Self proclaimed 'Head Swaggie', Todd O'Brien was interviewed on Adelaide Hills Radio - 88.9FM recently. Did you miss it? Listen in on the audio of the interview below.
Time: 10:35am EST
Interviewer: Penelope Herbert
Interviewee: Todd O'Brien
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Penelope: Now you may like your man to smell nice, he probably doesn't want to smell like you, all girly. So if your modern man has a yearning for the bush or wants to smell a bit more manly, now there's an answer. Urban Swagman is bringing a bit of the bush to the city, using all-natural ingredients and “no bullshit” according to their website and thanks to Mumford and Sons, having a beard is cool again. So beard oil is making a comeback again in delicious scents, such as Spicy Pirate and Bushman's Secret, so not much girly there. Now, the co-creator of Beard Oil Cologne and natural soaps with names including Lumberjack Fantasies and Hands off Snakey is Todd O'Brien, Brisbane-based he's a bush lover and all round Aussie bloke who likes to smell nice. So, welcome to the Fashion and Home Show, Todd!
Todd: No worries, thank you very much.
Penelope: You are very welcome, now Todd it's a big leap from growing up near the Australian bush and in thinking that men want this smell like that. So how did Urban Swagman come about?
Todd: Basically I was looking for a range of natural products that were uniquely Australian but didn't smell like flowers and I couldn't find that anywhere. And yeah, growing up near the Australian bush you get a bit of an appreciation for the natural scents like eucalyptus and lemon myrtle, and I figured well no one else is doing it so why not?
Penelope: Just see a niche and jump on in there.
Penelope: Exactly. So now there is clearly a lot of care and also humor involved in making your handmade products. How did you acquire the knowledge that put the collection together?
Todd: I Googled it.
Penelope: Oh. There you go.
Todd: How else do you learn anything these days?
Penelope: That’s right. Don’t go to trade school.
Todd: Exactly. But yes, there was a lot of research and trial and error put into it. It took about four months of RnD before we nailed our core product. We kind of found that you can't go wrong with natural stuff anyway.
Penelope: Certainly, they smell delicious and we'll go down to that in a second. But humor is obviously closely linked to your brand, was that a conscious business decision, to head in that direction?
Todd: Not really, to be honest. I think Australians have that larrikin nature about them and fundamentally people don't want to deal with businesses, they want to deal with people.
Penelope: Yes, absolutely.
Todd: Yes, so I mean we were trying to go for Urban Swagman being a real representation of who we are as a people and we like to keep it transparent and I think I am pretty funny, you can disagree, but…
Penelope: No, I think your website’s actually humorous and I think the word larrikin is probably an excellent word actually because it made me smile, I wasn't offended by it and it was fun…
Todd: Yeah, that's what we are going for.
Penelope: Yeah, it’s very very good, so it's natural products, presumably cruelty free, so how do you test your ideas prior to going to market?
Todd: We basically just send them out to friends and family, we can kind of trust them to give us honest feedback, if they don't like something, they will tell us and we kinda just talk to them and see what would they like, what would they not want to see and, yeah, we just kinda just go from there.
Penelope: Go from there. So your soaps, particularly and maybe all your products but certainly the soaps use essential oils, peppermint, bergamot, cypress, pine scotch, cedarwood, which are all delicious. Where do you source your ingredients from?
Todd: We source all our ingredients from purely Australian stockists from our oils to our moulds they're all Australian. We like supporting other Australian small businesses, being one ourselves. And because our brand is so heavily influenced being Australian, we thought we’d be doing our customers a disservice by skimping out on quality.
Penelope: Absolutely. We have been using them, which we will talk about in a second as well, so I am well aware of all the yummy smells; because it seems that a lot of interest in men’s grooming, it’s really growing. Do you have any thoughts as to why men may be more interested in grooming than they used to be?
Todd: I think they are just becoming a bit more aware of the need to look after themselves to be honest. I think it’s the job for companies like us to give them an option to. Currently there’s not that many options and it’s been a little bit of a taboo subject. I think guys are kind of opening up to the idea of just taking care of themselves…
Penelope: Well I think, you know, skin being your largest organ, we really do need to look after our skin. But for me, the litmus test is my partner, he’s a cocky from Victoria he couldn’t be any closer to a true bushy. So I was pretty amazed when he said he had tried some of your products and in fact he was enthusiastic about using them which sort of stunned me. And he is from the “I can grow an amazing beard” school of thought so he's loving your soaps and also the beard oil. Although the brick shape of the soap and its exfoliating properties threw him a bit, he is not used to an exfoliating soap and he’s used to a soap that's not cut like a brick. But he is very, very pleased to be trialing them and giving his feedback which have all been positive, so from my perspective Urban Swagman seems to be finding fans in unlikely places. Do you see that?
Todd: On the point with exfoliation, yes, its definitely something that’s new to bring out to guys. But I think, yeah, everyone seems to be a little bit thrown, but then you ask them in the next couple of weeks and they go like, yeah, I actually appreciate the scratching each morning.
Penelope: Yeah, stimulating for the circulation.
Todd: Definitely. To be honest, I’m not too shocked that he got enthusiastic about it because he’s the exact kind of guy that we are going for. You know, guys like good quality stuff that's made for them and there isn't anything out there at the moment, until now, in Australia that smells authentically manly.
