74 - Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Beekman 1802
Conor Begley: Josh and Brent are the type of people that just make you smile. They also might have lived so far, one of the most interesting lives in the world. Enjoy the show today, guys, and if you did, remember, be a friend, tell a friend. That's the best way you can help. Thanks.
Speaker 2: Explore the minds and marketing strategies behind today's winning brands and businesses. Tap into the power of the creator economy with Earned by CreatorIQ. Here's Conor Begley.
Conor Begley: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Earned. Today I've got Josh Kilmer- Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge, the co- founders of Beekman 1802 on the show. Welcome to the show, guys.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Well, it's great to be here, Connor.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Hi.
Conor Begley: I'd like to say that this is your biggest premier audience you've been on, but I don't think so. You guys have had some pretty big exposure at this point.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Oh, it's our most prestigious.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Yes.
Conor Begley: Oh yes. I guess, not Mount Sinai, certainly not. Well, let me brag about you guys just so that everybody knows kind of who you are, because I think your background as I delve into it, I had no idea. So obviously you guys founded and sold Beekman 1802, but you also had your own reality TV show that went on and had a bunch of success. You competed in and won the Amazing Race for a million dollars, which is actually the one I might be most interested in. You wrote a cookbook together. Brent, obviously you're a medical doctor and professor with an MBA who worked for Martha Stewart. And Josh, you wrote several bestselling books as well as other books. You guys have certainly the most broad impressive experiences that we've had on this show, so I'm really excited to dive in.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Yeah, I wonder what we're going to do tomorrow.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Yeah, one of these careers is going to work out.
Conor Begley: They've all worked out whether you'll stick to one of them or not, that's the question. Actually, let's start there. So I know when I first met you guys, I actually saw you on stage, I believe it was at a CEW event and you were speaking, this is after the transaction with Eurazeo. And I think what came across, obviously you gave a speech on kindness, right? As of your core pillar. The word joy just comes to mind when I think about you guys. And so I'd love to think about for you guys both that concept but also just generally what is it that's led you guys to be so comfortable pursuing so many different things, each one being outside of your comfort zone? Talk to me about that.
Dr. Brent Ridge: I think we both tend to be very curious people and we're just curious about lots of things and married to the fact that we're probably both opportunistic in a good way, in pursuit of the satisfaction of the curiosity. I think that's really what makes us open to so many different things.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: We've never met a white space that we don't love. And then I would add, the other thing is actually I'm quite an anxious, fearful person. I always have been my entire life, but in some weird way, I'm just as afraid of not experiencing something as I am of doing it. So when opportunities come along, I'm mostly afraid I'll say no and not experience it. So it's kind of that curiosity coupled with a like, oh, what if I don't do it? I'll lose out forever.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Yeah. And I don't have fear of missing out as much as I just have a scientific approach to life and if there's a question, I want to find the answer to it. And so of course there's so many questions when you're growing a business or of anything. And so it's just always looking, having a hypothesis, analyzing it, getting the answer, moving on to the next thing. That's just how my brain is trained to work.
Conor Begley: That seems like a good combination. Josh, I definitely have FoMO. It's like, well, what if I don't do this? Will I regret it? I feel like I have to. Right?
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Yeah. Even as much as I may not want to do it or think I'm not going to enjoy it, I'm like, I just have to do it. You got to do it.
Conor Begley: Yeah, absolutely. Obviously, we're going to talk a lot about Beekman at first, but tell me about your kind of early lives leading up to Beekman. What were your careers? What did you focus on? And then eventually let's talk about why post 2008 you decided to found the brand.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: I was born and raised in a very rural environment in Wisconsin, a tiny little town, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. And always really sort of dreamed of bigger things. I had a really boring normal family life and heading towards New York City, that was my goal. I wound up going to school and then going to advertising school. And that was really the first big part of my career was advertising. And I still think that's one of the most invaluable careers for anybody to undertake, because learning that art of persuasion, you can succeed in almost any career.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Yeah. And for me, I also grew up very rural North Carolina, evangelical. And my mom was a nurse, single mom. And I think the reason I went into medicine was not only of course because I was influenced by her, I always had proclivity towards science, but I always saw that career as something that could get me out of that small little town. And so moved to New York City to my residency at Columbia. I did a research fellowship in the genetics of aging at Harvard and then joined Mount Sinai on faculty in New York City. And was there for several years long enough to know that I really wasn't passionate about clinical science and medicine as a career. And so then decided to go back to business school. And after business school went to work at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, at the time they were trying to create a division devoted to health and wellness. And so I was heading that effort when the recession hit in 2008. Thus this journey began.
