Collin Gray is the founder at Fable Beard Co, a men’s beard grooming brand in Tennessee, USA. His journey, like so many others, didn’t begin with a desire to become an entrepreneur. Instead, it began while Collin bounced between careers in an attempt to figure out what his passions were. In this case, Collin’s story begins with a brief stint in a mechanic’s shop.
“I did my fair share of odd jobs and different forms of schooling, first as a mechanic,” Collin told me. “After a year of school I landed my first job working on cars at a dealership. But three short months later, they fired me unexpectedly. That was right before Christmas.”
Collin realized that working on cars wasn’t really his thing. So, he made an attempt at another career path: nursing.
“Nursing was really great,” Collin recalled. “I loved my patients and I loved my job very much. But I didn't like the management. Over time, I started to hate the bureaucracy behind the medical industry and that I couldn't be myself. So, one day, I just decided to quit my job and go out on my own.”
All the while, as his story was unfolding, Collin had been experimenting with a YouTube channel, primarily for powerlifting and fitness. However, he wasn’t getting much traction. So, he changed the focus of the channel to another one of his interests, beard grooming, and began to see a change in engagement. The channel was finally growing.
With the support of his wife, a lot more free time, and growing YouTube channel, Collin took on the challenge of starting an ecommerce store.
“At the time, I realized that there was a real big place in the beard care industry,” Collin said. “Furthermore, there was a lack in the products that I was receiving. My wife didn't like them and I didn't particularly like them either. I realized that I could do it better myself. After about a 15-minute conversation with my wife and a drawing on my napkin, Fable Beard Co. was born. I literally went from working a full-time job to unemployment for an entire year until I grew my business into what it has become,” Collin said. “It was a major struggle but we made it through and came out on the other side.”
A quick look at Fable Beard Co.’s packaging material is all one needs to feel transported into a fairy tale. That’s by design.
“I've always been a gamer at heart ever since I can remember,” Collin told me. “I’d stay up until three in the morning, when I should have been getting ready for school. Because I was heavily into that community, I knew there was a true lack of beard care available to a lot of men who had beards and were into gaming. So, I knew when we started Fable Beard Company that I really wanted to push that message and the narrative of gaming, fantasy and storytelling.”
Each of Fable Beard Co.’s product lines is named after a character archetype. If you’re not a nerd like me and Collin, an archetype is merely a typical character. In this case, the archetypes are the typical characters you’d see in most fantasy novels or games: the hero, the archer, the scribe, etcetera. Fable Beard Co. currently has 10 characters representing a wide range of product lines, from coffee scented beard oils to woodsy smelling axes waxes.
“I wanted to be really true to the characters and the artwork,” Collin said. “I knew that if I did it right that it would resonate with a lot of people. So we started telling stories and creating characters. We went a little bit above and beyond a true beard care brand and gave people more of an experience than just another beard buying process. I knew that when starting Fable Beard Company that the products had to be great but if that artwork wasn't there and that storytelling aspect wasn't there it wasn't going to work at all. People started gravitating towards the brand and it's just kind of snowballed from there.”
At present, Collin is the lone wizard at Fable Beard Co.
“I manage all daily tasks at the company currently,” Collin told me, “though right now we're in an expansion phase. We’re looking to move out to the Nashville area to work on manufacturing and hiring more people. We’re really transitioning into a new era for our company, but at this moment in time I do all of the Facebook ads management, product fulfillment, social media marketing, and the creative aspect of the brand.”
In fact, the only thing that Collin doesn’t do start to finish, by himself, is the artwork for Fable Beard Co.
“We work with an amazing artist, Jeff West,” Collin told me. “He has been a true visionary for the brand. Just as much as we are, he’s always going to be a part of the Fable family and it's been absolutely epic working with him.”
With all that work to be done, Collin’s typical daily routine starts as early as 4:30 AM.
“I start by scrolling through social media for an hour before I get into the gym,” Collin said. “Then I get home at about 7:00 AM and start my day at Fable. Some days it’s creating products and getting them getting ready for order fulfillment. Other days it's going right into order fulfillment and that doesn't stop until about 5:00 or 6:00 PM, when the post Office closes. The next day, I wake up and do it again all over again, 7 days a week. I’m working really hard to make things happen.”
