There’s more to growing a great beard than simply not shaving for weeks on end.
It takes patience, commitment and, above all else, grooming.
“Any guy can just grow a big, burly messy beard,” says Kyle Sampson. “But keep getting it trimmed, use products like beard oils and balms and take care of yourself.”
In 2014, Sampson took part in the popular Movember initiative aimed at raising awareness for men’s health issues. At the end of the month, he kept his moustache and beard.
A year later, in what he calls a moment of weakness, he shaved off his precious face fur.
“I had instant regret. It's not funny to joke about it, but there was a depression that came with it,” says Sampson. “I had the phantom limb. I was always stroking it, but it wasn't there.”
Halfway through November 2015, he started growing out again and today Sampson sports a three-year-old full-bodied beard.
To keep that beard and the skin underneath healthy and looking its best, Sampson turned to beard oils and balms he purchased locally or ordered online.
“At the time, there really wasn't much in Canada, so it was American and really expensive to get here.”
At the same time, Sampson was taking an intro to entrepreneurship course as part of a Memorial University business degree he’s working on. One of the assignments required him to come up with a few business ideas, and among his was NewFound Beards Inc., a company producing locally made beard oils and balms. When another assignment required him to draw up a business plan for one of the operations, he chose the facial hair and skin care company.
“It was my highest mark ever at MUN,” says Sampson. “It was a 96 per cent paper and they came back and said it's a 100 per cent viable business.”
Sampson, who is already gainfully employed in the IT sector with the provincial government, sat on the idea for the next seven or eight months.
“I used to go to bed every night with a knot in my stomach. I was afraid to start it up because I knew it was hundreds of dollars to get it registered, and copyrights and just to buy the product.”
He eventually pulled the trigger and NewFound Beards made its first sales in July of last year. To date, Sampson figures he’s sold around 2,500 units, either through his website — newfound-beards.myshopify.com — or at one of the 25 locations throughout the province that carry the product, including nine First Choice Haircutters salons and two Magic Cuts.
NewFound Beards, in Sampson’s mind, is more than just a product. It’s a brand that promotes a healthy beard and a healthy lifestyle.
“High proteins and greens ... that stuff's good for your body and good for your hair. It's not going to make it grow, but it's going to give you a healthier body and healthier growth,” he says.
“The more you take care of it, the more you will see a difference and appreciate it.”
Sampson both is and isn’t the face of the company. Instead of going by his given name in promoting the business, he employs Skipper Sammy, a sou’wester-wearing bearded fisherman who likes a good work and a good beer, and who believes that if you take care of yourself, your beard will grow. The character is prominently featured in the NewFound Beards logo.
“I use that character to promote the beard life, plus the healthy lifestyle,” he explains.
“When I go to the gym, after a good workout I'll throw on the sou'wester and do a couple of flexes and talk about arm day or leg day for the Instagram.”
Sampson had no prior experience manufacturing hair and skin products of this type, but with a do-it-yourself attitude inherited from his father, Richard, he put the time in researching and watching YouTube videos to learn how.
“Beard oil ingredients are pretty common and the carrier oils are pretty standard,” he says. “Some people go very extreme with very exotic plant oils and add those. Mine are pretty simple, and it keeps the costs down, too.
“There's a lot of math to it and you need to be consistent. You can't make the same scent, in two different batches, one stronger than the other.”
Today, Sampson makes four varieties of beard oil and beard balm, each with its own signature scent. There’s Home Brew, evoking scents of the cabin and fresh chopped firewood; Middle Cove, which has a sweet smoky aroma; the cedar mulch scented Quidi Vidi, a nod to his family’s roots in the gut, where his father worked as a fisherman and still co-owns one of the fishing stages; and 1983, a nod to his birth year and his best seller.
“It's a coconut lavender and the women love it,” says Sampson. “It's not what the man likes, it's what the women like.”
In fact, some women have been known to use it, since some of the ingredients are good for split ends. Others just like the scent.
“I've got a girl that wears my homebrew scent, which is pine and spruce and cedar. It smells like chopped up wood at the cabin, but she says it reminds her of her boyfriend.”
There’s also a moustache wax that comes in Quidi Vidi and 1983.
If Sampson and his beard look familiar, there’s good reason; he was prominently featured in the 2018 MerB’ys calendar that raised over $300,000 for charity last year. (He’s on the cover and featured in a few photos inside.)
None of the models from last year’s shoot were included this year, but Sampson stayed on as a director and even created a special limited edition Merb’ys beard oil. It’s available exclusively from his website and 50 per cent of the proceeds after costs will go directly into the calendar fund.
“It's a little bit fragrant for my liking, but that's what the Merb'y is. It's nice, clean and fresh and women love it.”