Like many great ideas, LONE WOODS started with a curious man with a science degree – and a beard.
“It began when I grew a beard in 2012-2013. And like everything else that I do, just having a background in science, I’m very curious about things and I tend to research things,” says Chris Parent, born and raised Saint Johner and science graduate.
“I tend to go overboard with everything that I do. So when I grew a beard, I became very curious and fascinated with the products surrounding beard care.”
When Parent started looking at the vast assortment of beard products online, he noticed some gaps in the offerings and areas that could be improved.
“That was one of the benefits at the time. Beard care was a new thing,” he says. “It wasn’t that anybody was doing anything wrong, but it was new, so there were a lot of different gaps. So I started making products on my own.”
“I was giving them to friends, telling people about them. Those same friends started telling their friends about it and eventually, more and more people were asking me for these products. I was shy about it and held off for the longest time.”
But on Sept. 22, 2014, LONE WOODS launched its Etsy shop.
LONE WOODS makes a variety of grooming products such as beard oil, beard balm, shaving products, moustache wax, lip balm, and wood crafted brushes and combs. They also make clothing and accessories like shirts, keychains and journals.
“One of the cool things about LONE WOODS is I actually hand-craft all of the grooming products myself,” Parent says. “I cut the labels myself. I prepare the packaging, I label everything myself, I make the product myself … I’m literally involved from start to finish which gives me a huge advantage when I talk to customers.”
When it comes to LONE WOODS wood products, Parent works with different local woodworkers, most recently, Tim Hunter of Artizan Group.
“He looks after the shaving brushes, the beard boxes and different products like that,” Parent says.
Being locally hand-made is what Parent says make LONE WOODS stand out from other grooming products offered online.
“A lot of people are offering what you call private labelling, where all the beard oils are the same, but they’re being sold under different names and under different brands,” Parent says.
“Then any of the accessories these companies offered were usually imported from China. They were plastic. They were being made by people elsewhere. That was really where I was interested. That’s the gap that I noticed that I wanted to fill. There was room here to improve on these products to make them locally and to offer them locally. “
LONE WOODS products are sold in shops throughout Saint John. Parent also sets up at the local farmer’s market during the summer months. Most of his online orders are sent throughout Canada and the United States, but LONE WOODS has been shipped to 52 countries to date, including UK, Australia, and France, Malta, Estonia, Serbia and even Antarctica.
Though he estimates about 75 per cent of his customers are people with beards, Parent says the LONE WOODS brand is geared towards anyone who enjoys being outside.
“When I do think of the person I want to sell to or the person who most often comes to see me, it’s the people who enjoy the outdoors and nature,” he says. “For a lack of a better word the ‘hipster’ lifestyle.’”
When LONE WOODS first started, Parent was working as a busboy at a local bar. But since the business has taken off, he’s been able to work on it full-time. He usually works 18 hours days, with help sometimes from friends and his girlfriend Nicole during busy seasons. But this year Parent hopes to take on some actual employees as he plans to expand. Right now, those plans are mostly under wraps.
“Right now there are a few things in the works that will definitely help me to expand, help me to reach a bigger demographic especially here locally in Saint John. There are definitely plans to expand and to bring people into the business as employees,” he says. “I definitely want to bring on people who share a passion for the products, who can really understand what drive my motivation and what pushes me to perfection in every aspect of the business.”
Right now, many people view LONE WOODS as just a beard company, something Parent understands. But long-term, he envisions LONE WOODS becoming more of a lifestyle brand.
“In the name ‘LONE WOODS’, you’ll notice very specifically that I left out mention of beards, mention of shaving, anything in that realm. It was done very purposefully because I knew from day one that I wanted to expand beyond that,” Parent says.
“LONE WOODS was never a beard oil company. It’s never been just a shaving company. It’s a company that I envisioned growing to include beard products, shaving products, apparel and accessories and that’s the direction we’re heading in now. Moving forward and growing, I want to get more into the lifestyle aspect of it.”