Conor Begley: Yeah, my understanding of the story from the outside is that you guys both had reductions on both companies at the same time that eliminated your roles and then you're like, well, might as well start a farm, which is not the leap that most people make during a crisis, but.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: That's true. So we both lost our jobs within 30 days of each other in 2008. I mean, people who were old enough, remember that time, it was just crazy brutal. We had actually purchased the farm the year before. It was one of those-
Dr. Brent Ridge: Impulse buys.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Impulse buys. We wanted a weekend place, a getaway place. We stumbled on this farm with-
Dr. Brent Ridge: Martha, told me I had to buy it.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Yeah, Martha liked it. Well, we'll buy a farm, go away for the weekends. And then when we both lost our jobs in the recession, literally the only thing we had to our name was this farm. And in the meantime, in the year that we bought it, we took in a neighboring farmer who was losing his farm. His name was Farmer John. And he said, " You've got an empty barn, you have a little house on the property. Can I bring my goats to stay with you guys?" And at the time, we had no plans of doing anything with goats, goat milk, any of that. But when we lost our jobs, we were so fortunate to have him and have those goats because that was what started Beekman 1802.
Dr. Brent Ridge: We Googled what can we make with goat milk and started making goat milk soap there on the farm. And once we started hearing back from our neighbors in the community who were helping us wrap bars of soap, that it was benefiting their skin, then I just put back my clinical research hat on and said, " I'm going to start investigating goat milk and see why it is so good for the skin." And that's how the company started.
Conor Begley: So that makes sense. I guess, my question would be, there's very few people that will have a career as a doctor, a career in corporate America and then say, " Farm life. That's for me." So Brent, what was that like? What motivated you to get involved in that outside of what you said already? And then two, I know for my co- founder and I, the early days of founding the company you're staying in fleabag hotels, we always talked about we drink case and case of Two Buck Chuck. What are your favorite memories from those early days? What do you remember back on?
Dr. Brent Ridge: Well, I'll go back to the first part of that question, because I get asked it a lot, about if you lost your job why didn't you just go back to medicine? And by that point, when I lost my job, I had already been out of medicine for about five or six years, so it's not that easy to just jump back into academic medicine when you've been... I mean, medicine changes fast, the medications, the treatment modalities, et cetera. So it's not that easy to just jump back in. And we also, when we purchased the farm back in the Halcyon days of 2006 when the economy was amazing, we took out a huge mortgage, a million dollar mortgage on this farm and had cashed in everything we'd ever saved in our lives up to that point. And so we were in dire straits and we had to figure out where can we get the income coming in? And so that's really what led us to start the entrepreneurial journey. And so many of the experiences that you mentioned at the beginning, whether it was the reality TV show going on, the amazing race, writing a cookbook, those really were all things that we did to self- fund the company and self- fund the growth of Beekman 1802. Just like yourself, every founder has their eating ramen noodle story or selling their engagement ring story. Every entrepreneur worth their salt has those stories. And for us, our story was to make ends meet. We learned how to grow our own food and we were sustaining ourselves on the farm.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: And there were so many of those early moments, like you say, we couldn't afford to heat the house, so snow used to blow in under the door and it wouldn't melt in the kitchen. We would come home from business trips and we'd be out in the garden picking beans by moonlights just so we could get them in before we left for another business meeting the next day. And I think the thing that I remember most fondly of that time were the things that we didn't know. As you grow a company and it becomes bigger and bigger as you know, there's paths that you're supposed to follow, but when you're starting a business, it's all the things you don't know. Like why can't a beauty company write a cookbook? Why not? It'll bring in some money. Pay the bills for another month, let's write a cookbook. So all the things you shouldn't do or don't know that you shouldn't do, you just go ahead and do.
