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Growing Your Niche: Unlocking Explosive Business with Eric Bandholz, Beardbrand

May 1, 2024

If starting a lifestyle brand has always been a dream of yours, this episode with Eric Bandholz, founder of Beardbrand, is a real treat. He shares how maintaining full control through bootstrapping allowed him to prioritize ethical sourcing and customer relationships over rapid growth. His story is a real inspiration for anyone who wants to create a business that not only succeeds financially but also supports their quality of life while staying true to their personal values.

About Eric Bandholz

Eric Bandholz started Beardbrand in 2012 with a simple goal: to make men feel awesome. From its beginnings as an online community, Beardbrand has grown into a major brand in the $3.2 billion beard care market, now offering a broad range of grooming products and even a brick-and-mortar barbershop in Austin. Eric attributes his success to staying true to his core values, especially freedom, which is grounded in stoic principles of focusing on what you can control. 

A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Eric left the corporate world behind to create a community-centric brand. Operating as a bootstrap venture, Eric has steered Beardbrand, focusing on sustainable growth and independence, avoiding external investments. He advocates for the lifestyle business model, encouraging a balance between personal well-being and professional success. 

Strategic Benefits of Bootstrapping a Lifestyle Brand

A lifestyle business is built to support a comfortable life while aligning with the owner’s personal goals, and bootstrapping it—using personal funds to grow your company—has some significant benefits.

When you bootstrap, you have full control over your business decisions. This means you can make choices that fit your values and lifestyle without pressure from outside investors. For example, a boutique owner could choose to sell unique, ethically sourced products that may make less money but are true to their brand.

Bootstrapping also allows for gradual growth. This means you can expand at your own pace, maintaining high-quality service and a good work-life balance. It helps build strong, personal connections with customers because there’s no rush to scale up fast.

Even though bootstrapping a lifestyle brand may not be a good choice for everyone, it’s definitely worth considering if you value autonomy and have clear priorities in life.

Key Insights:

  • Incorporate your core values into your business strategy. Core values are much more than psychology mumbo-jumbo; they shape every decision you make in your business. They help to reflect what your company stands for and attract customers who share these beliefs.
  • Enjoy your entrepreneurial journey. Even though everyday tasks might often feel like a drag, finding meaning in them can help to maintain motivation and prevent burnout. And remember that there’s always something to celebrate, no matter how small.
  • Leverage bootstrapping for greater control. Using your own money to fund your business can keep you in control and help you make quick decisions that are right for your business without external pressure.
  • Focus on sustainable business growth. Choose growth strategies that fit your goals and business vision. Opting for steady, predictable growth is better than chasing overnight success, as it helps to maintain product quality, protects your reputation, and ensures your business grows in a manageable way.
  • Build and engage your community. Hosting events, starting discussions on social media, creating loyalty programs, featuring spotlight customers, offering behind-the-scenes content… These are just a few ways you can turn your buyers into brand advocates and build a community that supports your growth.

Eric’s best advice for entrepreneurs:

“What matters is that you’re enjoying the journey […] When you can focus on building today and what I’m doing at this moment, then it doesn’t really matter where you end up.”

Get Eric’s “Book of Reminders”

Connect with Eric Bandholz:

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Transcript

A.J. Lawrence:
You got some energy.

Eric Bandholz:
Yeah, you gotta bring it man. Everyone’s gonna be learning some knowledge.

A.J. Lawrence:
Oh no. Okay. I’m feeling like I should be heading down to group therapy about now.

Eric Bandholz:
Is that place still open?

A.J. Lawrence:
I heard someone was down there and I was like, oh my God, I missed that place. That was the best of five points in Columbia. Looking at your background, you’ve built Beardbrand into this really fast growing and there’s been, over the years, some really cool male facial brands and I don’t know what you call them. But your focus on beards and then sort of just how you guys have continuously grown, built a really successful company, where do you see yourself as an entrepreneur these days?

Eric Bandholz:
Yeah, it’s funny you mentioned that. So for those who don’t know Beardbrand, we were established in 2012, so we’re going on our 12th year. We’re an entirely bootstrap business. So it’s just me and my two business partners who own the company. We’ve got no debt other than whatever we put on our credit card for the month and then no outside investors. So building Beardbrand has always been about our core values, which is freedom, hunger, and trust. So how do we build a business that allows us to do the things that we want in life. For those who don’t know, Dynamite Circle is kind of like this mindset of like building a location independent kind of lifestyle, like a business of your own terms. And it’s been a really great community to connect with those like-minded people.

