Mind your Business: Stoutheart, Ottawa

Around these parts, we like to learn about and from people who are running their own businesses – business we love and admire, and the women AND men who are running shit behind the scenes. I ran into Jen and Greg, the couple behind STOUTHEART Shave Co., at an Etsy event in Ottawa and was immediately in love with their natural, beautiful skincare and men’s grooming products (you’re welcome, husband). I caught up with them after the show to ask about their business, what it’s like to work with your life partner, and what’s so great about wet shaving anyway. Check it out!

Greg and Jennifer Swaine of STOUTHEART Shave Company

milieu: Tell us a bit about your backgrounds.
Jen: I was a hairstylist for 15 years and then switched to esthetics; I’ve always been passionate about healthcare and beauty.
Greg: I’m a former paramedic and search and rescue medic. Now I work with adults with disabilities and I teach women’s self defense.

milieu: What the meaning behind your company’s name, STOUTHEART?
Greg: My teenage years were pretty rough, so for me the name comes from resilience and coming back from something tough. It’s about feeling comfortable in your own skin and your ability to face whatever challenges are in front of you with a stout heart.
Jen: when we were deciding on a name, we just brainstormed what words we wanted associated with our product, like strength and courage. We give people the products they need to feel their best and we wanted the name to reflect that.

milieu: How did the idea to create men’s shaving products come about?
Jen: It really started as Christmas gift ideas for family and friends. We were broke, so we decided to make gifts instead. It was Greg’s idea to make shave soaps for the guys. They liked it, but the feedback was the product wasn’t perfect—so we  decided we would put the work in and turn it into something really cool.
Greg: We launched officially in May 2015, but starting around October 2014 we were doing our research and product testing. We spent months reading and educating ourselves on different essential and carrier oils and organic ingredients that would give us the results we were looking for. We tried dozens and dozens of recipes and a lot of them gave the same results –dry and itchy skin– so we just kept experimenting until we got it right. Now we have a glycerine base that makes the products smoother than traditional shaving soap. I have sensitive skin myself, so we definitely gear towards addressing sensitive skin concerns.

milieu: How have you been promoting your business?
Greg: We initially started with just Instagram and Facebook, and our website. But when it comes to promotion we truly love being transparent about how our business works. We made videos and posts showing our humble beginnings and our growth to where we are today, taking people along our journey. I think our customers really relate to it and enjoy it; they see what it takes to start a small business. We also do a lot of shows like Handmade Harvest and the Etsy show. We just received an invitation to do the One of a Find Show in Toronto. And we were approached by four different shops after the Etsy show to carry our products, so we’re in wholesale talks with these shops.

Greg and Jen of STOUTHEART at Etsy Made in Canada

milieu: I love the natural, manly scents of your products. How did you decide on those?
Greg: We didn’t want to add any additional, unnatural scents to our products; we wanted to have essential oils only as the scents. Jennifer has a much better nose than I do, so she took the essential oils that I wanted based on their qualities and she designed the scent profiles.

 milieu: How do you convince guys who aren’t into the ritual and fun of wet shaving that it’s something they should try?
Greg: It’s funny you ask – right now, about seventy-five percent of our customers are women buying for their partners. Men are still a hard sell because they are traditionally extremely loyal to their services and products, and changing a part of their daily routine can be a really tough thing. But we try to entice them with the quality of the product and what it can do for them; our products can help cure razor burn and skin irritation, and the clay pulls oil away from the face and helps with acne – these things convince men more than nice packaging.
Jen: it’s hard to get people out of their comfort zone, but we are always doing demos and once they see how easy it really is, they think, ‘I can take a little extra time for myself,’ and they really start to enjoy it.

Stoutheart shave soap

milieu: Any plans to expand your line and offer some women-specific product?
Jen: We’ve been asked a lot to expand and venture into women’s stuff but because we’re so new, we really want to focus on the men’s line exclusively—especially because there’s such a lack of good men’s products out there. But women can use our shaving products too!

milieu: What are some of the challenges of running your business, especially as a couple?
Jen: Being able to run the business and still run our family and life. We have a one-year-old and she requires a lot of attention. Greg works full time, we have one car, we’re constantly juggling our schedules. But it’s all a learning experience. Every day we learn something new.
Greg: We rebranded twice since we’ve been around, and because we’re so new we don’t have any financial backing by any financial institutions, so there’s been a lot of money spent. I wish we had consulted with someone who had more business experience. We learned there is no shame in asking for help, especially when you’re new at something.

milieu: What are your favourite products?
Greg: For me it’s the beard oil, and the fire roasted lime shave soap.
Jen: The fire-roasted lime is my favourite of our products. I use it myself!

New STOUTHEART compact shave kit

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