Where are they now? Gates Councilor of Burly Stone

BURLY STONE LOGO NoBg

BURLY STONE LOGO NoBg

 

Are you wondering what happens to my Brick House Branding alumni post-graduation? What they do with the momentum + new-found knowledge? Curious about where they take their businesses in the year following all that hard work?

 

I’m back with another round of “Where Are They Now?” case studies and I’m doing-cartwheels-excited to show you the serious waves my BHB graduates are making!

 

TGatesCouncilor

 

Say hello to Gates of Burly Stone

This week, I’m thrilled to introduce you to the official rooster in the Lucky Break hen house, Gates of Burly Stone. Gates recently rebranded Burly Stone after graduating from Brick House Branding, and he’s here to share how he injected a whole lotta handsome into his brand. Welcome, Gates… We’re so honored to have you!

 

LBC: Why and when did you originally launch your company?

Gates: We launched Burly Stone in April of 2014. Initially, it was just the outgrowth of a hobby – my hubby and I had started soap making in the summer of 2013. Before we knew it we were making more than two people could use, so we were giving soap away like it was candy. Once we got the hang of it, we had friends and family begging us for more, so it became a side hustle for us. When I was laid off in August of 2014, it felt like the universe giving us a sign, and it became a full-time endeavor.

 

As for the “why?”: We fell into a niche we hadn’t seen, and one that suited us: high-quality handcrafted soap made with guys in mind. We had been in business in one way or another long enough to realize that we might just have a little bit of lightning in a bottle.

 

 

LBC: At what point did you know it was time for a rebrand?

Gates: About two years ago we started to feel like we were bouncing off the edges of our brand. By this I mean that, while still happy with Burly Stone (and we had many folks who LOVED what we had in place already), we knew that there was a limit to how far our current branding would take us. We had grown and developed new products (hand balms, shave soaps, etc.), but hadn’t planned for that growth within the brand itself, so we just started slapping stuff together and hoping it would stick. We realized that we had taken the current brand about as far as it could go.

 

We wanted to be in larger markets, bigger stores, and have a truly professional presence. Our old look wasn’t polished and cohesive enough to get us into those doors. So in summer of 2016 we knew we needed to pull the trigger on a rebrand.

 

 

The Burly Stone logo BEFORE Brick House Branding and a rebrand

The Burly Stone logo BEFORE Brick House Branding and a rebrand

 

 

LBC: Please share a significant realization about the brand development process that you discovered while in Brick House Branding.

Gates: At the start of the process we were like “No worries – this will be a cakewalk. We’ll just polish some stuff up, pull together a new logo and that’ll be it.” We realized pretty quickly that doing it halfway would be far worse than not doing it at all. To do it effectively, to really arrive at a solid rebrand, you have to be willing to dig deep, to shed your preconceived notions of who and what your brand is. It’s hard work with a TON of heavy mental and emotional lifting.

 

You have to be willing to throw away EVERYTHING that came before. You may not have to, but if you’re not willing to pitch it all if needed, you may well miss the mark on your rebrand.

 

 

LBC: What professionals did you tag in to help with the process, and what pieces of the branding puzzle did you DIY? 

Gates: We are incredibly lucky that we have a very close friend who happens to be an awarding winning designer. She’s worked with multi-million dollar brands, so being able to pull her in as our designer was a huge benefit. With her, we knew the visuals of the rebrand were in good hands, so it left us free to deal with the rest. Once the packaging was done, we splurged on our product photos – we used POW (Product On White) Photos, and the results are well worth it!

 

We didn’t have the budget to farm everything else out, so we plugged away on our own. I’ve done enough writing in my time that I felt I could handle the product descriptions, “about us” page, and the other written elements. While the end results may not be worthy of Shakespeare, everything hangs together and has the right feel. We’ll count that as a win.

 

As for the web site, luckily Shopify is mostly plug and play. We found a theme we liked (the Turbo theme from Out Of The Sandbox), and pushed through. It’s not 100% where we’d like it to be, but it’s pretty damn close. We’re budgeting money for web work in the coming year. We did have a friend who does a lot of web work help us out with a few minor things – just helping us refine the look a little. Don’t be afraid to reach out to knowledgeable friends and family!

 

Burly Stone packaging + logo, BEFORE Brick House Branding and a rebrand

Burly Stone packaging + logo, BEFORE Brick House Branding and a rebrand

 

 

LBC: What was the biggest obstacle you encountered during the rebranding process?