And we’ve kind of built Beardbrand that way. So it’s more of a “lifestyle business” than like a unicorn business or a growth at all cost or whatever buzzwords are given to the companies in DTC. So for us, it’s been about like, how do we enjoy the journey? How do we make it so that every single day we show up into the business and we enjoy the business and we enjoy working with our team members and we enjoy producing the products that we produce and we enjoy working with our vendors.? And I think a lot of times people chase the top line in the growth. And, obviously this podcast is like that aspirational 8 figures, but not understanding that the actual aspiration, in my opinion, is the here, the now, the today. And when you can focus on building the today and what I’m doing in this moment, then it doesn’t really matter where you end up. What matters is that you’re enjoying the journey.

A.J. Lawrence:
So much of being an entrepreneur allows you to develop the concepts of not just how you live, but the type of work you do, the type of things you build towards, and the people you work with. Given that we were just chatting and you were in Dynamite Circle early, and I don’t, we won’t just use that as a reference point of the thing. But was this type of direction to create this business that would have the lifestyle you wanted while also being hungry for the appropriate type of growth, I’m going to assume that’s part of the reference, was that early or did that develop over time?

Eric Bandholz:
Yeah, it certainly was an interesting journey. So I’ve always known that I want to be an entrepreneur and I want to create my own way. Like freedom before Beardbrand was ever a twinkle in my eye, it was like the number one list in things that I valued in life. So it’s like I’ve always been drawn to entrepreneurship, not for the money-making aspect, but for the freedom-making aspects. This idea that I don’t have a boss, I don’t have someone telling me what to do, when I clock in, when I clock out, the days out of work, all that stuff, like I wanted control over myself really in the most pure sense that I could have. And you’re always going to have influence, whether it be your employees or your co-founders or especially your customers that will guide and shape you.

But at the end of the day, they are your own calls. You get to make the decisions. Do I want to appease my customers or do I just want to do something because I want to do something? And with entrepreneurship, you have that. So I always knew that I wanted to build that kind of business. Now, Beardbrand started off as almost like it was just going to be a side hobby for me and my partners. And then as we got some more traction, then it was like, well, it’ll be a full time thing for me and then it’ll be a side thing for my business partners. And then it kept on growing. And then I was like, all right, well, it’s going to be my business partner and I will be our full time.

My third partner never wanted to be in part of the day-to-day, and we knew that going in. So it was like my business partner and I. And within the first year, we hit a million dollar run rate. And I was like, all right, we’re going to take over the world. So we’re like, we’re going to put it all into this business and grow at all costs and like eat ramen and try to just do great. And what we found is that was not for us. So we ended up getting stressed out. We weren’t making any money, and then what’s the worst thing when you’re trying to grow at all costs and then the business doesn’t grow?

That’s not a fun time. So we kind of had a coming to Jesus moment with the founders where we met up in- we’ve always been good about doing like quarterly strategy sessions where we can work on the business rather than in the business. And it was one in Amsterdam. It was actually kind of shortly after Bangkok. I think we did Bangkok, then we did Amsterdam. We’re just like, hey, look, the business grew to $3 million of revenue for the three of us.

That will give us whatever we want in life. We can travel the world, we can spend time with family, we can have food on the table, a roof over a head, maybe I could have a little bit nicer car, or maybe I could travel in a little bit nicer hotels. But like to me, the difference between a $3 million business right now 15% to 20% profit and a $20 million one doing 10% profit is not much difference in your quality of life. So there is, in my opinion, like a point of diminishing returns. And I think, if you’re a solopreneur, that’s around $1.5 million revenue.

If you’ve got a couple partners or like 50% revenue, then that’s around $3 million. You can do the math from there. But like at $3 million, 50% ownership, making, what did I say? 15%. So that’s, what is that? 450k a year, something like that. That’s a good life. That’s a really good life.

A.J. Lawrence:
And I don’t know where you are, kids and all that. If you’re single, that’s

Eric Bandholz:
Yeah, if you’re single, that’s really great.I got two kids. And certainly, I’m not a big fan of public schools, so that puts a hurt on the budget a little bit.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah. I mean, I moved to Spain after I sold my company, different the whole thing, but like British private schools were a whole different. Being an expat, but making money in America is sort of like the biggest entrepreneurial hack ever, you know?

Eric Bandholz:
Yeah, well, so maybe we could talk a little bit more about this. I’m exploring moving to Denmark, taking my family there, and what that might be.

A.J. Lawrence:
I studied in Copenhagen.

Eric Bandholz:
Oh no, really?

A.J. Lawrence:
Grad school. Yeah. I mean, I did the exchange program over there.

