Jarrett and Bridget Blackmon started their successful men’s grooming company after a “perfect storm of events” took place. They had always known they wanted to create a men’s company of sorts, but weren’t exactly sure what direction they wanted to go with it. One day, while crafting a delicious batch of home brew, they had a defining moment of clarity. They realized that there were many wonderful, hardy, nutrient rich ingredients being wasted in the brewing process. They decided it would be a good idea to explore ways to repurpose them. After conducting some research, they came to find that you can make soaps with the leftover grains and sediment. They also discovered that beer has been used for therapeutic and cosmetic purposes for millennia. Beer sediment contains pantothenic acid, biotin, B12 and other great vitamins. Oats, hops, barley and wheat are mineral-rich grains that have antibacterial properties and are also packed full of powerful antioxidants.
Thus, they began crafting soaps. The soaps were so popular with family and friends that they decided to kick it up a notch. The Blackmons talked with local breweries and established partnerships. They knew that these local companies would likely have an abundance of “bottom of the barrel” goodness left over. They experimented further and tested their products for multiple months until they felt like they had perfected their recipes. The partnerships they developed allowed them to increase production exponentially. With everything coming together perfectly in the spring, they decided to launch their company and products at the first summer Kalamazoo Farmers Market. The Damn Handsome Grooming Company was a hit. They received amazing feedback and have welcomed the resulting growth and success.
The goal of the Damn Handsome Grooming Company is to create quality, beneficial and hardworking beer-infused grooming products for men in a sustainable manner. They aspire to “make the planet a little better, not a little worse.” They now offer a multitude of all-natural soaps as well as beard oil, beard and hair wax, lip balm, shaving cream, and more.
I was able to meet up with the Blackmons at the Kalamazoo Oktoberfest and Beer Fest on October 12. Jarrett and I sat down for a few minutes to discuss their popular and inspiring company.
Have you always been MI residents?
Born in Michigan, yes. We did live in Chicago for a bit. We also lived out in Portland, Oregon for a bit and really dove into the beer culture out there. Then, we decided to move back to Michigan a couple of years ago.
You brew your own beer?
We do, yes. I wouldn’t say we are great at it but we like the process! We like making crazy stuff too.
What is the best beer you have ever brewed?
That’s a good question. Hmm… you know I would say an Oatmeal Stout. We brewed a really good oatmeal stout that was just perfect.
What is your vision for the Damn Handsome Grooming Company moving forward?
When we kicked things off the first week of the farmers market, it was really the best test market we could have ever asked for. We got great, great feedback. We were in front of our customer. We really learned quickly and had to think on our feet. I think the vision going forward is to continue with the wholesale accounts we have established, a lot of which are in Michigan, but some of them are as far away as Los Angeles. We are really starting to branch out!
It has been sort of a whirl wind! We have had to be very fluid and adapt very quickly. I think our short term goal is to keep rolling wholesale. It would be great to have a brick and mortar location of some sort, but I think ideally we would like to take this beyond just soap. We want to continue to partner with the local brewing community, do some sort of men’s grooming store possibly. I am a really big fan of barbershops where you can go get your hair cut and have a beer, so I think that’s on the horizon.
What is your production facility like right now?
We started off producing at the Park Trade Center here in Kalamazoo, and as we grew, we really grew out of that space. Now (that) we have a small cottage in Battle Creek that is on a hop farm, we produce all of our soap and beer products there. So we were able to move very quickly, which is nice! And not in the winter, which is nice too.
You said that you produce on a hop farm?
Yes, it is on about 5 acres.
Sounds great! You guys are living the dream!
Yes, it is nice. We can’t complain!
Is it the two of you on your production team?
Yes, yes it is. It is just the two of us, and plus it is great partnering with breweries; we get to have a cool inside peak!
Is this a full-time job for you two?
It is a full-time job for me, yeah. I actually come from a social media marketing background and was at a big-time agency, and again a perfect storm of events, the agency closed down and I had to figure out what I wanted to do. We had wanted to do a company for a long time and it was just like, ok let’s do it. We started out actually wanting to do men’s ties, we were going to do men’s ties, pocket squares, and then this idea came up.
Your wife, Bridget, she has another job in addition to this?
Yes, she works in finance which is a great balance for me, because I am not so good with the numbers. It is really great, because I bring her crazy ideas and she takes it a few steps back, then I take it one step forward, and then we see if we can work it out.
That is a good balance you have going. That has to be one of the most challenging parts about starting a small business–how do I do this? What do I need to know?
You know, in one aspect it is really great to be as small as we are because we are able to take something to market very, very quickly. The down side is that we are a small company with big ideas–one of the first things we learned is not to continue on with more and more product, but to focus on a few quality products. It helps having someone of a financial mindset say yes that’s great, however, at this moment it’s not going to work.
Is there anything you want to add about the Damn Handsome Grooming Company?
Well, I think that all of our products are based on our own personal needs, things that we are not finding, whether it is in the grocery store or even in a health food store. A lot of the things out there are single purpose and our focus is to make things that are more dynamic, more multipurpose. To allow guys to focus on a good regiment. Our stuff works, it’s all-natural and detergent free. We have multipurpose products that you can use on camping trips and can be safe for any sort of environment. So I guess essentially we are focused on sustainability just as much as we are on creating quality men’s grooming products. We want to make sure our company has as little carbon impact as possible. Making Kalamazoo better, not worse, because we started a small business.
As far as schedule goes, how can people find you?
We are planning on doing the winter Farmers Market in Kalamazoo. We are also always online. We are ramping up plenty of product for the holidays, doing gift sets, gift boxes; we are doing a beer care kit which I am really excited about. We are in Kalamazoo at Beer and Skittles, we are at Urban Cottage, and we are actually at the Handmade Kalamazoo store as well. We are also doing some events this holiday season downtown. We are doing the December Art Hop at Urban Cottage–we are going to be charity gift wrapping. People can bring in their packages and we gift wrap them for a donation. They are having a scotch vendor come in, and beer tasting! Should be fun.
But yes, always online.
Do you post online when you are going to be somewhere?
Yes, we do. Instagram is really kind of our big network. But, yes we always post where we are going to be. And, I should say that some of the stores only carry our core products. We have hop lip balm and things that you would not get at the store, online.
In closing, what is your favorite Michigan beer?
Well, it changes from season to season. I would say that Jaw-Jacker by Arcadia is my favorite fall beer!
– By Lindsey Hinkel, Contributing Writer