Conor Begley: Yeah, you figure it out. We certainly didn't start a reality show or go on The Amazing Race, but we did some things like that. I mean, we definitely, okay, I remember looking up, I rented a room at an Airbnb in New York and it was like a hundred dollars a night or something really cheap, $ 150 a night. And I talked to the guy, lived there, and I was like, " How'd you get into this?" He's like, " Well, my friends and I realized that we could charge a thousand dollars a night for our four bedroom apartment in New York, so I just listed it for a price that we couldn't refuse and saw if anybody would bucket." So he is like, " Just listed it." He's like, " I had a bachelorette party come and book it out for three or four days and we each made a thousand dollars and all we had to do was go stay with our girlfriends." And like, " Oh, that's great." So we did the same thing. We were like booked it out and somebody booked it for two weeks during Christmas, it was like, whatever, 15 grand between the three of us. And I was like, " Well, looks like we're staying with our parents for the holidays." Well, those are just the things that you do.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Yeah.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Exactly. Literally anything to make money. That was the beginning years.
Dr. Brent Ridge: And for us too, we were self- funded in the early days all entrepreneurs are mostly self- funded, but starting the company in the great recession, we were just very adamant that we were never going to take investment dollars. We were that puritanical about it because we're like, "Oh, the economy went to crap because of all this speculation and the mortgage, we don't want to be involved in that. We're going to do it the honest hard work day, you make a dollar, you can spend 50 cents. That's how we were going to do it." And that kind of bit us in the butt at times.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: But it was also proof of concept. We always say we're profitable from day one because we had to be, you can't pay for something if you don't have money. So we turned to profit from the beginning.
Conor Begley: We were very anti VC as well, or in our world, venture capital's generally what you do. And we had similar, and I think it bit us a couple times too, and it was like, " Mm, would've been nice to have a little cash right now. Little cash cushion." But you make it through. Let's talk a little bit about the show as well as The Amazing Race. Let's talk about both of those. One, I'd love to know the impact it had. Obviously it paid the bills, which was great. I would love to know if that impacted the brand. How did that impact your community? And then two, obviously, or not obviously, but my wife and I are recovering Survivor junkies. We never got into the Amazing Race, but we are into that. So tell me about what that was like. I haven't watched it. I feel like I need to watch the season now.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Oh, you should watch it, because we were such underdogs, Connor, no one thought we were going to win. So season 21 if you want to catch up on it.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: But that whole TV period of our life, that was another sort of act of desperation. It was we started getting some early press when we started the company about these two gay New York City guys, bought a goat farm upstate New York, ha, ha, ha. And we got some interesting PR pieces.
Dr. Brent Ridge: And we hadn't even really started the company yet when that started.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Yeah, no, it was just sort of, we got a little press and it was nice. And then we got a call from a network, a part of Discovery Network's called Planet Green. And they said, " Your story sounds interesting, would you like to do a reality show?" And our first thought was, no-
Dr. Brent Ridge: No way.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: No way, because this was Honey Boo Boo and-
Dr. Brent Ridge: Duck Dynasty.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Whatever those things are. And it was all about making rural people look bad. We're trying to launch a brand, how do we do that? But I think because of both of our backgrounds in media, we've figured out the way to get the awareness without harming the brand. And so that was the whole goal of those two years of doing that show and doing that reality show is what led to the Amazing Race.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Yeah. And we did the reality show for two years and it actually documented building the company, opening up our first shop, our first big order at Anthropology. It kind of documented all of those things. And it was actually a customer, we call of our customers neighbors, so as a neighbor who was at our cookbook signing at the Santa Monica Library, and she was very unassuming lady, probably 80 years old, had an oxygen tank that she was carrying with her, and she was coming to get her book signed. And as I was signing it, she's like, " Every week my next door neighbor comes over and we watch The Fabulous Beekman Boys together. It's like our little bondy time each week. And in my mind I was thinking, oh, these two nice little old ladies watching our show, that's so nice. And this, she threw out and she's the president of CBSs Reality TV. And honestly, I didn't believe her because why? So just very flippantly, I said, " Well, if she's such a big fan, why aren't we on the Amazing Race?" And she said, " I'm going to tell her." I honestly thought nothing of it because we had had enough taste of fandom at that time that we knew that there were always, not always on the up and up people. And so we came home and two days later the phone rang and I picked it up and someone said, " Hi, we're calling from the Amazing Race. We heard you wanted to run." And that's how we got the opportunity to be cast for the Amazing Race.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: But again, it was our media background that really served us well in that. We knew we couldn't turn it down because 11 million people watched this show, and so it could be a commercial for us. So when we went on, we were so focused on how do we maximize the opportunity? Winning was beyond. We were just like, " How do we get marketing out of it?"