Eric Bandholz:
Yeah. So I mean we go there like every summer. I’ve already bought my plane tickets for this summer, so I’ve been there four times before. This will be my fifth trip. Just love it there. The people are great, the architecture, everything.

But from my perspective, it’s like, how do I build a life where I take my kids with me? I mean, if you don’t mind me asking, how do you take your kids to a different country? How old were your kids when you did that?

A.J. Lawrence:
So my oldest is now 19, and it’s funny enough. We moved back to the States so they could get ready for American universities. And now, my oldest is at St. Andrews in Scotland and my next one is going to St. Andrews next year. So it’s like, all right, that worked well. But they were middle school. The two older ones, they’re a grade apart, 20 months apart. And then my youngest was entering first grade.

Eric Bandholz:
Was that a hard transition for them or?

A.J. Lawrence:
My son does talk about like we took him out of a really good group of kids he had known. We were in Brooklyn and kind of like had jumped through all the hoops for like the specialized public schools and stuff. So he had a group of friends that he had known forever in a day. He did kind of say it was that, but he very quickly had another group of friends. It was that even though he did enjoy it. For the girls, girls are so much better than guys in any shape or form. It’s sort of like they missed their friends, but they had 20,000 new friends within a day.

Eric Bandholz:
Was it like a language immersion? Were they speaking Spanish?

A.J. Lawrence:
By law, in Spain, and every country is a little different, you can do expat private school but they have to have a certain amount of spanish language. My kids all started with three days. You know, it was three days Spanish. After two years, they went into the Spanish immersion, which was history and language and culture. So three classes a week taught fully in Spanish. They weren’t fluent, but they were whatever right below fluent, conversational. So reading, writing and all that.

Every country’s a little different, how they allow private schools and expats and some of the international schools. I think Denmark, you are required to. Just because I did look at it years ago, so it was like seven years ago that we went to Spain and Denmark was on the list. Just, my wife was like, I’m not dealing with the cold. Oh, it is. Yeah.

Eric Bandholz:
How long were you in Spain?

A.J. Lawrence:
Just over five years.

Eric Bandholz:
Okay. So a pretty good chunk of their life.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah. They consider themselves New York Spaniards when they talk about it.

Eric Bandholz:
Like culturally, do you feel like that foreign country has rubbed off on them? Do you feel like they’re like not quite American like you?

A.J. Lawrence:
No, they’re very- I mean, different. I mean, didn’t have the Boy Scout experience or some of the smaller things I had. Definitely much different high school, until the last two years, environment. They do consider themselves very much American, and they want to be in America long term, at least I know my son does. I think my daughter just wants to have a fabulous life, which is good. I think what was interesting, I had done a bunch of exchange programs, so I was always going out to different countries.

You know, high school, I did Ecuador. I did Budapest in college, and I did Copenhagen in business school. And I kind of felt like I was seeing small bits while I was doing there. My kids though, think of themselves and are more natural with other expat kids. There’s like an expat bubble. I’ve heard it from other families with their kids, and then I also know ones who really work to be local.

Eric Bandholz:
Yeah.

A.J. Lawrence:
And I almost feel like you have to make a choice. You either have an international kid-

Eric Bandholz:
Would you embrace the local or do you think the expat is acceptable?

A.J. Lawrence:
I don’t know in Spain. I think it just depends on the country. Part of it was the educational level. Spain is decent, but it is very much of an old education. They’re very much rote without this sort of higher end math type of thing that you see in some of the Asian countries. So it just kind of depends. And our kids, they both were in sort of gifted, talented programs. And we wanted to kind of encourage that which lent more towards. We saw more of that type of thing in the international. Sorry, I’m leaning back because you’re asking me to think. I’m walking away. I’m like, if I ask a question, it’s easy to stay by the microphone.

Eric Bandholz:
I mean like, to be fair, I’ve done a ton of podcasts. So if you want to learn my business story, it’s out there. But I like, this is not stuff I normally talk about, like schools. And I think that’s the important thing of entrepreneurship is like, what is the life that you’re creating? And you are not constrained by the norms of society anymore with entrepreneurship.

A.J. Lawrence:
I mean, the biggest thing I did notice and just kind of take it in and then talk about sort of back to the family is being an expat, depending on the country, does require probably a little bit more. And once again, depending on how much you make in the world and all that, you probably are having financial structures and legal structures to kind of handle and different things. You know, the move, Spain, there are some countries where the quality of life is great and the ability to see travel to places where there are other entrepreneurs and then also have a very high quality of life, wherever you are is really great. It’s just you have to make sure you have that right appropriate visa, tax, XYZ type of structure. So that takes a little bit of extra, but sort of like, you know, the horrors of if you ever decide to have a company that does any business in California, you already know you’re going to have a horrible life. Anyway.

