Hi, this is Helen, the founder of Helen’s Page. Welcome to an interview with one of our listers turned advertisers, Old Post Road Oils. I thought readers might be interested in hearing more about the businesses and authors on Helen’s Page so following are a few questions and answers with Julian Tonning who makes this sensational shaving soap and oil.
Helen: What was your day job before making shaving soaps?
I was the operational coordinator for a large festival.
Helen: What made you start your business ?
I knew that men hated shaving foam. I did some research and found that 70% of women don’t use it at all. I guess it was an intuition that it was an obsolete product. But everything I saw confirmed it.
Helen: How did you develop the men’s product?
There was a fair amount of trial and error. I knew that I didn’t want coconut oil in the ingredients. The problem with that is coconut oil is the primary source of bubbles and lather for soap. I kept reducing the quantity of coconut oil but the irritation and dryness would not go away. I finally got to the point where I was going to have to give up bubbles and lather completely to get rid of the harshness that coconut oil brings to soap. I crossed that bridge reluctantly, but was amazed at how improved the shaving soap was after that. That was kind of the eureka moment for me. When I realized that the foam and the bubbles were not really necessary at all.
Helen: Why bay rum and sandalwood fragrance?
I wanted to provide two fragrances. Sandalwood was definitely going to be one. I experimented with other fragrances, and liked the bay rum better than any of the others. But that was with some modifications that I made to the bay rum formula.
Helen: How would you describe your business?
Old Post Road Oils is a microbusiness. Not quite a lemonade stand on the sidewalk in the front yard, but we’re probably closer to that than a real live small business. It had been a part-time operation for a while, until the kids finished college. In 2021 we went full time. We spent the latter half of 2020 getting certified as a veteran owned business. Part of the business plan for 2021 was to seek entry into the military exchange system. We also are in the process of developing an aftershave for oily skin, and we had completed development of a vegan formula shaving soap. Our goal was to get that shipped off to Amazon and commence marketing it.
It took two years to develop the formula. I worked with a chemist friend who taught at a local college. He would let me use their laboratory. I created a website and went live, and nothing happened. I got some great reviews, But the world was not beating a path to my door. So I held onto the day job to get the kids through college.
Helen: How did you grow your business and has Helen’s Page helped?
We spent the latter half of 2020 getting certified as a veteran owned business. We also are in the process of developing an aftershave for oily skin, and we had completed development of a vegan formula shaving soap. Our goal was to get that shipped off to Amazon and commence marketing it. But Helen’s Page changed everything. Kind of like Ernest Hemingway’s description of bankruptcy. It happens gradually, and then suddenly. We got smacked with the suddenly part right away.
I stumbled upon Helen’s Page while scanning through Instapundit one morning. I thought it was a great idea, and wanted to be a part of it. I had no idea what was about to happen. I have been struggling to keep up ever since.
Helen: What have you learned from your life now as an entrepreneur?
Some of the things I have learned along this journey as an entrepreneur are that failure is necessary for success. I think companies have an awareness of this, and work according to the notion to fail fast. That’s not quite right. You need to fail within your means. The second lesson is that the closer you get to folly, the less able you are to recognize it. A new framework ushers in transcendence. Think of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk NC. And finally, never pass up a lemonade stand.