When a few years ago the couple Pauline Bouchez and Olivier Boyer quarreled about another “nonsense”, they did not speak for almost two days.
After reconciling, they have turned their fight into a business, LOVE THAT BEARD.
A couple of days later, they went to the bank to ask for a loan and a year later they have received offers to buy their business.
A business they had created with great love from that stupid quarrel.
(Lauren Turner/Photos: Andrew Quinn)
Pauline and Olivier, a loveable and charming couple from Paris, do not look like two shrewd business sharks or online entrepreneurs and they also claim they are not. But their story probably proves otherwise.
A few years ago, the couple quarreled over “different standards of home cleanliness” as they define it with a smile and didn’t even speak for almost two days after apparently being sarcastic with each other a bit too much and secluded themselves in their home in silence, each in his own insult.
Contrary to any possible forecast, out of this quarrel they have established a thriving business for practical products and gifts for bearded men – LOVE THAT BEARD – The Place for Bearded Men and Those Who Love Them.
Tell me what actually happened there. How it started?
Pauline: Olivier, my cute and charming partner, is a very talented guy with many virtues but at this one thing he is just bad. He does not know how to clean up, he does not really give attention to it and he does not like to deal with it so after years we have been together, I got it and I kind of “released” him from cleaning duties around the house, I took this task on my own and I have no problem with it. Our “deal” has freed me from washing and drying, that’s his job, so you could say that we’re equal.
And still, there’s one thing that he had to take care of himself…
This bearded, gorgeous man shaves and messes with his beard grooming quite a bit but cleaning the bathroom when he is done – that’s something he just does not do good enough.
Every time he shaved or fixed his look, he would leave the sink, the floor, the mirrors and everything else in a terrible state, just like a pigsty.
Olivier: It’s not that I didn’t clean at all, I would clean just not that well, I got different standards… lower standards, but that’s history, let’s move on…
Pauline: Apparently after the filth that was left that time, the things we said were not nice, some insults were hurled, and we were both offended. We were both wrong, I admit I was too. And then that evening we shut ourselves up a bit, each in his own corner and we did not talk and the next day we went out to work. We both returned that evening quite late, we didn’t talk, maybe just a simple “Hey” and that was it, we went to sleep.
Olivier: We were very distressed, but we took some time to cool down and relax a bit, as it sometimes happens when you fight.
In the meantime, that day I had been thinking for about 24 hours about our quarrel, my thoughts were consumed only by that. I was sitting in an office meeting in the publishing house where I worked, and when I left it, I couldn’t remember anything about it. A friend who works with me saw that I was like a zombie in the meeting, so afterwards we talked a bit and I told him everything.
He told me about a special kind of beard bib he read about at some website, one that attaches to the mirror or the wall and allows you to shave and leave all the hair gathered on the bib and leave the entire environment completely clean as if you did not shave at all.
After a long research I found such a bib that was sold at a very expensive price but I had to try it so I ordered one immediately.
Pauline: I also had a very hard day at work, I hate it when we are not talking, let alone when it’s about such nonsense. That evening we were already talking and making up like we always do but it was not about that beard bib. He wanted to see how he was first.
Olivier: After about a week and a half, the beard bib arrived in perfect timing because I had to shave and fix the beard. In the evening when I got back, I took it out of the package and immediately wanted to try it, I hooked it to the mirror and shaved. It was amazing to me, after I had finished everything was polished, as if I had not shaved at all, as clean as Pauline liked it.
“Try not to fight, but if you do – pay attention to the little details.”
What was your response to the clean place you finally got?
Pauline: When I got into the house, straight away I saw that he had just shaved. I remembered that he had promised after the quarrel that he would try to clean up more next time so I was a bit nervous to see if he at least tried and stood by his word.
I peeped in the bathroom and was amazed, I couldn’t believe it was so clean, that he was even able to clean up like that, after years together I just knew that cleaning was a weak spot for him. I did not know about the bib so I was really in the shock that he cleaned up like that.
I came to him and hugged him and said something like – “Thanks for being so amazing” or something like that. And he laughed a little and explained everything to me.
What did you think of this beard bib and the fact that he didn’t actually clean at all?
Pauline: It was still amazing. I was so proud of him that he cared and that he looked for a solution just for me so I will be pleased. After all, he did it for me because he knew how much it bothered me when he didn’t leave everything polished the way I liked it.
Look, I’m a bit “crazy” when it comes to this issue, I know that… so the fact that he was looking for a solution really moved me.
How did you turn this into a business?
Olivier: We realized that there was a problem here that had a simple and unfamiliar solution and that there was actually a whole line of products that I myself did not know! A whole world of products that can help bearded men, intended for an entire market that is not always taken care of and addressed directly, like here – a product that solves the problem of many couples and makes life easier. And it can also be excellent as a gift for couples.
There are many products that solve a need, a problem people have.
Something for house cleaning, driving, repairs at home, for animals, gardening gadget, etc. but here we felt that there was a market that didn’t even know that there are many products that are intended for it and are sold in a scattered way in gift shops, cosmetics, home care products shelves, etc. and usually not in one special store for bearded men.
We thought there was room to start a business only for bearded men and their spouses who were looking for gifts for them! And immediately we had a name we loved – LOVE THAT BEARD.
Pauline: And it wasn’t easy. We had no idea how to start and we did not have money. We barely got a loan from the bank and began with a great deal of difficulty collecting products, buying stockpiles, taking care of shipping and possible mishaps, and then checking how to set up a website for our store, how to pay for all we need, how to coordinate everything with manufacturers and traders, many of them didn’t speak any English. Lots of questions we had no idea how to handle.