Eric Bandholz:
There are some days where I’m like, do I just want to stop selling to people in New York and California based on all the ridiculousness.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah. Especially as an e-commerce, the tax collection. But I remember one time we did a contract with some employee, but I guess we filed it wrong, whatever we did. And California like just decided on that, that we had a local in California and they wanted all of our taxes to go through California. We were like, we had one person for two weeks. What? You didn’t sign this document, so therefore this and that. Thank you, California. I’m not ever going to do a bootstrap company in California, but that’s besides the point.

Eric Bandholz:
No, I feel for all those people.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah. I think a lot just depends on what you’re hoping. I mean, the biggest thing, and this is COVID did hit this, but the travel. Traveling in Europe is amazing. Yes, long drives in the US are classic and great, but being able to fly anywhere in Europe in 2 to 3 hours and for pennies, relatively pennies compared to the US, is amazing. And the train systems work.

Eric Bandholz:
Yeah, and just the cities have all that history and they’re so unique.

A.J. Lawrence:
Food. Yeah. And, yeah, I love Copenhagen, and it’s. Yes, most of my memories are of the amount of beer I drank after class, but still, it is a completely beautiful place to.

Eric Bandholz:
What things would you, you know, what were the lessons learned from five years of being an expat? So you sold the business, you had no income at that time or was just.

A.J. Lawrence:
I consulted. I had a cannabis business directory we had done just with the early legalization with another DCR, and we ended up selling that. But it made some money and then consulting. So, yeah, I mean, really the biggest thing was you had to kind of, depending on how much you wanted to be involved in this, is you had to work your schedule a little bit differently. I had certain days that were just only for US business. That would be sort of my afternoon. So my mornings kind of switch from after work to before work to do errands and workouts and stuff like that. You change your schedule a little bit. You do find sort of the business groups. This was like, you do kind of lean to ones that have more, you know, a little bit more European.

Because as much as you go back to the US, you kind of start going from like, oh, I’ll go back every month to like every couple of months to like, okay, you know, I’ll go quarterly or couple times a year type of situation. But it just depends on you and your business.

Eric Bandholz:
Do you find European entrepreneurs are different mindset than American entrepreneurs?

A.J. Lawrence:
Same, same, but different. I mean, and once again, some of my favorite entrepreneurs are they tend to be a little more serious about their business, especially when you have sort of grown up location-independent businesses that step up. I know a lot of guys from DC or similar things that started off with glorified lifestyle businesses, but they grew up. And not that they’re serious 80 hours a week because most of them have very good, flexible lives, but they just when that transition, especially around parenting, kind of as their kids kind of got a little bit older or whatever, they got so much more serious and they really treated their business a lot more serious than I see sometimes similar size American entrepreneurs. But we tend to do more or we strive for more.

Eric Bandholz:
You know, as a person who likes to travel the world and be immersed in different cultures, it allows me to kind of appreciate what Americans have that are unique to the world. And I do think Americans are exceptional at business. Like, I think the competitive nature of our market, the amount of competitors we have, also the ease of getting into business and the culture around failure, being able to make mistakes, It’s just like this, this beautiful, beautiful thing that until you leave America, you don’t understand how great it is. Like you just start a business and you start selling stuff and you just go.

A.J. Lawrence:
You just make it work. I think what you see is much, you know, if you want to say it this way, much less entrepreneurs per capita. When you’re abroad and if you’re finding someone who’s local and is focused on the local market, very, very traditional. It’s when you find people who are, in a sense, copying American style that it becomes really interesting. I think it’s even just the whole, you know, I used to joke, New York City was this whole concept that you could be from anywhere in the world and if you could flip off and curse out a taxi driver, yeah, welcome. You’re a New Yorker. That’s all you need.

It’s a little changed over the years. There’s less of that. But still, I think Americans with entrepreneurs, and it’s just like, we can. I don’t think anyone, most Americans like, oh, yeah. I just have to make it work. There’s not that like very special-

Eric Bandholz:
Yeah, like in India, I feel like there’s a lot of red tape. So it’s like, who do you know? Also, like the regulatory burden in Europe and all that stuff. But I also think there’s like a little bit of culture of like safety. It’s just like, ah, you know, I got my job, I got my paycheck, things are nice. Like, there’s not that same hunger it is.