Dr. Brent Ridge: We never were going to win inaudible
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: So we introduced ourselves to all the other contestants as The Beekman Boys. We never even gave our names in the beginning. And so they just kept saying The Beekman Boys, The Beekman Boys, The Beekman Boys. So we knew we could get that name out there every week. And then for some reason we couldn't lose.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Yeah. Our goal was only to make it halfway during the season because we knew that if you made it halfway, there were going to be no new viewers coming in, so you have maximum exposure. So we just kept trying to hold on to the midway point. And then once we got there, we just kept hanging on and to the very end.
Conor Begley: Oh my God. I mean, the money itself actually helped though, right?
Dr. Brent Ridge: Yes.
Conor Begley: That's what allowed you to quit your job.
Dr. Brent Ridge: That's right.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Exactly. So after we'd both lost our jobs, started the company, but I had gone back into the city to start freelancing and any money to pay the bills. So for five years really, I was going back and forth, weekends to weeks back into the city while he was up at the farm, really doing day- to- day stuff with the business.
Dr. Brent Ridge: And at that time we had the million dollar mortgage on the farm, plus trying to invest in growing the company. And so there really was just never any way, we can never get ahead. And so when we won the Amazing Race, for those of you who don't know, the prize is a million dollars, after taxes is like 575, but it was enough for us to pay down our mortgage enough that Josh could leave his job and we could really focus on growing the company.
Conor Begley: Isn't it crazy to think about if that hadn't happened, that one conversation with that woman hadn't happened, you probably never would've been on the show, if you hadn't been on the show, you wouldn't have won the show. Just being on the show probably had a big positive effect on the brand. And then winning the show allows you to quit and go full- time, which obviously had to help a lot too. That one conversation, that's crazy.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Well, and I still remember her name. Her name was Sandy, and she has passed away now. She's like an angel-
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: She's changed our lives.
Dr. Brent Ridge: ... inour life. Yeah.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: But it also goes back to what we were saying earlier about in the beginning, you don't know the way you're supposed to do things. You don't know. If we were so focused on growing a beauty company, we would've said, " No, we can't take time off to do the amazing race." But we're like, " Okay, here's an opportunity. We can get our name out there a little more and grow." So yeah, it's all those little things you just do because you have to.
Conor Begley: Yeah. It's funny how lucky you get when you work really hard, right? So when you're really grinding, these kinds of things pop up.
Dr. Brent Ridge: You have to save the opportunity and then you have to take advantage of the opportunity.
Conor Begley: Yeah. There's certainly no business book that says, go on a reality show, win a million dollars and then fund your business. That's not a typical playbook though.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Be a best seller though.
Conor Begley: I bet. Yeah, it is. So let's talk now about, you guys have scaled up, so now the brand, I think 2019, you've passed a hundred million dollars in revenue. I think you guys said 150 million plus. You took on close to a hundred million dollars investment from Eurazeo and a few other partners and majority deal. I mean, that had to be another life- changing event for you guys. One, was that the plan at the beginning? I can't imagine it was. Like you said, just opportunistic. And then two, what are your ambitions now, now that you've taken in kind of other partners? What are you guys thinking about for the future?
Dr. Brent Ridge: Yeah. Well, it's funny because a lot of people don't know this part of the recent story in that we had been growing the company, everything was said, we're on TV, big brand on TV retail, certainly stable enough in the business that we could just coast on our sales E- com and TV retail. But I kind of got this bug in my head about the goat milk and doing more research on the goat milk. And there was all this talk about the microbiome just started four or five years ago about the microbiome. I'm like, " I really want to put some research behind this." And so we had invested everything again, like Josh really. He said, " How much do you believe in this and the power and goat milk and the nutrients coming from the goat milk?" And I'm like, " I really believe it. And even more than just believe it. I'm really passionate about it. I want to pursue it." And so we basically, Beth the farm again, started doing all of this-
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Turn the heat back down in the thermostat.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Started doing all of this research and product development. And this happened right before the pandemic. So we had made all of this huge investment and with all this research we had done gotten the attention of Ulta. Because we'd never been in specialty retail and had our entire Ulta plan mapped out and paid for to launch. And it happened right in the beginning of the pandemic. That was when our launch happened.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Our launch into brick and mortar was when they closed all brick and mortars. Yeah. Perfect.