Gates: FEAR.

It’s a terrifying process, deconstructing your “baby”. You’re afraid that it wasn’t good enough before, and that it won’t be good enough after. You’re afraid to fail. Each step get a little more frightening because you’re pushing your brand in new and unknown directions. BHB is a deep dive, and that dive isn’t always comfortable.

 

But then things start to click. For us it was on our second round of logos. After BHB we spent weeks setting up brand inspiration boards on Pinterest for our designer, but the first set of logos she created just weren’t working. We left that meeting with a pit in our stomach. Out of the dozen logos she had pulled together, we only saw two that had any glimmer of what we were looking for, and even those felt far off the mark. But she worked with those two, and on the second round things started to gel. Suddenly we could start to see the new brand coming to life, and the pit in our stomach wasn’t fear, but excitement.

 

Burly Stone packaging + logo, AFTER Brick House Branding and a rebrand

Burly Stone packaging + logo, AFTER Brick House Branding and a rebrand

 

LBC: How has your own perception of your brand evolved since graduating from Brick House Branding?

Gates: I’m glad you used the word “evolved” in the question, because that’s key. Over the course of BHB, everyone attending had their own “a-ha” moments about their brand. For us, it was that, while we tore Burly Stone down to its very foundation, the new look has its roots in where we started. Our rebrand is an evolution of our old branding. Everything we had done before wasn’t wrong, but BHB helped us clarify every single element of what makes up our brand.

 

In a nutshell? We used to say we were “Rugged with a refined edge”. Now we are “Refined with a rugged edge.” It’s a subtle difference on the surface, but it means the world to us. It’s led to massive shifts in how we speak as a brand, stores we reach out to, and who our ideal customer is.

 

 

LBC: Are your products are being received differently by others since the rebrand? How has their reaction evolved?

Gates: What’s great is that people seem to get it. They can see bits of the “old” Burly Stone in this new look, but see the overall elevation of the Burly Stone brand. People used to like our products, but now we’re starting to see that people love us as a brand. They’re running their hands across our shave soap labels and “oohing and aahing” over the look and feel. We’ve also learned how to speak to our ideal customer, and the results are starting to show. Thanks to BHB we’ve got the opportunity to develop a rabidly loyal customer base.

 

Burly Stone packaging + logo, BEFORE Brick House Branding and a rebrand

Burly Stone packaging + logo, BEFORE Brick House Branding and a rebrand

 

 

LBC: Can you share a recent win that you’ve realized because of the rebrand? 

Gates: There is a certain store that we have been dying to get into. We reached out to several times – emails and postcards, and yet we’ve never heard back from them. We reached out to them again after our rebrand and they responded along the lines of “Yes, THIS is what we were waiting for from you.”  We sent them a sample kit, so keep your fingers crossed.

 

Burly Stone packaging + logo, AFTER Brick House Branding and a rebrand

Burly Stone packaging + logo, AFTER Brick House Branding and a rebrand

 

LBC: How did the Brick House Branding experience help shape your branding process?

Gates: I can honestly say that without BHB, the Burly Stone rebrand would have flopped. I mean, it may have looked okay, but the foundation wouldn’t have been there. Lela lets you know right off the bat that this is going to be a deep dive, but she doesn’t just throw you in the deep end. The course is designed in a way that eases you into the rebranding process. It helps you deconstruct your brand, to peel back all the layers, and get to the heart of your brand. I can’t think of a single element of the rebrand that the course doesn’t cover – and there are dozens that I hadn’t even considered before I took BHB. I mean, who even thinks about whether or not to use exclamation points?

 

Looking back, Brick House Branding was vital to our rebrand. It’s incredibly comprehensive and well designed, and every painstaking step is soothed by Lela’s loving southern charm. BHB was a life saver for Burly Stone.

 

 

Burly Stone packaging + logo, AFTER Brick House Branding and a rebrand

Burly Stone packaging + logo, AFTER Brick House Branding and a rebrand

 

 

LBC: What do you wish you had known at the beginning of the brand development process? What advice would you give to someone who’s getting ready to start the brand development process?

Gates: A good, solid rebrand will take time – more time than you think. It was over a year from the start of Brick House Branding until we relaunched Burly Stone, and we were working on it constantly. Even after launch there are dozens of pieces floating around that we haven’t had the time or energy to deal with yet.

