Interview with 2 friends who started a Mens Grooming Business

Tell us abit yourself and how do you both know each other.

Jeevan:
 I am  Jeevan, 28 , working in a events company. My educational background is in business management.
Irfan:  I am Irfan, 25,  studied sports science. We knew each other close to decade ago through a common friend, Vinish. We shared soccer as a common interest and became close together.

How did this idea happen?
Jeevan: Perhaps it all started when we both challenged each other to grow a beard. We had a beard for 6 months. It was during that experience that we realised the intricacies of growing and maintaining a beard. We received many comments about stereotypes of having a beard. Starting a business was something both of us were open to in any case. Since this was something we were passionate about, we decided to go ahead.

Any initial hurdles?
Irfan:
 We started in July 2014, hoping to launch our website in November 2014.  We did not have an IT background and struggled with the creation of our website.  We did not want to hire an external vendor due to costs. Jeevan learnt how to code from scratch and eventually it was done.  Plus, doing it by ourselves allows us to have greater control over the website. From head to toe, we did it ourselves.

So, What is Pogonophilia?
Jeevan:
 Pogonophilia means the love for beards. We envision it to be brand for men. We do not want to limit it to only beards. To be honest, how many men want to or even, can grow beards?  We want to be the leading e-commerce platform for the Man's every need. We have products for facial grooming, ties, cuff-links, perfumes and even shoes.


What kind of considerations did you take to decide on your product catalogue?
Jeevan:
 It was a long process. We had to read and understand the products. We were thankful that most of the vendors we worked with are very co-operative. They sent us sample sets. So we can pretty much say that our product choice is based on our personal experience and online reviews.

You launched on Father's Day 2015. How has it been since?
Irfan: 
It has been moving slowly but steadily. We spiked our first online purchase 5 days into the business. It was a female customer who bought a Beard Set as a gift for her partner.
Jeevan: To be honest, we want to be more than just a online shop. We want to create a culture for men's fashion. It is going to be tough. But that is where we want to be. Money is not the driving force in this business.

So, back to the beard, what does one need to maintain a sexy beard?
Irfan:
 Conditioner, Beard shampoo ( which is sensitive to your skin), beard oil and beard balm. Especially with Novemeber coming up, we have affordable sets for beard and moustache maintenance.



Since you have successfully overcome your first hurdle, what do you foresee your immediate challenges?
Jeevan:
 Its a 2 pronged approach. One is to improve the product range. The other is to  market the business.

With a brand name that seems very beard-centric, is this only open to beard lovers?
While some of us are blessed with genes which allows a blossoming beard, many Men out there are not so lucky. Some are unable to grow a full beard, others experience uneven and patchy beard growth and yet there are others whose faces will never be able to feel the roughness of a beard. These Men are no less Men than others, and we believe that their confidence and sharpness comes from within. Whether you rock a beard or not, we want to give you access to the Manly lifestyle and to bring out the Man Within.

Is the beard trend simply a fad?
While the beard is definitely growing in popularity over the past year, rather than it being a fad, we believe that it is becoming a lifestyle choice. Being clean shaven is no longer the only acceptable grooming style for a successful professional. A well kept beard exudes maturity, wisdom and demands respect which transcends any trends or fads. The beard is a timeless look.

As entrepreneurs, where do u see this biz in 3-5 years time?
At the moment, we are focusing our marketing efforts in Singapore and Malaysia. We definitely want to expand our reach into the Asia Pacific region, after establishing a strong foothold in the current markets.
We have launched our own Pogonophilia brand name, with beard centric merchandise. On top of that, we are looking at other avenues of expanding our brand range, possibly into perfumes, pens, wallets and of course beard products.
The long term vision for Pogonophilia is to be the brand of choice for every sharp, suave and confident gentleman.

As beard lovers, what does a beard symbolise to you?
Ever since we started keeping a beard, we often get questions on the reason for not shaving. We reply by stating that it’s a conscious effort to grow a beard. There is a stark difference between not shaving and growing a beard. Our beards have never failed to be a conversation starter or turn heads at social gatherings. The beard stands out amongst the crowd.
To us, the beard is an identity. Sometimes when we spot a well bearded man, there is a subtle nod of approval at each others’ beard. That is the identity we are talking about, it is a symbol of manliness.

Now that November has arrived, what does it signify to Pogonophilia?
Whether you prefer having just the ‘stache for team Movember, or the full beard for team No-Shave November the idea is simple, grow your hair out in rembrance and awareness for those who lost theirs to cancer, and donate the money kept aside for grooming to support cancer patients. While we here at Pogonophilia believe that beards should be permanent and that manliness is not seasonal, we are in for a good cause as well. We want to encourage you to embrace your facial hair, and perhaps use November to kickstart a beard growing culture that extends beyond 30 days.

From your experience, what advise will you share with aspiring entrepreneurs?
Time and capital is not a barrier as long as you believe in your idea.




This article is sponsored by Pogonophilia.
You can visit their website at www.pogonophilia.org 

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