Dr. Brent Ridge: All of the research, all of the marketing, everything, all those were sub costs. And so at that point we're like, " Well, we honestly don't have any other option than to bring on an investor who one, understood the brand that we had built. Two, understood what our passion was around the research and the microbiome. And three, understood that we wanted to grow a global brand and needed at that point an investor who could help us do those things." And so-
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: It was one of those moments of serendipity too. Who would think a pandemic would be serendipity? But that was the point where we should have been taking, even without the pandemic, we should have been finding a partner to help us with the research and grow and expand.
Dr. Brent Ridge: And again, we were still adamant, we're like, " We're not taking investment dollars."
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: And it really took the pandemic to be like, " Oh gosh, this was a really huge..." We weren't in trouble, like we weren't bankrupt, we were still plugging along, but we're like, yeah, maybe this is a good time to take on a partner.
Conor Begley: Hopefully you view those as actual investments, you're putting money in to further the mission and then get that paid out over time. Not all investors are bad. I promise. Most of them are- inaudible
Dr. Brent Ridge: Yeah. We love Eurazeo. No, I've worked with Jill. I was on the board at Nest, the inaudible company, so.
Conor Begley: Oh right.
Dr. Brent Ridge: So I know you Eurazeo really well and I love them. They're awesome.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Yeah. They actually know what a brand is. They understand brands.
Conor Begley: No, they're great. And I think they really help out on the recruiting side just because they're so plugged in, they can bring in really good talent that maybe you're not connected with. That's another area that I think a good investor helps out.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Oh no, absolutely, and we're seeing that already. Up until when their investment came in, we didn't really have any people from the beauty industry in our company. A neighboring farmer was heading up our shipping department and we had just brought in this kind of hodgepodge group of people, because we're based in upstate New York and it's not like you can attract a lot of talent there pre pandemic before people start working remotely. And so with the investment we got Mark Ray as our chairman of our board. We have this beauty street veteran.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Jill Scalamandre.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Jill Scalamandre came on as our CEO, another beauty industry veteran. So Eurazeo has just been instrumental in building out our bench of people with beauty industry experience who can take what we have done and really put the energy behind it. Put the fuel behind it.
Conor Begley: Yeah, a hundred percent. So the other thing I'd love to talk about, well, actually two things. So one, take a step back, talk about the early days in terms of outside of the TV shows and these kinds of things, what were some of the things that you did from a marketing perspective that helped you guys to grow to that scale? And then I think the second one, which kind of goes hand in hand, is I think that you guys have obviously very much adopted this tenant of kindness as kind of the center of the brand. And frankly for me it was like when you guys said that, it was like why hasn't anybody else done that? That's such a good place to come from. And so would love to know about the origin story for that as well. I just love the way that manifests. I mean you guys get my emails all the time about... I'm an unpaid marketing consultant here.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: The earliest outside of them TV and everything, what we were really good at in the beginning, of course it was the early days of social media and we were really good at content before, there was that weird time when we went from paid advertising or media, I mean-
Dr. Brent Ridge: Blogging.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Blogging
Dr. Brent Ridge: first.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Yeah, blogging. It's when the word content was born. And we did that really well in the beginning. It was just day- to- day life on the farm. And we always had this rule on social media, it was five times telling, one time selling. So we would post a recipe, we would do a live stream of walking around the farm. We would do five things that had nothing to do with selling. And then one thing, here's a new product, what do you think of it? And that just made us so sticky and made our customers, call our neighbors again, so loyal. That's really I think what fueled early growth in the company.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Neither Josh nor myself are natural born salespeople. We're both tend to be more introverted anyway. And I think one of the turning points for me was early on when we started selling our product at Henri Bendel on Fifth Avenue in New York City, and I would go down every day to stand on the floor of Bendel and hawk my wares, basically. And on that same floor, there were all of these other independent salespeople who would rep different brands, mostly women. And they saw what a deer in headlight I was in that environment and they just took me under their wing. And they are such masters at connecting with the customer, educating the customer, telling the customer this is going to help you and make your life better. And that experience of being on the floor at Bendel, watching them sell their product and then trying to implement that in helping me sell my product was invaluable, because those same skills I learned then, then translated when we got the opportunity to do TV retail and so on and so on and so on.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: And kindness, where that came along, it's been part of our brand for the longest time, but it was never really condensed into that word kindness until really just a few years ago, we actually had an outside brand consultancy. This was about three years ago. Because we had grown and grown and grown. And one of my favorite sayings is, you can't describe the mountain that you're standing on. You can't say how tall it is. You can't say what shape it is. You can't... When you build a company, you can't really describe even what's making it work because you're so intricately connected to it. It was when we were going into Ulta, we're like, " We need to clean up our branding, get our messaging a little more concise." And the agency came in and they said, " Kindness. That's what you're about. Kindness. Everything from taking in Farmer John when you didn't have to in the beginning and bringing his goats to calling all of your customers' neighbors to all the charitable things we do." And they're like, " Your brand is kindness." And we're like, "Oh, yeah, that's really simple. We should have thought of that."