A.J. Lawrence:
And it’s also the type of businesses you can grow before you have to sort of adapt to sort of the legal structure. Europe is having a big issue where there’s a lot of high end jobs that just are going wanting because they can’t find the talent, where on the flip side, a lot of young people are not being able to find entry point and are getting lots of contract work because no one wants to hire people. It’s going to take two to three years to train because the legal structure and such, you have year long unemployment and all sorts of rules and laws of how you have to hire. Even in Spain, even the Christmas presents you have to give people. You have to give it, well, depending on the size of the company, it’s like a ham plus any type of bonus. For a very catholic nation, jamón may be higher than Jesus in Spain. Good ham is something they really do worship in Spain, so can get canceled on that one.

But yeah, it just depends on the structure. So you can create smaller companies that work off of contractors and global talent. It’s when you start structuring to that next level, you’re either very small or you’re very big. Yeah, the middle ground is tough. A lot leave.

Eric Bandholz:
Yeah, I mean, at what point is that? So is that like in America that’s kind of like 50 employees? Like once you get to 50 employees, then the EEOC stuff starts coming into play. Is it around the same size in Europe or it’s even smaller?

A.J. Lawrence:
I think it’s like four or five employees.

Eric Bandholz:
Oh, shut up. Really?

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah, so like, I started on to go over there, it was going to be an entrepreneur visa, which meant I had to hire x amount of employees within two, three years, something like that. I forget the whole terms and I got saved because I didn’t realize the spanish bureaucracy. So I had been cleared by the Madrid office. I didn’t realize the province, sort of the state in Spain, also had to sign off on your visa. And Andalusia was a different government, Malaga is inside Andalusia, was a different political party than was running Madrid at the time. They had slowed down almost everything that was coming through. So there was like a three year wait to get basic visa approved for this type of visa, ended up with a different visa. That caused no problem because I wasn’t going to do work in Spain anyway. I didn’t really want to. It was just, okay, this allows me to jump through the hoops.

Eric Bandholz:
What kind of visa was it?

A.J. Lawrence:
So I ended up with a non-working visa. So retirement visa, whatever.

Eric Bandholz:
Okay.

A.J. Lawrence:
You just have to show you have more than €25,000 in your bank account. Because at the time, I think the annual, it was something like 50% more than average, the national salary, which is just now it’s just around 20k. For such a country that has all these things, it’s a very, very low, general average income in Spain.

Eric Bandholz:
But would you pay taxes and get access to non lucrative to their healthcare system and all that? Or is it like?

A.J. Lawrence:
We could have done that, ended up private. And then wife got a working visa, working for a company, and did the Beckham. So years ago, David Beckham wouldn’t take a transfer to Madrid or Barcelona or whatever, because of the taxes were so high for all that. So they created this internationally 6-year program, whatever it is, which if your special needs hire, it’s only 25% for the first x years. So they call it the Beckham law because he refused to like, I’m not going to. They’re going to take 80% of my salary. Why would I go? Whatever.

So they did that because the US and Spain and different countries have different things. We are going all over the place instead of me doing. They have a tax treaty for the US. So if you pay taxes in one, you don’t have to pay the same taxes in the other. So I just would pay my US taxes and then just sort of hand that over to Spain. And even though in theory, they want you to do the opposite, you’re in Spain, pay us.

And then, just because US was so much more straightforward and cost me, you’ll see that. I mean, Copenhagen, the northern Europeans tend to be much more straightforward on a bureaucracy and kind of a thing straightforward, but tax preparation and sort of the legal representation you needed to do that, because of course you had to have extra layers, was just tons of extra work, extra fees, lots of extra fees. So it was just easier to do my US and then have that be verified, vice versa. But, like, all right, so-

Eric Bandholz:
I’ll have to figure it all out. You know, there’s a lot that I’ve got to learn and hopefully, it’s a place I can get into. I feel like Spain and Portugal seem like they’re a little more open to Americans, whereas Denmark seems like it’s a little more protective.

A.J. Lawrence:
Well, you look Danish, so you should be fine.

Eric Bandholz:
I don’t know. It should be. It should be in theory, right.

A.J. Lawrence:
Actually, in all likelihood because I do know people still there. A lot of law is sort of like, especially in the visa, the expectation is you’ll take Danish. They’re a little bit more specific around that. Like, okay, kind of come in and live with us, not kind of live in a separate bubble, which I think is good.

Eric Bandholz:
Yeah.

A.J. Lawrence:
I mean, I had the best. The semester I had there, I loved. I mean, I did not like the winters. As an adult, I would very much say, make sure you’re planning a lot of trips.

Eric Bandholz:
Oh, I’ll keep my Austin house.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah.

Eric Bandholz:
So we’ll come back for the the winters.

