Photo: Sherrilynn Colley-Vegh, Director of Leadership Windsor/Essex and Biz X “Take The Lead” Columnist poses with Alex Brown of The Beard Club at the “40 Leaders Under 40” Awards event in late March. Photo by Rod Denis.
Alex Brown the “Digital Nomad” Leading Young Entrepreneurs
By Sherrilynn Colley-Vegh
Alex Brown — the “digital nomad” — is a Canadian born entrepreneur who has built several companies near Los Angeles, California. He has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, INC., BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Ad Age, Adweek and more as a thought leader. We were fortunate to have him as the keynote speaker at Leadership Windsor/Essex’s “40 Leaders Under 40” Awards.
Brown received a business degree at Laurentian University and when a job did not materialize he volunteered to gain experience. He followed his dad into construction opening his own stone work business and later joined a pharmaceutical company working on licensing deals. Although he gained a lot of experience working with CEOs and V.P.s, he wanted more.
One of Brown’s first start-ups was a wearables’ product that taught him crowd funding, branding and marketing. He used this experience to launch “Cool Box” which finished with a $500k crowd funding campaign and an appearance by his co-founder Chris Stoikos on “Shark Tank,” resulting in a licensing partnership with Kevin Harrington.
With the vast experience from this project they started up the Dollar Beard Co. earning $10 million in revenue their first year, garnishing 200 million video views and shipping 1.7 million boxes in two and a half years.
Their success was the branding of a lifestyle, not just a product. Customers bought into the whole package — clean healthy living with cool “doing it my way” statement beards. This resulted in posts from influencers, Reddit and other viral press.This success was not without complications as growth skyrocketed so fast they couldn’t fill orders and demand crashed their website. The Beard Club (revised name) created a lasting brand affinity, a sort of “brotherhood of the beards” where customers felt like a part of a club, some even getting Beard Club logo tattoos.
When growth stalled they improved company products examining staffing, marketing, delivery, videos and web content. They focused on getting to know their customers and identifying super fans and why they buy their products. Examining satisfaction and retention they built relationships by “adding value to the buying experience.”
At the height of his success Brown dealt with the devastating loss of his father.
“It was a defining moment in my life” he reveals, “my only thoughts were — how can I make him proud.”
He realized money wasn’t fulfilling him and he wanted more purpose.
Brown went back to writing, blogging and start-up support. He even developed a course to guide acquisition, brand identifying, marketing, product development, margins, up-selling, influencers, raising capital, defining your vision…
Brown is now the Founder and CEO of Subscription Hacks, an educational and media platform teaching entrepreneurs how to build and grow an epic subscription e-commerce business. He is also a keynote speaker and writer, sharing insights on leadership, mentoring, marketing, and how to create true value for customers.
His belief that “it’s important for business leaders to be vulnerable” is evident in his statement about “learning more from his failures than his successes.” This approach resonates with emerging entrepreneurs as they see his character and why he believes “being humble is a key trait of a great leader.”
Two sections of his keynote stood out to me — “Never forget the power you have to change one person’s life” and the ending with his father’s favourite toast: “Remember yesterday, dream about tomorrow and live for today.”
Despite his success Alex Brown is one of the nicest, most unpretentious leaders I have met, genuinely humble and willing to help others. He said he was “truly inspired by our 40 Leaders.”
My most memorable part of his two day visit, when said he said would love to be mentored by me, a humbling honour indeed.
Sherrilynn Colley-Vegh is the Director of Leadership Windsor/Essex at United Way (LeadershipWindsor-Essex.org). She is a former Principal and Chief Communications Officer for the Catholic School Board with over 30 years of experience as an educator, administrator, and community leader. She is also an entrepreneur, owning a number of successful businesses over the years, allowing her to sharpen her business management skills in areas such as marketing, sales and social media. If you know a leader in the community to profile here, please email: [email protected]