 

If you’re doing it right, rebranding is a time consuming, emotionally draining process. You can expect sleepless nights, upset stomachs, and more than one “Oh god, I’m in over my head” moment. But if you push through and follow the sage advice contained within BHB, you’ll emerge with a stronger, more thoughtful brand that ties more intimately to your ideal customer. You won’t just have a logo and products, you’ll have a brand, and that is worth its weight in gold.

 

Thanks for catching up with us, Gates! We can’ t wait to see what comes next for you + Burly Stone … We’re cheering you on!

 

If you’d like to build a stronger, smart brand in 2018, then I also hope that you’ll consider joining me in the spring semester of Brick House Branding. This 9-week brand development mentorship dissects awesome brands and then helps you build your own, brick by brick, with me working right alongside you to cheer you on and ensure that you’re on the right track. Enrollment opens on April 17!

 

 

Meet the Maker – T. Gates Councilor of Burly Stone

Meet the Maker - Gates of Burly Stone

Meet the Maker - Gates of Burly Stone

 

Today in our ongoing Meet the Maker series, we’re going behind the scenes with one of my favorite LBU Alumni, T. Gates Councilor of the men’s apothecary brand, Burly Stone. The resident male member of my LBU Alumni Coaching Community, we love us some Gates – and we are thrilled that you’re getting to know him better, too. Welcome, Gates!

 

LBC: What is your location? 

Gates: We are located in Mystic, CT. It’s a great little seaside town in South Eastern Connecticut. Yes, Mystic Pizza was filmed here. No, the pizza’s not any good.

 

LBC: What inspired you to take your leap as an entrepreneur?

Gates: Honestly? Frustration. I couldn’t find the sort of soap I wanted – as a guy I wanted more manly scents, and the average sized bar of hand crafted soap wasn’t nearly big enough. I started making soap and fell in love with the process – the funky mix of art, science, and dangerous chemicals really spoke to me. Before I knew it, my family and friends were all clamoring for products. I realized there was an untapped market that I could work my way into – guys who want to look good and smell even better. And that’s how Burly Stone was born.

 

LBC: When you first got started, how did you envision your business would be defined?

Gates: I didn’t really have a notion on how Burly Stone would be defined. I knew that I wanted it to be a reflection of myself – authentic, irreverent, a little rough around the edges. But I didn’t know how that would translate. As we’ve grown as a business, I can see where we are, and I think it’s a pretty funky little niche we’ve carved out. I see us as one of the few artisanal men’s grooming companies. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of artisanal soap companies. There’s plenty of men’s grooming shops, and likely hundreds of beard oil companies. But I haven’t seen more than a handful of companies that have our approach, our point of view. I’m pretty damn proud of that.

 

Meet the Maker - Gates of Burly Stone

 

LBC: How would you describe what you create?

Gates: At Burly Stone we craft big, rugged bars of masculine scented soap and other high-quality men’s grooming products that make guys look, smell, and feel sexy as hell.

 

LBC: Where can we find your products?

Gates: We have an online store (burlystone.com), and do several pop-up markets and shows in the area. We’re also available in over 40 stores throughout the country. We’re working to expand our reach, including a big push in the next few weeks to barber shops nationwide, and have plans for total world domination.

 

LBC: Walk us through your typical work day.

Gates: I don’t think any entrepreneur has a “typical” work day. But here’s how (if the stars align) it goes:

Morning: I’m usually up around 6am and lay in bed watching TV while working on the laptop – emails, working on my web page, designing or refining labels/postcards/signage, etc. In the shower around 7:30, then try and have a decent breakfast. I’ll putz around, feeding the dogs, checking on our chickens, and head to my basement workshop by 8:30 or so. I’ll do production until lunch and then head upstairs to grab a bite to eat.

Afternoon: Back down to the workshop to fill orders and/or work on projects in the afternoon. Projects may include inventory, researching/working on new products, reaching out to potential stockists, or cleaning and organizing. I try to wrap that all up by 6 including any post office or UPS runs.

Night: Dinner and quality time with the hubby and dogs. But I’m also back on the laptop – emails again, researching potential stockists, Facebook-ing, more design work. Sometimes I wrap things up by 8 or 9, sometimes the hubby will roll over around 1am and growl at me to shut the laptop and go to bed.