Olivier works with books and editing, I work in a fashion company, what do we have to do with establishing a business for bearded men on the internet?!
What helped you succeed? What did you do right?
Olivier: I think we were very determined despite the hard times we had in the first few months and a huge financial loss. We just didn’t break.
We knew that we had good products and ideas for something unique that really helped people and we kept pushing it with all our might even when people around us tried to get us out of this and offer us to simply retire and reduce financial damages.
Pauline: We spent all our spare time every night and on the weekends to set up our business and to learn on the move. I read a lot of blogs, Facebook forums, a bit of professional literature about starting a business and online stores. I meet with an accountant, a financial advisor, Olivier met with a cool fund that helps small businesses (which eventually we didn’t work with, but gave us tons of information about the difficulties and dealing with them).
a brilliant team making LOVE THAT BEARD a success.
How and when did you start seeing any profits?
Olivier: We started with lots of financial pressure on us and it was hard. We had products that we believed in but the maintenance and costs of an Internet business and a business in general are very high and at first when there is no profits it is very stressful. It’s money that goes out of the money we put aside for our rent and food and basic shopping, it means not going out at all, no restaurants, not using our own car, nothing. We have lived so frugally and only tried to survive without closing the business.
We can say that we have devoted all we could so that LOVE THAT BEARD would be up and running and we only dreamed of reaching a balance and stabilizing point.
Pauline: We initially invested a lot in cheap and available advertising ways, mainly through good friends and family, we had basic business cards linking to our website with coupons for promotions, we relied on a lot of word-of-mouth advertising, lots of communication with people on Facebook, a bit of free Instagram and all the help we could get from our environment, including our nice neighbors who advertised us in their work place.
Slowly we received inquiries and orders and even requests from people to bring good products they saw in Japan and someone who saw something in a store in Canada and Norway, all kinds of those things. And we responded to everyone who reached out and every email got a reply.
It took a little time and within a few months we had already established ourselves and started to actually make a profit. We got a good reputation and people started to recognize us a little bit at that college, a little bit in that office, friends from the small coffee shop, someone from a hairdresser we advertised in. Bit by bit.
We learned that even a small business can be established and create a loyal audience that grows as the business grows and improves.
We started to get orders from bearded guys and from women with bearded boyfriends, husbands and co-workers that loved the idea of beard products as gifts. They got the bib, shavers, oils, shampoos and soaps, some wanted nice mugs and T-shirts and at some point there was a momentum that pushed us forward. That was very nice.
Olivier: Today we keep a wide range of very high quality products that we locate from all over the world, working with different companies and suppliers and even manufacture our own completely new products by our standard. We even have a line of shirts and hats that we occasionally offer for sale at really ridiculous prices, not really profitable but it helps to strengthen contact with our customers and establish our brand.
We have a brilliant team working with us, a very talented group of people we consider not just co-workers but also dear friends we love and have a big part in making LOVE THAT BEARD such a success.
We have loyal customers we really love and new visitors who become buyers from countries all over Europe, America, Australia and other places around the world.
Pauline: It was after almost a year that we were approached regarding selling the business, they were really serious about it since they saw how much “noise” and “buzz” it has created online and felt our “good vibes” presence and wanted to take over and pay us nicely for that. It was a big surprise for us and of course we politely refused. LOVE THAT BEARD is our baby! We won’t sell it to anyone.
Olivier: No way.
What tip do you have for others who have an idea for a business and want to get started?
Pauline: First of all, be determined and confident in yourself. Then check out some data and the market and see if there is a basis and logic to your idea or you just fell in love with it too much and you are blind to reality and maybe it is predetermined to fail.
Olivier: I’ll tell you a secret – lots of money is very helpful, and great connections too (smiling) but even without these things, and for us there was neither of it nor of that, it is still possible to succeed. You have to build an orderly and realistic plan and follow it, without being tempted to follow imaginary and unreasonable things like opening an internet store AND a physical store before checking all the numbers and get some data about what you’re doing.
Maybe some people can do it, but “simple people” like us without big budgets to support them cannot handle such a burden. It would be smarter to start at a small scale.
Pauline: Getting into financial trouble is very easy, getting out of this is a difficult task. That’s simple but people tend to forget that when they have a big dream they love and sometime they follow it blindly.
“We still fight, but because of the dishes in the sink.”
What can you say about your relationship? How do you manage to work together and keep the “flame” between you two?
Pauline: We found the right place for the business within our relationship. It did not take over everything, although today we are both totally committed to LOVE THAT BEARD.
That is why it was an important step to let other people enter and get more opinions and ideas, giving them authority to do and change things. Today we have other good and talented people working with us.
Olivier: It also “free” a little time for us and how shall I say it… “Clear some cells in our brains” for other things as well so the business will not be what we do 24/7 and it also allows for another mind, another way of thinking to affect what’s happening in the business.
If it’s a good mind that you trust this person – it pays off and totally worth it.
Pauline: It allows us to talk about other things and do things outside of our business and not just live around it.
I think otherwise it would be wrong and I would not recommend couples to revolve their lives 100% around their business, as successful as it may be. It’s just not the smart thing to do.
So you’re no longer fight over cleaning up, I suppose.
Olivier: Not at all.
Pauline: (With a big smile) We still fight, but because of the dishes in the sink.