Penelope: That’s true.
Todd: It’s all just kind of a combination of chemical perfumes that don't smell like anything you have ever smelled before.
Penelope: Because normally I buy Sapiderm soaps, I don't buy highly scented soaps for the shower and then if I want to smell girly I have got all sorts of things that can help me do that. So that's the kind of a non-soap, it's more like a almost a chemical soap I suppose, so that's nice and neutral, and then Dale would put on his aftershave. But the use of essential oils in your soap and I have to say I have been using it…
Todd: We get a lot of feedback like that. We've had a few gift packs being sent out and we hear the guys going “Half of its gone because my girlfriend keeps stealing it.” As long as someone's enjoying it, we are happy.
Penelope: Exactly. Well I am enjoying it, not the beard oil, obviously. But someone said to me this morning when I said that were coming on the show and they said “Well what does beard oil do?”
Todd: Beard oil basically helps shape beard without being waxy like a hair gel kind of thing. So if you grow your beard out it gets a little bit wiry and wispy, so beard oil helps keep it under control and also smells great, so I mean…
Penelope: It does, that spicy part is actually pretty nice which is what Dale has been trying. Has it got any skin moisturising, or is it really just for the beard, the actual fur beard?
Todd: Yeah, it’s got stuff in it that help both skin and hair, so like jojoba oil quite similar to the oil that your body produces. So yeah, if you say, have a shower and you dry out a little bit, beard oil and the jojoba oil and that will help moisturize a little a bit more.
Penelope: Now I have to, that was one comment, some feedback from Dale, he said there is no instructions; this is how much of a bushy he is, might give you some indication. Well I assume you just put a few drops on your hand and you just rub it in.
Todd: Yeah, exactly, I mean it depends on if you have a wizard beard or if you have a bit of stubble, but we tend to find that a few drops, three or four drops in your hands, rub it together and then put that through your beard…
Penelope: Is fine.
Todd: Yeah, exactly. I mean that's why we included the dropout because some people don't want to pour out five mils every time they want to use it [crosstalk] you find out exactly how much…
Penelope: Well, the eyedropper seems to work very well and, he's actually enjoying it, enjoying using it. But there was also another product that he's been using which is a, I think it's a liquid soap and that’s really thrown him. He has got no idea.
Todd: Yeah, sure. Yeah we haven't gone down the liquid soap route…
Penelope: What is it then? It's that little bottle and I think it's got “Soap” written on it.
Todd: That would probably, the smaller bottle, the 30 mil bottle is a cologne…
Penelope: Ahhhh! [Laughter and crosstalk, inaudible] I thought it was liquid shower soap.
Todd: No. We actually did get pulled up on that, we didn't have “Cologne” written on the bottle, so that was one of the first things we changed.
Penelope: I must have an old bottle but I am going to go and check and let him know that it's actually Cologne. Oh that's hilarious.
Todd: [Penelope laughs at this point so what Todd says is inaudible] Three drops I would recommend, it’s pretty potent.
Penelope: Excellent, I will check that out, thank you very much. But you also have some tips for getting the most out of your soap and, so tell us about that.
Todd: Yeah, definitely. I wrote a blog about this on Wednesday actually, we were getting a lot of feedback , we had people saying the soap didn't last as long as I thought and we asked a few questions and they said they were putting it in their porcelain soap dishes and that's a big no-no. It's kind of the reason why everyone stopped using bar soap, yeah if they don't dry out in between washing then they will just become like yucky mush. So we have started including some hand crafted bamboo soap savers in all of our gift packs and you just kind of put it on there, it will dry out and each bar of soap should last about one month if you’re using it.
Penelope: Ahhh, that's very interesting. You're bringing manliness back to being a metrosexual, how do you feel about that?
Todd: To be honest, I don't really see it that way. I don't think it’s about being a metro or being a hipster or anything like that. I mean, there's a reason your dad still has the same pair of Levis that he'd been wearing for 20 years. Men just like good quality stuff that does what it says it’s going to do and there's currently no options out there in terms of like soap and cologne and all that stuff, so we are just trying to be that option.
Penelope: Well, we certainly love it in our household; we all have Urban Swagman on speed dial on the computer for reordering. So what's next for you, Todd?
Todd: We have been gearing up for Christmas and lots of gifts packs are to get ready to send out. We also been setting up a new thing it's called a “Soapscription”, so every month, it's a monthly subscription, I think probably we will send out your favorite soap and your favorite beard oil every month so you don't have to go shopping for it.
Penelope: I love that idea, that's great, just keep those customers connected to you.
Penelope: Fantastic. Really appreciate you being on the show today, Todd. I was very much looking forward to having a chat with you. I love your business idea. I hope it's extremely successful for you; I'm sure it will be. And as I said, we are loving it in our house, love the humor and would love to have a chat to you maybe next year to see how far Urban Swagman has grown, because I am sure it will be.
Todd: Certainly, I look forward to that.
Penelope: Fantastic! Well you have a great weekend, thanks for bringing some great smells back from the bush into our house, we are loving it.
Todd: No worries, thanks very much for your time.
Penelope: Thanks Todd, bye bye.
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