In and around all of this I try to work on social media, blog posts, and newsletters. Is that average? Who knows. All I know is it never stops, and its a constant juggling act. But man, when it’s firing on all cylinders? It’s fun as hell.

 

Meet the Maker - Gates of Burly Stone

 

LBC: What are 3 things makers should think through when they initially decide to start a business?

Gates: 1) Do you love what you’re planning on doing? Not just love, but LOVE. Seriously – I’m talking a BURNING WHITE HOT LOVE, A PASSION THAT CAN’T BE CONTAINED. If you don’t have this sort of passion, it’s going to show, and it’s going to hurt you. The maker community is a really crowded space, and it takes a driving passion to make it in this arena.

2) Are your business goals practical and attainable? It doesn’t matter whether you’re simply planning on selling your jewelry to a few small stores in your area, or making your organic perfume line an international sensation. You need to evaluate your product and your talents, then decide if you’re ready to make the moves you want to make. That being said, don’t be afraid to take risks… EVERY wildly successful business took some huge leaps of faith to get where they are.

3)Are you, your family & friends prepared? This is a significant investment of time, energy, & money with no guarantee of success. Having your loved ones in your corner, having them ready to chip & help when needed (soap wrapping parties with wine? Always fun.), having them there, willing to be your shoulder to cry on, having them help pull you across the finish line… it’s life saving. Without this? Ugh, it’s probably doable, but so much more difficult. And we’re not talking days or weeks. This is months and years of your life. Make sure your friends and family are ready.

 

LBC: When you’re overwhelmed, what brings you back to focus?

Gates: I’ll just force myself to step away. Take some time and play with the dogs, surf the web, listen to music, anything to try and let my mind wander for a few minutes. But that’s the key – I only give my self 15-20 minutes then I dig back in. One thing at a time, then the next, then the next.

 

Meet the Maker - Gates of Burly Stone

 

LBC: Tell us about a few of the best business decisions you’ve made to date.

Gates: There are a few that stand out to me.

1) Early on, when the hubby & I decided to turn soapmaking into a business, we were very deliberate & careful about the company name. It was weeks of brain storming and researching, and lots and lots of false starts and dead ends. When we finally eased into Burly Stone as a name, we knew that it was “just right”. But before we set our hearts on it, we researched it up, down and sideways.

2) We had our soap molds made for us by a special effects artist. Let me tell you, these things are cuh-razy expensive, but worth it. Designed to look like big hunks of rough hewn stone, they make our soaps really stand out. These things are totally unique – no one else on earth has soap that looks like ours, and that’s a real point of pride for us.

3) I took Lucky Break University (LBU). It was, without a doubt, one of the smartest business decisions I’ve made to date – more on that below!

 

LBC: Please share one mistake or obstacle from your business experience. How did you bounce back/overcome it?

Gates: There are a bunch of really closely related things that have been some of my biggest obstacles. Lack of confidence/imposter syndrome/being overly sensitive – it’s always been one of my weaknesses. Early on I would be terrified, absolutely TERRIFIED that I wasn’t good enough and someone was going to point that out. The slightest criticism, the gentlest “no” was a dagger to my confidence. My face would flush, I’d start to get flop sweat. It was terrible. I’d be so eager for approval that I would leap at any opportunity, even if it wasn’t right for me. I’d be so nervous talking to potential stockists that I wouldn’t make the best business deals for myself.

The only way to overcome it is, as the saying goes, to “keep on keeping on”. I just keep plugging away, day after day, week after week. As time has gone by, I can look back and see the growth I’ve made – as a soaper, as an entrepreneur, as a business owner. I can see the stronger deals I’ve made, I can see that people are looking at Burly Stone as a strong and authoritative brand. Looking back at those victories – stores that sought ME out, customers who have written glowing reviews (no joke, someone once wrote a poem praising our beard elixirs), bloggers and press who want my story (being asked to do this post, for instance). Those victories are something I can point to when I’m feeling like an imposter. Those victories can, and do, sustain me.

 

LBC: Is there a cause or organization that you contribute to that you’re particularly passionate about?

Gates: Animal rescue causes always speak to me, as does anything to do with the LGBT community. Those are the ones we’re most likely to donate to.

 

Meet the Maker - Gates of Burly Stone

 

LBC: What are 3 essential resources in your business toolbox that you can’t do without?

