Meet the Maker – T. Gates Councilor of Burly Stone

Chloe Tate

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 (, 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 Please use “MEET THE MAKER” as the subject line and be certain to include your web address. We look forward to hearing from you!

About the Author

Chloe Tate

Once described as “relentlessly cheerful,” Chloe is a lover of all things colorful and practically every fruit known to man. She lives in Atlanta and divides her time between supporting Lucky Break clients, keeping shop at a local artisan market, and event planning for business conferences. She’s also working on the launch of her skincare line while finishing her degree in Organizational & Leadership Studies. True story: Chloe shares 50% of Lela’s DNA and is poised to inherit her obscenely large shoe collection.

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