Conor Begley: We did. You lived it.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: We live it.
Conor Begley: Which is the most important part. Yeah. Which makes it more authentic. It wasn't like you started out and said, " Okay, what do we want this brand to stand for?" You just stood for it and then you found a way to describe it, which is just going to be a lot more true, more authentic.
Dr. Brent Ridge: And we have longevity. When we started the company now 16 years ago, we always said we want to be a company that's here 200 years from now. And I think we would say we built the brand the old fashioned way, just really one neighbor at a time like that. We try to look at kindness as wellness and we say kindness to skin, kindness to self, kindness to planet, kindness to community. I think the best way too, we try to explain it to people is that with kindness, when you give an act of kindness or someone gives you an act of kindness, that kind of glowy feeling you get inside, that warmth you get inside, that's not something that's just happening. That's the complex set of neurochemical reactions happening in your body. Dopamine is being released, serotonin is being released, cortisol levels are going down and that's causing that feeling of euphoria. And guess what? All of those chemical changes are also impacting the microbiome of your skin. So even though we're talking about kindness and what it can do in the greater world, it's also having an impact on what we're doing from a scientific standpoint. And so we really do believe that kindness is a really powerful thing on many, many levels.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: I mean, it even helps internally with our corporate culture. When you have something like that's so pure and so ingrained throughout the history from the very first act that started the company taking in Farmer John, every teammate in our company knows how to make decisions like kindness is the North Star. If you're negotiating with a retail partner, you might be able to cheat your way into a better deal a little bit, but no, because kindness is a thing. It has to work for us, it has to work for a retail partner. Anything else isn't kind. So it really does inform externally, internally, all parts of our company.
Conor Begley: I love that. You know what's funny, the connection I just made is, I remember getting advice from someone one time, that was relationship advice. And actually I want to hop into that in a second because I think you guys have a really interesting history there. But they basically said that in a relationship it's not about cutting out the negative, you're going to have times where you get frustrated, whatever. But it's actually just about increasing the kindness, basically. Increasing the positive. There's all these studies on it, where basically it studied couples and the kind of most predictive variable for whether or not the relationship lasts is basically how often are they complimenting each other? How often are they saying nice things to each other? If you just try to do that, it'll have a dramatic impact on your relationship. And so my wife and I started doing that maybe two or three years ago, and it was during a very tough time, is when we'd had our son, we were having our daughter, she came a little earlier than planned. And so they're both very young, 17 months apart. We were selling our company. It was a lot going on. And so we just pumped that up. It's like, okay, try to give at least three compliments a day to the other person. And not only does it have the positive effect of they receive the compliments, they love it, but you start looking for the positive in the other person. You start actively searching for that and you notice it more frequently, right? I love it.
Dr. Brent Ridge: That's so right. That's self- fulfilling. We always say that about kindness too. One act begets another act and that's how the ripple effect starts.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: That is great advice. I just want to say, Brent, you're not so bad.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Goodness.
Conor Begley: I'm telling you, if I had one piece of relationship advice, I would be that. It changed, I mean it's just so dramatic.
Dr. Brent Ridge: I love that, the three a day. That means it's great to have that kind of goal, because then you have to stretch some days and really think about things. But it reminds me of a quick-
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: You don't have to stretch Brent.