Gates: 1) Coffee. 2) Booze. 3) More coffee.

Okay, all kidding aside:

1) My Macbook. This thing is basically surgically attached to me. That reminds me, I’m overdue for backing it up. Let me add that to my to-do list.

2) Quickbooks Online (QBO). It may not be a flashy answer, but it’s a vital tool.

3) The LBU Alumni community. I’ve never met a more dedicated, helpful, talented, driven set of people. We’re there to help each other in ways big and small, business and personal, and I’ve learned SO FREAKING MUCH from them. Take a bow, ladies – you’ve earned it.

4) I know, I know. You said 3. Well I’m going to add a 4th. I’m TRYING to make a daily action planner a vital resource. I’m creative, scattered, mildly ADD and suffer from what I call “analysis paralysis”. I NEED to be more organized than I am, I NEED to plan ahead better. If I can dig into this new planner and make it an extension of me I’ll be much better off.

 

LBC: Suppose we had a time machine. If you blasted ourselves forward a few years, where would we see your company?

Gates: In a few years I’d like to be well-known in the apothecary world – a leader in small batch, high quality men’s grooming products. We may even be branching out to become a full fledged “lifestyle” brand, with a dozen or more brick and mortar stores throughout the country.

 

LBC: You’re a long-time (and beloved) client of Lucky Break Consulting. Can you share a little bit of your experience with us?

Gates: I’m a graduate of Lucky Break University. I took the course a little over a year ago, and it was the best business decision I’ve ever made. In 8 weeks Lela and her amazingly dedicated crew helped me and my fellow classmates dig deeper into our brands than we ever envisioned. We went from a mile high overview of our brand in general all the way down to microscopic examinations of every word, every ingredient, every post that we make. It’s a solid-gold roller coaster ride.

I’m addicted to Lela’s periscopes. A lot of times I’ll just have them play while I’m working. I can’t always pay as much attention as I’d like, but she’s got the most soothing voice, and it makes me feel like a well respected mentor is in the room with me.

Next up, the LBU Alumni community, which I gushed about earlier. Once you graduate, You have the opportunity to join a private Facebook group of fellow LBU Alum. Monthly projects, conference calls, emotional & mental support, business insights and more. It’s really, really vital to me. Here’s a small example of how freaking cool it is: An off-handed comment someone made about needing more eyeballs on their website has, over the course of about 2 hours, snowballed into a month-long challenge. We’re all going to run a Google Analytics Report on our page, then dedicate ourselves to doing one thing each day to improve that… we’ll hold each other accountable. How cool is that? THAT’S the sort of community you need to be a part of.

Lastly, I’m going to crow about Lucky Break’s newest offering, Wholesale Matchmaker. I was fortunate enough to be a beta tester for it, so I already know that it’s going to be a game changer, not just for me, but for anyone in the maker community who wants to wholesale. Elegantly designed, fun, thoughtful, jam packed with great stores, and so much more. GET THIS AS SOON AS YOU CAN!!! You won’t regret it, I promise.

 

Meet the Maker - Gates of Burly Stone

 

LBC: What’s one thing you would eat, if you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life?

Gates: Am I being practical? I mean, I could eat fresh popped popcorn every day, morning noon and night. Seriously. It’s like crack to me. But I’m sure that would kill me. So I’ll be at least semi-realistic & say pizza. Mmmmm….. pizza. And as foodie AND a resident of Connecticut, I’ll throw down the gauntlet. I defy anyone in the US to beat the White Clam & Bacon Pizza from Frank Pepe’s in New Haven.

 

LBC: Your musical playlist is full of…

Gates: Wildly divergent styles. Some days it may be all Broadway (I’m currently obsessed with “Hamilton”, as is the rest of the world) and show tunes, some days it may be pop (Beyonce, DNCE, Justin Timberlake), or some days classic rock (Rush, Yes, Van Halen, Genesis) – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

 

LBC: What’s your favorite quote and who said it?

Gates: “Life’s too short to take small bites.” – My husband, Maurice.

 

Thank you, Gates, for sharing your talent with us!  We absolutely love what you’re doing with Burly Stone, and we look forward to all the wonderful things ahead for you and your brand. We’re cheering you on!

 

Want to see your brand featured in our continuing “Meet the Maker” series? Drop us a line: hello AT luckybreakconsulting.com. Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!