Even with all the hours Collin puts into Fable Beard Co., growing the brand hasn’t been without its challenges.
“One of the biggest learning experiences for me has been keeping up with demand,” Collin said. “I've often found myself running out of product or the materials needed to make products while still having a lot of orders to fulfill. So, that’s been a little bit tough; learning how to place a larger orders and kind of gauge that demand moving forward. But we're getting better at it's going well for now. It's a balance between fear and confidence. I know my brand’s doing well. I know these products are going to sell in the future. And I know that I'm always going to need these materials in the end. But there's still that fear of placing really large orders and spending a lot of money, so it's just learning to balance those two.”
Other than gauging demand, Collin says there’s another tough part about working in his industry: filtering out the noise from other beard care brands.
“There's over 1,500 other beard care companies out there right now,” Collin told me, “and they're all doing their own thing, trying to create their own messaging, and trying to create their own noise. Sometimes you can get distracted by that noise. So it's best to only worry about yourself, focus on your customer service, focus on your products, and focus on what you can do better today compared to the day before. That's what really makes things shine. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what three thousand other people do. None of that is going to help you get where you need to go.”
A lot of Shopify stores sell essentially similar products with essentially similar messaging. After all, what’s the difference between one beard balm and the next? To the customer, likely not much. But that’s where Fable Beard Co. comes out on top. Instead of trying to market beard care products, they’ve decided to tell a story to a group of people nobody was targeting.
“99.99% of this business is the idea,” Collin told me. “It's the idea that’s shaped any brand that came before you, and anybody that comes into a new business. Really, your idea is what's going to make you unique and is what's going to make your product stand out. You have to ask yourself, ‘What am I going to do differently that everyone else that came before me hasn't done yet?’ That's what we did with Fable. I wanted to create a brand that was unique to me and that was something that hadn't been done by the thousands of other companies that came before me. And it made a statement. It made us stand out and it made us grow.”
“Don't be afraid to be yourself,” Collin continued. “Don't be afraid to do something different. Look at me. I'm a wizard that makes beard oil and talks to people in Old English. Don't be just another fish in the sea. Be the fish that's trying to walk on land be the person that stands out. Be yourself, be unique, and other people will follow.”
The other bit of Collin’s advice for Shopify entrepreneurs is simple: start early. Too many of us have been stuck in dead-end jobs, hitting the bars with friends on evenings and weekends, instead of putting together our side hustle or saving up to make a go of it. In fact, not starting earlier is Collin’s only regret.
“If there was one thing I could have changed it’s that I wish I would have started earlier,” Collin told me. “If you have an idea, go for it. Chances are you might fail but you never know. With hard work, you might just make yourself something successful doing exactly what you love. It doesn't matter if you're 15 or 65. It's not too late to create something awesome take a chance, take a risk, and go out there and make it.”
Even though Fable Beard Co. had a lot of success in a very short amount of time, Collin feels like the brand is just getting started. And while they already fulfilling thousands of orders per month, Fable Beard Co. is going through an expansion phase.
“We're growing bigger than we can handle,” Collin said. “So, we're working on putting together some manufacturing spaces, hiring staff, and things of that nature over the next six months. From there, the sky's the limit over the next year. We're going to put a big focus on artwork and customer experience. We're going to start putting out more artwork, more character stories, more comic books, and entertainment products. Things like board games and trading cards. There's even talks about working on a gaming app related to our characters and stories so people can play games in exchange for discounts and free beard products. We just have so many different ideas and I'd love to get really deep into the video game industry.”
Collin also said that they’re focusing really hard on their Twitch steam and currently looking for more people to sponsor their channel. They are also experiencing a lot of traction on various social media platforms, including TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram.
“It really has been an epic adventure and I feel like we really are just getting started,” Collin concluded. “I have so much vision and creativity that wants to spill out, and it's only a matter of time before that happens on a grand scale. Anyway, I'll close with how I like to close all of our YouTube videos. May your beards be forever blessed and treasure forever upon your door.”
Huge thanks to Collin for taking to the time to answer my questions and tell us about his journey. You can learn more about Fable Beard Co. at fablebeardco.com.