MILKMAN GROOMING CO.
It’s no surprise to discover a scientific mind behind Milkman Grooming Co. This NSW-based producer of men’s grooming products is focused on beards and facial hair, and the quality of their range is a result of the curiosity, positivity and good-humoured approach of Dr Ben de Campo who founded this fantastic brand together with his wife Jacqueline. We had a few questions for them and they were kind enough to let us know their thoughts.
Milkman isn’t a typical name for a beard grooming company! How did you arrive at it?
When we started 5 years ago we noticed that a lot of men’s grooming brands had a nostalgic element to them. For example, there were (and still are) plenty of nods to Vikings, pirates & the rockabilly style. We wanted to stand out so we decided to go for something a little more obscure. We noticed the world of the milkman was part of a bygone era that hadn’t really been explored or incorporated into a modern brand. The milkman is a character from history that was this trusted guy who would deliver one of the household staples. Convenient & reliable. They’re values that we embrace with our brand.
There’s also a cheeky element to it. You may have heard the term “looks like the milkman’s son”, which hints at the desirability of the milkman. We want to make our customers feel desirable in the same way so the name also fits in that sense.
What gave you the idea to start the company in the first place and how did you go from those initial thoughts and conversations to getting product on the shelves?
A lot of people grind through their day jobs dreaming of their big break where one day they could start a business or brand. That was certainly part of my experience when I was in the corporate world, before starting Milkman. In the year leading up to creating the brand I would listen to business audio books whilst walking around the Botanic Gardens in Sydney during my lunch break. One that really got things going was “The 4 Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss. A couple of themes in that book around scratching your own itch and leveraging your previous skills and experience really resonated.
I used to be a pharmaceutical scientist and around that time I was growing my beard. I noticed the beard would get itchy and was hard to keep tidy. There were barely any products to help and I had the skills to create them. I also noticed that beards were becoming really popular. One day at the office I decided to act. I called my wife Jackee to pitch the idea and she was on board for me to start creating some products to see where it leads. In early 2014, my first product was released. It was a really nice collection of 3 beard oils with really bad design work & printing on the labels. Nevertheless we listed them on Ebay and they started to sell straight away. That was all the evidence we needed to invest more and grow the brand to where it is today.
We love how you use eco-friendly locally sourced ingredients. What kind of botanicals do you find around Australia and why are they so good for bearding?
We love using Australian botanicals. Our beard & shave range uses a lot of great local ingredients like Jojoba, Sandalwood, Buddhawood, Bees Wax, Lemon Myrtle & Kakadu Plum extracts. There’s actually quite a bit more than this on our radar for future products also. The cosmetics industry is very exciting right now with some really cool high tech ingredients and native plant extracts coming out. There are a couple of things we love about Australian made in particular. The first is that we’ve got very high industry standards in Australia so those raw materials tend to be high quality. When you’re talking about putting stuff in your beard and around your face, this is pretty important. The second is on a personal level, I don’t like seeing how much Australian manufacturing has been lost over the past few decades. If we can do our bit to buck this trend by producing complex, value-added products using local materials and labour then that is very satisfying.
More widely speaking, how did you choose the base formulations for your products?
The backbone of what we do with our formulations is to create something that is effective, safe, sustainable, local, convenient and has a “cool factor” (a combination of novelty, a great smell and packaging).
After that, it’s a long process of trial and error. Usually it starts with an idea for a product that solves a particular problem (or problems). We’ll start to brainstorm cool ways to address the problem. Then I’ll start making prototypes in our purpose built laboratory, firstly using myself and willing Milkman team members as guinea pigs. Once we have something we think will work, we will then do rounds of testing with volunteers. Their feedback will then be used to make further improvements where needed. Followed by more testing and then a product release if it meets our standards.
There’s a certain tongue-in-cheek quality to the brand. Does that humour reflect the mindset of the creators?
Absolutely. With all the hustle, bustle & demands of the daily grind, life can get pretty serious as it is. We try not to add to that with boring or complicated branding. We’d much rather bring some humour and light to our customers. Life’s too short not to smile.
Men’s grooming is a very different beast to what it was 10 years back – where do you see these trends going over the coming decade?
I think right now we’re seeing a shift in men’s grooming where an appreciation for a wide range of quality products is becoming mainstream. Going forward I’d say there are a few potential trends to keep alive to:
1. New cosmetic ingredients that might have particular benefits around anti-ageing, skin refining, hair thickening etc. Nanotechnology is constantly improving and could add some really exciting stuff to this pool.
2. Beards have probably hit a peak. Many guys are now committed lifelong beardsmen, whilst others are keeping them shorter. In the past few years there have been a lot of Hollywood movies with moustachioed lead characters. If you believe the mainstream tends to follow pop culture lead by celebrities then we could see a significant uptick in moustaches in the coming years.
3. Nostalgia also seems to be rising. Although we’re in the age of super high tech electric shavers & trimmers, we are getting more and more enquiries about old school shaving technology like cut throats & double edge razors. Also as the world becomes more environmentally conscious these old school alternatives tend to be great as they typically have a lower waste & carbon footprint.
4. On that note, I also see the industry focussing more on green options. Whether that be for ingredients, packaging or the grooming process itself. It’s an area where 3D printing & nanotechnology might also play a part.
5. Barbers may increasingly include “value-added” services (eg facials, hair treatments, waxing etc). Many barbers might also make the move towards being a destination for guys when they shop for grooming gear. We are already seeing barbers stocking a whole range of hair, shave, beard & body products to choose from. Guys have to get a cut anyway so why not grab a bunch of quality kit while they’re there.
It’s no secret that here at Lefty’s we’re all about community. We’re proud to be part of the wider Aussie barbering community, so we’ve recently been taking a look at some of the makers behind the best Australian hair products on the market. Make sure to check out our features on King Brown and Tucker Browne featured on Lefty’s Blog, and you can take a look at the full Milkman Grooming Co. product range here (also available to buy in-store at Lefty’s).