A.J. Lawrence:
Get sun in the winter.

Eric Bandholz:
Yeah.

A.J. Lawrence:
But it’s a great experience. I think a lot of it is just, I mean up north, the other country that is pretty good with visas is Netherlands, especially. Netherlands and Spain used to be the best for Americans. Now it’s sort of Portugal, Malta, Italy, and then Spain and those. But there’s lots of choices. And look, you have the ability to jump through their hoops as an entrepreneur. So I don’t think you’re going to have a problem. It’s just paperwork and bureaucracy. But you can hire people to do a lot of that, which I learned the hard way I should have done.

Eric Bandholz:
Because I don’t want to mess with all that. Let’s just pay some lawyer and have them figure it out for me.

A.J. Lawrence:
Fixer. Get a local. I mean in Spain, it was a local fixer. In Denmark, because they’re so straightforward, you won’t have to worry about some of the side deals I had to cut back in the day. But no, all right, so you’re looking at this now, maybe just to bring it back to a little bit of you. You’re looking at this, is this your idea?

A.J. Lawrence:
How old are your kids?

Eric Bandholz:
Yeah, so my daughter’s 10. My boy is, he’ll be four in a couple weeks.

A.J. Lawrence:
Okay.

Eric Bandholz:
My daughter’s school is kind of like, she can graduate her elementary school in about two years and then there’s nothing on the horizon after that. There’s not like any set program. So that would be kind of like a nice point where in her life there’s a transition, and the same thing would kind of happen with my son when he turned six. You kind of enter into elementary school, so it seems like that would be a good time frame to kind of get the family over there. My daughter is very averse to these kind of major changes so I know it will be incredibly challenging for her. The good news is, we’ve been going to Denmark for, like I take the whole family and me, the past five years. So I feel like they’re going to be more receptive to it, and I’m open to like I want to learn the language. That’s always been one of my goals is like immersing culture.

A.J. Lawrence:
Ul, farvel, tak, selv tak. Those are the four words I remember.

Eric Bandholz:
And hej. I’ve got that one nailed. So, I haven’t moved. It’s crazy to think I’ve been in Austin since 2014. We’ve moved from apartment to apartment or whatever, but I haven’t done like a big, major move in a long time. And it just seems like with two kids now, really big undertaking. It just seems like shaking everything up. I’m in a fortunate position that I don’t have to sell my house if I don’t want to. It’s already paid for so I think it’d even be easier than some of the moves I made in the past. But it does still seem, obviously, an international move seems even more challenging. Like, I would just bring one suitcase over and then start buying stuff in Denmark, I guess.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah, there’s IKEA everywhere. We spend tons of money on IKEA. Obviously talk with people, but I know no one who’s regretted it. I know some people who did go back two years later and that was our first expectation. Oh, we’ll do this. We’ll make a choice at the end of the first year, maybe start planning and come back. And we liked it. I mean, really, it was hard to come back. It was just family and we thought American universities and all this. So we’ll probably end up back in Spain. Once you do it, it’s just as long as you have enough of America.

And I think the biggest thing is how you keep your American connection. You know, it does feel like the best of both worlds. Plus, depending on your political structure, you end up being like everyone’s like, what the hell’s going on in your country? It’s like, I don’t know anymore. I don’t know.

Eric Bandholz:
Well, I don’t even vote. So it’s just like I moved to a country, you don’t even have to worry about voting anymore.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah. The best thing I liked about it is Carlsberg has this amazing Christmas beer in December and they have Santa Claus come in beer trucks driving around the city where they then at midnight, whatever, 16 days before Christmas, whatever it was, the Santas driving the beer trucks was always really cool because they would stop at all these and give out free Christmas beer.

Eric Bandholz:
Really?

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah. It was brilliant when you’re in grad school. But I just remember how I would interview a CEO at a company and he’d be like, oh, let’s go have lunch. And he’d pick two big pint glass of beer, put it on his thing as he’s getting lunch. It was like, I like the way this country thinks.

Eric Bandholz:
They like their booze. Maybe a little bit more than I do, but it seems pretty ingrained in their culture.

A.J. Lawrence:
At one point, they were the highest per capita beer drinkers in the world.

Eric Bandholz:
Wow.

A.J. Lawrence:
The past 20 years as they’ve continued going up that has come down a bit, which I think is the only way you can. But yeah, it was at one point they were averaging, and I always used to be like, what? It was five and a half beers a day per capita. It was just like, there’s just this one old guy in the corner.

Eric Bandholz:
In America that’s binge drinking. Five a day.

