June 21, 2021 / in Pandemic
Why is it that women have more personal hygiene products to choose from than men? Adam Hendle noticed that men’s nether regions were sorely neglected in the personal care space, so he set out to create a fun and effective product line, called Ballsy. Thanks to a combination of cheeky—pun intended—branding, paid advertising, and an optimized checkout system, Ballsy now enjoys more than 10,000 subscribers. In this episode of Shopify Masters, Adam shares with us the process of formulating products, learnings from logistical mishaps, and marketing a category you invented.
Felix: Tell us more about how you came up with the idea for the company. What did you find out?
Adam: It was one of those shower moment ideas about a shower product. I had the original idea about four or five years ago now. I was literally in the shower and just so happened to notice on that day how many different personal care products my wife had. She had different products for every area of her body. Around that time, five years ago, there just wasn't a lot for men's personal care, it was like, "Here's your 4-in-1 or your 5-in-1 value wash." A lot of the brands that were higher quality just weren't anything I related with.
I had this moment in the shower, like "Could there be this bold, fun playful brand, that had high quality products that tackled an area of a guys body that had been overlooked?" Ballwash was the first idea. I literally jumped out of the shower, Google searched, and to my surprise and delight no one had ever created a product called Ballwash. I immediately thought to myself either I'm a genius and there's some white space here or I'm absolutely out of my mind. That was the start of the journey, to answer that question.
Felix: What made you take the fun and playful approach with a product that is sometimes taboo–personal care products?
Adam: It's really a balance. It's both fun and playful, but it's also backed up with high quality. Everything that we do from the product quality itself and what we actually put in the ingredients, to the way that we present the brand, is very top shelf. I knew early on that if I was going to have products with over the top names, like Ballwash and Nut Rub, we wanted to back it up with some quality behind it.
I didn't want this to be a joke. While it is fun and playful and bold and attention getting, it's not a joke. It's not something that we just say, "Ha, ha. This is just something silly." We really believe in the products and I'm not here to make a novelty brand. I'm here to make a lasting men's brand. I knew that balancing the humor to get people's attention, to have fun and say, "Hey, we don't take ourselves seriously, but what we do is take our products seriously. This is something that guys should pay attention to." Everything we do is really about balance.
Felix: How did you achieve this balance in your marketing? Where you caught people’s attention, but then kept it with a high-quality product?
Adam: We lean forward with paid social. The top of funnel is the bold, playful aspect of the brand. Typically just our products on a plain white background are enough to get that attention and get that conversation going, because of the naming conventions themselves. We get a lot of people leaving comments, tagging friends, starting a conversation which leads to a lot of engagement. Once we get them in the door and they land on the site, we spend a lot of time making sure that everything looks very polished and non-gimmicky.
On the product pages, we spend a decent amount of time explaining to the customer what is in the product and what makes them suited for that area of a man's body. Whether that be essential oils or plant extracts or certain ingredients that help with irritation and chafing, we wanted to make sure that when a customer lands on that page, it's very clear that this is a solution that we have presented to them for a problem.
We've evolved our product pages over time. I started with little text and bullet points, and now we've really built out the PDP pages with icons and images that make it really easy for a customer to understand what's in the product, very quickly.
Felix: It sounds like you have fun with the marketing, but as the customer gets closer to purchasing, you make sure to take it seriously and give them all the information they might need.
Adam: Absolutely. We obviously lean into Ballsy and what makes us different, because it's really hard to stand out–especially in paid, when you're trying to get customers' attention and they're just being bombarded. That's definitely one side of the brand. It's really important that once we get them in the door, that they understand what these products are for and how they're going to benefit from them. Especially if you plan on keeping them around.
Felix: After you did some research, what were the first steps you took when you realized there might be a potential business here?
Adam: My first step was to figure out how to make body wash. A bunch of YouTube videos and research later, I realized I'm a better marketer than a chemist and figured I should find somebody to do this for me. That led me down the long, hard path of finding a manufacturer who would do a very small run for me. I literally put aside $5,000 to start Ballsy. If you know anything about product manufacturing, that is a very small amount of money. Typically, minimum order quantities (MOQs) are 5,000 units. Right out of the gate it didn't make sense for a lot of manufacturers.
I called around for about six months and just kept knocking on doors. I found this amazing manufacturer based in Michigan, who is more family run and specialized in natural products. After about a 10 minute phone call and me explaining the brand, they're like, "We're completely in." They loved the idea. It felt like they were a perfect partner. They weren't just treating the brand as another customer, they were treating it as a partner that wanted to help develop great products and develop the brand with us.
They're still our main manufacturer to date. That definitely paid off. It was a long few months of trying to call people and wondering if I could ever get this off the ground, but I really wanted to stick to that budget. In the long run, just knocking on enough doors paid off.
Felix: It’s uncommon for a manufacturer to agree to such a low MOQ. I’m sure other entrepreneurs have faced this. What do you think that you said or did during these interactions that sold them on the business?
Adam: Absolutely. I want to clarify that we could have done off the shelf white label and just put a label on it and called it Ballwash. It was really important for us to find somebody who's going to custom formulate and take some of their experience and my ideas and bring them together. That’s really why I spent so much time on that, aside from the budget. That's really important when finding that first key partner for any business. You need to find that person that understands the brand, is excited about the brand, and is willing to work on it with you.
They’re used to getting pitched by a lot of personal care brands. They have a lot of great companies. I think what was exciting to them about us was, it was just different. We were taking a different approach to men's personal care, both in terms of brand and what we wanted to accomplish. They thought it'd be fun. It was something that excited them. It was really a matter of us talking to enough people to find that right person that was excited about the idea as much as we were.
Luckily, they were the right size. They could work quickly with us and didn't have to have huge budget requirements. It basically just came down to a matter of persistence. A lot of people give up after making a lot of first calls and it doesn't go their way. I know I was super frustrated after a few months and almost thought about not moving forward. You never know who's going to be on the line for the next call. That just happened to be the perfect partner for us.