Indie-beauty Beekman 1802 has always been a special brand. Founded by married partners Brent Ridge M.D. and advertising executive Josh Kilmer-Purcell, it came about by accident. After buying an upstate farm in Sharon Springs, NY as a weekend getaway in 2007, they simultaneously found themselves out of high-paying city jobs due to the recession.
Retreating to the farm to ponder next steps, they were called on by neighbor John Hall whose herd of 80 goats lost their home. As an act of neighborly kindness, they invited Farmer John and his goats in and the rest is history.
Kindness as a corporate mission
“We always say we started with that single act of kindness. That set the course for our whole company,” Dr. Ridge shares. “We never set out to become a large beauty company, but it’s just the way it took us.”
They didn’t even know beauty would be their next calling, but with a herd of goats on hand, they started there. “We just googled what can we make with goat milk,” Dr. Ridge says.
They discovered goat milk is a healing balm for sensitive skin proven over centuries of use. They also found out there wasn’t a lot of competition in goat milk soup. While it was a fixture at farmer’s markets for small makers, there was little available to a wider audience due to constraints in supply.
They had a fix for that, so they turned to other neighbors to learn how to make goat milk soap. They began producing it in earnest and selling their soap direct-to-consumers online after appearing on “The Martha Stewart Show” and out of their Sharon Springs main street Beekman 1802 Mercantile shop.
Their big break came in 2013 when TV-shopping channel Evine, now ShopHQ, came calling. They were ready for prime-time having starred in a reality television show, “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” that ran for two seasons in 2010 to 2011. Starting with its flagship goat milk soap, they expanded into other skincare and natural cleaning products and became a breakout bestseller.
Then in 2018, Beekman 1802 moved to Qurate’s much larger HSN and QVC
TV shopping channels and became an even bigger hit there. The key to the brand’s success is the on-air neighborly kindness that Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell transmit over the television shopping medium, not to mention the baby goats they bring on set.
“There’s something about being live that is magic. It makes for a more intimate shopping experience,” relates Kilmer-Purcell. “We always felt there are two key ingredients in our products: goat milk and kindness.”
“It’s easy to talk about goat milk. It’s hard to tell people you are about kindness,” he continues. “When you’re on TV and spend hours a day in front of the customer, they are going to see the true person you are, and that’s really why we became so successful on TV retail. Finally, people could understand how we felt about our neighbors. It helped us show kindness in a way we couldn’t on the shelf.”
Spreading kindness to Ulta
Given their highly personal way of presenting Beekman 1802 on air, they faced a special challenge when Ulta wanted to launch the brand in 400 stores as part of their “Conscious Beauty” program spotlighting clean, cruelty-free beauty brands.
How could Beekman 1802 be more than just another brand on the Ulta sales floor and communicate the secret sauce that made Beekman so special from the start? They fixed on SnapChat as a way to bring video’s interactive immediacy to connect with in-store shoppers in a happy, friendly-neighbor way.
Each Beekman 1802 endcap or table display has a prominent SnapChat QRcode that let’s shoppers see a virtual baby goat prancing through the aisles. And by turning the screen toward their face, they can see how they’d look as a baby goat with virtual baby goat ears and nose.
It’s a fun way to live the happy Beekman 1802 goat life at Ulta.
“It’s about making people feel better, not just look better,” Ridge says. “That’s the kindest thing we can do for our neighbors,” which is what they company calls its customers.
Beekman 1802 became an instant Ulta hit after Beekman neighbors turned up at their local Ulta stores, some with flowers and baked goodies in hand, to welcome the Ulta staff members and the stores to the Beekman Neighborhood. Ridge reports Beekman 1802 was Ulta’s largest clean-beauty brand launch last year.
Now Beekman 1802 is expanding into another 100 Ulta stores, as well as developing more probiotic-boosting skincare products for Ulta. Dr. Ridge is also a member of Ulta’s Conscious Beauty Advisory Council.
Kind to skin
Probiotics and their effects on the skin have been a major research focus for Ridge as he translates his medical training and experience into skincare products.
“We learned 12 years ago that goat milk soap preserves the acid mantle of the skin because it has the same PH as skin. Now our research keeps progressing and we are funneling more resources into research in terms of nourishing the microbiome of the skin,” Ridge says.
“This is the future of skincare. Before clean beauty was about eliminating things from the skin, but now it is about nourishing the microbiome ecosystem of the skin,” he continues.
This is what Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell call “Clinically Kind” skincare. And their dedication to kindness carries over from the skin into the community.
“We look at kindness as a mission and as an approach to wellness,” Ridge says. “We believe that just a little kindness to the skin creates a ripple effect in self-care. A little act of kindness in our communities and neighborhoods does the same thing.”
Kind to all
To extend their brand of kindness, early on the company developed a Kindness curriculum for new employees. Success there led them to offer a Kindness program for their neighbors through a four-day immersive experience. They’ve been offering about ten Kindness programs per year and the 20-person slots sell out almost immediately.
“People come to Sharon Springs from all over the country and learn from a visual, tactile and experiential standpoint the principles of kindness and how to integrate those principles into their daily lives,” he says.
“A whole body of research shows how kindness plays a role in health and wellness. It helps systemically with stress management, cortisol levels and inflammation. Kindness is good for you and good for those you are kind to,” he adds.
Currently, Beekman 1802 is partnering with the non-profit Kindness.org to spread the kindness message even further into corporations and organizations that want to make their workplace a kinder place.
Bootstrapping from the farm
Beekman 1802 gives a new definition to a “bootstrapping” a business, since it is advisable to wear a pair of boots when venturing out on the farm. Since day one, they have taken small steps to build a company “neighbor-by-neighbor,” as they say, with no venture capital funding to supercharge growth. It’s paying off, as Beekman 1802 enjoys a net-promotor-score (NPS) over 90, which is a record high in the beauty industry.
“It’s very important to us to control as many parts of the process as possible. We control every aspect of manufacturing. We control our neighbor service experience and shipping in house, “Ridge explains.
“We control every single aspect because we want the customer who we consider our ‘neighbors’ to feel that kindness at every single touchpoint of the brand,” he concludes.