In 2017 Gary Easton and James Wingate decided to turn their passion into a business, forming EastWing Grooming Co. In 6 months, their products have been in multiple magazine features and have been endorsed by numerous celebrities. Their product lines are growing, their audience is expanding, and they’re loving every minute of it.
We caught up with them to find out the motivation behind their business and what they’ve learnt along the journey.
How was EastWing Grooming Co born? What was your motivation behind starting the business?
As old friends and colleagues, we’d often thought about going into business together. Men’s grooming was an industry that interested both of us – as two guys unashamedly taking pride in their appearance and style – and we could see a real opportunity in the market with the increasing global growth in beard care products. At that point we were at very different stages with our own facial hair achievements; James sporting an impressive set of whiskers since his Movember 2016 stint and Gary only just starting out on his bearded journey!
Luckily James’ fiancée Shelley is a qualified herbalist so we were able to draw on her knowledge and experience of setting up a company using natural ingredients. We also had the expertise of her close friend and colleague Socha, a qualified aromatherapist, to experiment and perfect blends and aromas. After many hours together, our signature aromas were created – Fresh Peppermint, Mellow Orange and Rich Citrus. Socha was also able to help us fine-tune the blend to ensure it had maximum benefit, keeping beards nourished and moisturised to avoid dryness and itchiness so often suffered by bearded men without proper beard care.
We often get guys’ partners getting in touch to say how much more kissable their guys are with such great smelling softer beards. It’s nice to think we’re helping bring people closer together with their awesome beards.
And so EastWing Grooming Co was born! We’ve poured our hearts and souls into creating the professional look and professional feel to men’s grooming products and love what EastWing has become.
What was the idea behind the name and the branding?
Avoiding the stereotypical Viking/lumberjack image associated with beard products we aim to fulfil the professional needs of the everyday guy with a beard. Above all we use our professional backgrounds to create luxury grooming products for professional guys.
We spent a while trying to come up with a name that encapsulated the family aspect of our company as well as having a brand that raised the bar. We were in the office trying ideas and had a bit of a eureka moment taking our surnames of Easton and Wingate to make EastWing.
Not the most exciting story but we get comments all the time on how much people love our branding and style. We’d said at the start to set our bar at GQ in its appearance and style. The fact GQ Magazine called us 10 days after we launched to be in their Christmas gift guide we knew it was working.
Did you have any experience in selling online before starting your business?
Never, it’s been a steep learning curve from day one and it never will stop evolving. Gary and I have been in financial services for over 15 years so we know how to handle high pressure situations and the need to maintain patience, learn and adapt consistently. With Shelley running her company for 25 years we get a lot of help and guidance on a daily basis.
How did you earn your first sale?
Asking for it. The day we launched the website we walked the city speaking to potential stockists who may like to take us on. We signed up 3 stockists that day who are still working with us now. You’ve got to ask for the business, there is no point putting in the hours, creating your pitch only to just not actually ask for the sale at the end.
We offer retail and wholesale deals to keep us versatile in getting our name out there. Being on as many platforms is a juggling act but the more ways in which people can find you the more likely the sales will happen.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced since starting your business?
Learning to say no is a big one. We get approached all the time from various firms wanting to pitch their company to work with. We’ve always been very cautious to weigh up the pros and cons before committing to a new project. This includes trying to expand our range too quickly. It’s tempting to throw money at everything but we take our time to research everything we get involved with to avoid costly mistakes.
Another factor is time which relates to the point above too. We still all work full time as well as have families, so running a business on the side takes up every other moment of our day. This also factors in picking our projects carefully and only go with what’s the most profitable for our time and money.
What do you love most about running your own business?
It’s ours and everything we do in its name reflects our personalities and brand. The last 6 months have been crazy with multiple magazine features and several celebrity endorsements who we love working with.
We’re meeting new people all the time and never shy away from the opportunity to meet, learn and grow our knowledge and understanding. Even the bad experiences we’ve taken back and reflected on where the valuable lessons were.
We’re always looking at ways to collaborate with other businesses for everyone’s benefit too. It’s great being able to work alongside others and has led to amazing experiences including charity dinners with footballers and interviews in magazines. You’ve got to put yourself out there and we love just talking to anyone about what we do. The passion from that gets others engaged in what we do and it’s great finding ways to work together on new projects
What advice would you give to new shop owners just starting out?
Do your research, know your market & competition and don’t expect to make any money to start with. You’ll want to give up and face challenges that’ll make you doubt what you’re doing. It’s natural and happens to all of us but break your challenges up into chunks and don’t allow yourself to get overwhelmed by the plethora of obstacles you’ll be faced with. Always air on the side of saying yes but don’t be afraid to say no, especially if it will waste your time and money for very little reward. Be ruthless with grace but be open for new ideas and conversations as they will lead to amazing experiences. Lastly put in the time and enjoy what you do otherwise you’ll give up easily and struggle to find motivation.
Where do you see EastWing Grooming Co going? What are your future plans and aspirations?
We’re very fortunate to be surrounded by an experienced team of industry experts, and it’s the team around us that gives us our edge. We are able to draw on the knowledge and expertise of those we know and trust and we’re already starting to look at new product lines in men’s grooming.
With the help of Shelley and Socha we have been able to produce a range that is truly unique and expertly designed and made. In addition, we trial our products with experienced barbers in Brighton, London and Sweden, giving our customers the confidence that our range has the seal of approval from the experts who know.
Due to this we’ve already added 5 new products to our range and have our own barber scissors and combs due out shortly. We’re currently in testing stages of expanding our brand to accommodate more than beards by looking at other natural alternatives to make guys look good.
We’re expanding our audience too by taking on a distributor in Hungary and in talks with a barbering academy in the Seychelles. We hope to increase our offering by re-branding our packaging to accommodate bar codes to be able to approach major retailers within the next 12 months. We’re not rushing things though and won’t launch a product or sign ourselves up to anything we can’t meet with confidence. In the coming years we hope to offer a complete collection of professional men’s grooming products across all aspects that are carefully designed and blended with natural ingredients and sold worldwide for guys to enjoy. All of this with our signature sleek style and brand.