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Ottawa skin care company Bushbalm finding success in 'nether regions'

"You won't find many companies that manufacture and sell their own products here, and we're proud of that," says co-founder David Gaylord.
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Bushbalm CEO David Gaylord.

Skin care company Bushbalm is grooming itself into one of the capital's fastest-growing e-commerce ventures.

Launched by two former Shopify employees Tim Burns and David Gaylord in 2016, Bushbalm markets a line of 12 natural skin and hair care products and grooming appliances specifically designed for adults who experience razor burn, ingrown hairs and dark spots on their underarms and bikini lines.

“If you look at our business it appears to be very niche,” explains Bushbalm CEO David Gaylord. “Pubic oils. But when you pull back the covers, everyone shaves and showers. It's a growing market.”

The idea of creating a unisex shaving product for nether regions belongs to Burns, who was on his honeymoon in 2015 when he needed something to freshen "down there." Not surprisingly, the only thing available was his wife's facial oil. At the time, skin care and sexual wellness products were still largely the domain of women -- 90 per cent of whom shave their body hair.

Even more surprising for Burns was that he was surprised at the dearth of similar products for men. After all, more than 60 per cent of men shave body hair or "manscape." He realized there was room in the $135-billion skin care industry with an organic, unisex skin care product men and woman could use anywhere you shave.

“People are caring more about their private parts -- men especially,” Gaylor explains. “People are much more open to talking openly about their pubic area, and using products for their pubic areas, underarms, under-boob skin care. It's much more open than it was even five years ago.”

Indeed. Since their launch in 2016, Bushbalm's proven to be a skillful strategic player in the e-commerce marketplace, with a transactional website and aggressive marketing in Canada and the U.S. on Facebook, Instagram and Google. They also partnered with 1,000 waxing salons across Canada to get their products into the hands of people who use them.

Bushbalm received its biggest marketing boost when the pair appeared on the CBC's Dragons' Den in December, 2020. Investor Arlene Dickinson was so impressed with the Bushbalm product line, she offered the pair $400,000 for a 10% stake in the company. 

So far, digital marketing has worked better than expected. Originally a two-man operation, Bushbalm's annual sales in 2019 were $150,000. By 2020, they topped $1.5-million. This year, they're on track to break more than $11-million, with 70 per cent of their sales in the U.S.

Bushbalm's growing so quickly, they now have 12 people on staff and moved into larger offices to keep up with demand. They've also partnered with Indigo and Urban Outfitters to carry Bushbalm in 43 stores nationally in 2022.

“Dragons' Den really opened us up in Canada,” Gaylord says. “It gave us instant credibility and awareness. People recognize the product from the show. We learned how to reach more people through digital marketing outside Ottawa.”

When ask if there are any plans to open their own Bushbalm bricks-and-mortar store, he rolls his eyes in a 'one-thing-at-a-time' reaction.

“We've thought about that, but we're not there, yet,” Gaylord says.

The 29-year-old has deep roots in retail. He grew up working in his family flooring business in Tweed, Ontario, and attended Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey for Digital Marketing and Golf before joining Shopify in Ottawa for six years.

He then ventured out on his own.

“We're excited to be headquartering a skin care and beauty company in Ottawa,” he says. “We're really unique. You won't find many companies that manufacture and sell their own products here, and we're proud of that.”

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