Bendel. The only one that gave us a shot was Henri Bendel.”
Video changed everything
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: “We quickly became bullish on it, because I always say TV retail is like door-to-door sales except you’re knocking on 120 million doors at once. You’re really talking directly to your consumer, or as we call our customers, neighbors. You’re getting live-time feedback, they’re calling in, you’re seeing if they’re buying (you see the dollars per minute). It’s one of the truest connections you can have on a mass scale between a company and consumers.”
The need for outside investment
Brent Ridge: “We’d have to have a really compelling reason to do that. We’ve been a profitable company since the first year. We haven’t had the need to take on any additional investors. If we ever decided to, it would be to do something that we didn’t think we could accomplish on our own, something in more advanced sustainable packaging or development in international markets.”