Photo by SCOTT MASON/The Winchester Star
Jeremiah Shifflett makes a variety of Dr. Stiffie’s beard grooming products.
Jeremiah Shifflett found himself in a hairy situation. His beard was getting “fuzzy,” and he couldn’t find any affordable beard grooming products.
The 38-year-old had never grown a beard before November 2013. That’s when his wife encouraged him to participate in “Movember,” a movement in which men grow moustaches in November to spark conversations and raise awareness about men’s health issues.
Afterward, Shifflett decided to keep growing his beard, but keeping it tame was a challenge.
“Inevitably, there are some (hairs) that don’t go the way you want them to,” said the Shenandoah University systems integration analyst. “You kind of just want to get everything into a nice flow.”
There were no local beard grooming products available, and everything he found online was expensive.
After looking at some do-it-yourself websites, the Frederick County native and Winchester resident thought to himself “I can do that.”
So he did.
In March, he spent $20 and bought beeswax, cocoa butter and coconut oil and made his first batch of beard grooming product. And that was the start of “Dr. Stiffie’s fine waxes and balms, formulations for class folk,” as Shifflett describes his product on his Facebook page, facebook.com/DrStiffies.
He gave some to friends and family, and when he got a positive response, he went to Walmart, bought eight plastic containers, filled them with his homemade beard grooming product and listed them on eBay for $6.66.
He said they all sold within a week.
“I was really kind of shocked,” he said. “I still, to this day, am trying to imagine myself being somebody who is looking for a product and the one I’m drawn to is the one in a GladWare container.”
Shifflett made about $40 from the first eBay batch and thought to himself, “Maybe I should make myself look a little more professional.”
He reinvested his earnings in more supplies and some plain white containers, got a business license and watched as business grew exponentially.
“I ship to Canada almost weekly,” he said, before rattling off other countries where he ships his beard grooming products. “Northern Europe, Norway, Sweden, Russia. One time I sent one to Brazil.”
Shifflett said the name of his side-business came from a brainstorming session with his dad. He said he threw out the name “Dr. Stiffie’s” and his dad chuckled, “and I thought, ‘That’s it!’”
Since then, Shifflett has developed projects ranging from skin balm to sugar scrubs, with names like “So Fresh So Clean Pit Rub” and “Ginger Vitas.”
He continues to sell his products online, as well as at Captain Kirk’s Tattoos and Moon H20 Massage in Winchester and the Imaginarium in Capon Bridge, W.Va.
He makes some of his products in the kitchen he shares with his wife, Ashley, and 2-year-old daughter, Sydney, but he also works in a large workshop behind their house.
Shifflett said he makes everything himself, with some help from his wife, who assists with the prep work and labels the products.
“At first she thought I was nuts,” he said, “but as it kind of grew she started getting into it. She thinks it’s fun now.”
“I’m always looking for new things,” he added.
When a customer suggested infusing products with Juniper berries, he harvested juniper berries at his parents’ Frederick County farm in Mountain Falls and ground them with a mortar and pestle.
Last week, he smoked beeswax on a grill to make campfire-scented beeswax for a bearded friend who loves the smell of campfires.
He used snow from Wednesday’s storm to keep the beeswax cool while he smoked it.
“That’s the kind of mad scientist stuff I do for fun,” he said.
His wife said she enjoys watching him work.
“I hope it (the business) continues to grow. We’re starting to get more people interested. I hope it continues to get bigger. He has a lot of fun,” she said.
— Contact Amy Alonzo at email@example.com
By AMY ALONZO The Winchester Star
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION OF The Winchester Star