A.J. Lawrence:
I think it’s come way down. I know they’re no longer in the top ten. I was there in the early 90’s so a little bit of time has passed. Look, I’m going to try and come back because we’ve gone all over and this has now just become a really cool, interesting conversation. You’ve defined this as kind of living the life you want, having the people you want to work with and the audience that you want to work for. Because I do love your videos because you guys are having fun. I just can’t grow anything on the side of my face, get a good goatee, but that’s about it. As you look to this, how are you trying to figure out what success is going to be as an entrepreneur? Not for the company. You’re talking about possibly moving, creating this environment. What’s going to be this entrepreneurial success for you?

Eric Bandholz:
Yeah, I’m still not there. I have the fortunate, the fortune of being pretty incompetent, which means it takes me a really long time to figure things out. So I’m still, like, trying to figure things out and get things set up. But one of my goals has always been to have a business that I can step away from and it grows without me. So right now I have a business that I can step away from and it will do fine without me. Everything’s going to run, you know, there’s no fires, but it’s not quite at the point where it can scale and grow without, you know, my hand holding or whatever. So that’s kind of like the next step in the business. This has been an interesting year because 2023 for us was an incredibly challenging year.

We were down like 40%. We had some pricing issues our first year in our history that we lost money. And, you know, my business partner, she had her third kid in, like, about five years. And, you know, the stress was getting to her, the stress was certainly getting to me. And she stepped away from the business. She was in the operations role. So I took on the operations role and the marketing role. So it’s like, kind of my first time running the company, both ops and marketing, and being able to figure out what that is and, like, rolling out my style of management for the ops team and hopefully seeing some success.

We’re doing some pretty significant overhaul to our business in terms of, like, the three pl that we work with, the manufacturers that we work with, and the products that we’re launching, how we’re launching them, how we’re distributing our products. So, you know, working through those is a really fun thing for me in the short term and then in the long term, it’s like, it’s been nice to watch my, my team rise up and then hopefully, you know, this is something that they can continue to, to rise up on. And, you know, eventually I’d like to see some, some kind of, like, strategy skills emerge from someone at Beardbrand that maybe can start to take that over for me.

And once that happens, I have other businesses that I want to launch. We consider Beardbrand in the men’s grooming space so if you’re a dude, I’ve got products for you. Shampoo, soaps, deodorants. I would like to develop product for the women. So women call it the beauty space or the skincare space. So I have a product line for that that I’d like to develop in addition to some pretty unique products. So, I’m still driven to make products, make things, make businesses.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah.

Eric Bandholz:
And I’m a zero to one kind of guy. I’m not a one to ten guy, which is also very challenging. So that’s why I’m really looking forward to finding those team. We’ve gotten close to that eight figure mark, but we’ve never passed it. And I think the thing that’s limiting is I need the team that are that, that one to ten kind of team, people that are good with KPI’s and accountability. And they’re good, but I still think that’s the key element. Right now I’m patient cause I think my team is that. They just need the time to grow. So I’m okay kind of taking it slower.

This is one of the nice things with like “lifestyle business” is I’m okay with the longer, slower pathway to be able to develop team members who I really love and enjoy, and I just love working with them that I cannot rush them into a role that they’re not quite ready for. And I think that as an entrepreneur, or at least I’ll speak for myself in my past self is like, I’ve had very high expectations for team members to be hitting these high level performance things in a very short period of time, which is not realistic, to be fair to them.

A.J. Lawrence:
You learn the hard way. You may be willing to kill yourself, but you’ve also spent all this time understanding it. So your ability to look at something new, you’ve already built the framework in place of how it impacts or how it could, versus someone who’s kind of coming in. You’re like, why can’t you just Google and figure it out? Well, first they have to understand what you want them to figure out. Not just the tactical, but like what framework and all that. Yeah, that’s a tough one. But is everyone in Austin? Are you global talent mix and match?

Eric Bandholz:
No. Yeah. So what happened is, of course with the government lockdowns, we went to primarily remote. And then I would say I had about four or five, maybe six team members, who came in regular to the Beardbrand office. And then one of those was my business partner. So she’s out, and then two of them moved to a different city. So we’re down to like three people who come in to the Beardbrand office. We’ve just made it official. We’re a work remote company now. So I still have this office I’m trying to get out of.

If anyone listening is here in Austin and if you want an office, come hit me up and maybe you can take over my lease. But yeah, so that’s the goal is to continue doing that. I do have my video editor in the Philippines and I do have one of my YouTube content creators in the UK or in Bournemouth, UK. So we’re quasi global, but primarily in America is our primary stuff.

A.J. Lawrence:
What’s the best way people can check you out? Your twitter, LinkedIn. What’s the best way if someone wants to learn more about what you’re doing?

Eric Bandholz:
Yeah, check out my X.

A.J. Lawrence:
What? Oh X, yes. I just, you know.

Eric Bandholz:
No, I still call it Twitter. But Twitter is my most active platform. It’s my last name @Bandholz. And I don’t always talk about business stuff on there. I just kind of talk about the things I like talking about. And if you don’t like that, you don’t have to follow me. That’s fine. But I would recommend that you head over to beardbrand.com if you’re a dude. I got products for you. Shampoo, conditioner, oils, if you have a beard. So we’ll have you looking good, smelling good. Brushes, tools, scissors, combs, everything like that. Head over to Beardbrand and you can see how we do it. We do it pretty good.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah, I was really impressed. And I’ll make sure I have all the links from that. One last thing I had noticed, you had a great call out and I wasn’t quite sure if it was a joke or serious because it is in this weird point where it could be a joke and it could be serious. With AI you were talking about if you know me and you hear me on a voice, make sure it’s me?

Eric Bandholz:
No, it’s dead serious. Like I called my parents yesterday and I’m like, listen, because they’re getting older. And I’m like, listen, if I ever call you asking for money, it’s probably not me. Just hang up and call me back and verify. I will not get mad at you if you hang up on me. That’s fine. So I have so much content of me out there that people are going to be able to escape. I guess I should have mentioned I have a podcast. I have a podcast as well, Ecommerce Conversations. So my voice can be completely duplicated and it’s kind of terrifying, especially with aging parents who are at a higher risk for getting scammed.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah, I was amazed. Recently my team trained a descript on my voice and they didn’t even need me. I tried a year and a half ago and you had to read the scripts and you had to do all that. Now, it’s just like, oh, yeah, we just played a clip of you talking and it was able to recreate your voice. So anytime you say um too much, we’re gonna take it.

Eric Bandholz:
It knows, man. It knows. It’s crazy, man. It’s crazy times that we’re living in and I can kind of see where it’s going in the next five to ten years. But I don’t think the majority of people around the world understand what these robots, like they will be Android robots in your house, doing your dishes, cleaning up around. Your brain is going to be mind f*cked to this interaction that you have with an inanimate object. It’s going to be weird times if the Internet screwed up people and social media screwed up people. Like this AI stuff is going to really mess with people’s minds.

But bring it on! I love it.

A.J. Lawrence:
Yeah, I know. It’s like, it’s going to be the best of times and the worst of times. Sorry as I keep losing my voice here, but, yeah, you have to be involved in doing something now because if you’re not surfing this change, it’s going to be like, can I just have, please, sir, may I have?

Eric Bandholz:
Yeah, you’re going to be like your grandparents who couldn’t figure out Windows 95. Like you have to continuously be learning. And I understand how it comes. It’s like, man, I like my fax machine. We’re doing emails now. Like you better get with it. We’re doing AI now. You better learn it.

A.J. Lawrence:
Funny you said that. I just met someone whose private equity firm has the dial up for AOL and it’s still like a $20 million a year business. People never gave up the dial up for AOL. I’m just like, that makes so much sense. And he’s like, yeah, it’s declining 15% year over year, but we bought price. We bought it on this with an indication that it would decline even faster. We’ve been surprised. AI is going to make all of our lives interesting.

All right, Eric, this has been one of the least focused interviews I’ve ever done. So everyone, I do apologize. But Eric’s a really cool guy, and I think, just what he’s looking at and your ability to kind of create the life you’re thinking about from being an entrepreneur is so important. I think it is sort of the reason we do this. Every other sort of lifestyle, other than maybe artists and a few others, you’re kind of beholden to so many other structures that are not in your control. And as Eric is showing, an entrepreneur, you can kind of create everything the way you want. And it’s cool. It’s fun. So everyone, go check him out.

If you have a beard or you are buying for someone who has a beard-

Eric Bandholz:
Or if you’re a dude, no beard required, I got products for you.

A.J. Lawrence:
All right. Get some good hair stuff. But now, thank you, Eric, for coming on the show. I really appreciate it. This was fun.

Eric Bandholz:
Thanks for having me. It’s been great.

A.J. Lawrence:
All right, everyone. This was an interesting, wandering conversation. Go check out Eric’s stuff. But please, if you know anyone who’s thinking about moving abroad as an entrepreneur or just trying to figure out these questions, send this episode. I think they’ll get a kick out of it, and I’ll greatly appreciate it. All right, everyone, have a wonderful day. Talk to you soon. Bye-bye.

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