Dr. Brent Ridge: No, seriously. No, Connor. Connor has. But it does remind of the story. It's just happened recently. Because I can be very direct and point out things that need to be corrected. I'm honest about myself that way. It's just how I am. But I also am very good about saying when someone does a great job and sometimes I'll just send an email to an employee and say, " Oh, great job on that." We have a husband and wife team that was in our company, and I just heard from them a few months ago that they used to count each month how many great jobs from Brent they got. And they had their own internal competition about how many great jobs that they could earn. But it goes back to what you were saying is that sometimes just recognizing someone on the most basic level, it makes such an impact.
Conor Begley: And particularly when it's authentic, it has to be meaningful. It can't just be like, " Oh, thanks for taking out the trash." It has to be something that's like a meaningful, you recognized the work that they did. No, I love that. Let's talk about your guys' relationship for a little bit. I mean, you guys have gone through a lot. And I think Brent, your first kiss was Josh-
Dr. Brent Ridge: That's correct.
Conor Begley: ... if Iremember correctly. And then laid off at the same time, founded a business together, which generally is not great advice for relationships. I think that's pretty tough having a business together. And then I think you spent four years or five years commuting. You were working in the city, he was on the farm. How have all those experiences shaped your guys' relationship? And what do you guys think outside of, I've got my compliments thing, what are some of the things you think work in terms of relationships?
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: It really has been an incredible and weird and unexpected ride. We met in 1999 and like most couples, he had a job, I had a job. We had a normal dating and moved in together, bought a place together. And then this thing happened where we became two halves of one thing of the business. And nobody says Brent without saying Josh, nobody says Josh without saying Brent. And any relationship is challenging. A relationship where you are the face of the business that you founded is even more challenging. And we had rough years in the beginning. Ironically, I think it was the fact that we did have this business and everything we had was sunk into this business we had together that probably kept us together through some of those rough spots because there was no other option.
Dr. Brent Ridge: And I think what helped us is that there came a point where we were fighting a lot. It was just so much stress trying to get things going and we realized that oftentimes we would fight over things that both of us didn't have to be worrying about. Of course, when you're starting a business, everybody's worried about finances, but Josh was just particularly anxious about the finances all the time. And so we would get into these huge arguments about the finances. And so finally I said, " You know what? I'm going to let you control the finances. I'm not even going to look at the bank statement because I don't want to have an opinion on that, that will start this cycle."
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: If one of us is worried about it. That's enough.
Dr. Brent Ridge: That's right. And he's like, " Okay, well then you're passionate about product development. You can take the product development. I'm not going to try to exert any control over the product development." He can give his opinions, but that's what you're passionate about. You do that. And that just solved so many arguments because one person's going to stress more about something, let them stress about it. No need for both of you.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: And we always call it the 51% rule where it's true, it just becomes clear who has most concern or the most passion about something-
Dr. Brent Ridge: Or anxiety.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Or anxiety about something. Whatever it is in the business, that person has 51%. And it doesn't mean that the other person ignores it or doesn't take part. You can argue all the way up to your 49% worth, but the other person has that 51% and you just have to accept that and move on.
Conor Begley: Honestly, for us, because my business partner and I are also like 50/50 in everything, and early on I remember I was like, " God, I really need to get better at..." We were running leadership meetings and some of the organizational stuff, backend stuff, he's like, " Why? You don't like it? Why do you want to get good at it? Why do you want to spend time getting back?" And you had that whole like, oh, you're supposed to get good at your weaknesses. No, no, no. Lean into your strengths. Lean into what you're good at and then do that. It just sounds really similar. Although-
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: It is. It is.
Dr. Brent Ridge: And people in their personal relationships, if they're in a personal relationship, can think of that same business application in their personal relationship. It works. That's how relationships can work.
Conor Begley: Totally. Josh, this is a little bit of a left turn, but we haven't talked about the fact that you're a bestselling author. So I want to know, I think you're the first really successful author or possible any author that we've had on the show. So talk to me about that process really quickly, just while I have you. What's it like to write a book and then what's it like to get the word out? How do you market a book because you've done it well.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Very nice. So it was when Brent went back to business school in early two thousands. I remember him saying to me, he was like, " I'm going to be gone nights. I work all day. I'm going to be studying all night. You work all day, you're going to have to figure out a hobby, get a hobby." And I always loved to read. And I said, "Well, okay, I'm going to write a book." And I had this really colorful period of my life when I first moved to New York where I was an ad guy by day, a drag queen at nights, and I sorted underbelly of New York City, all that. And so I just sat down and wrote that. And it was meeting somebody on a plane just like we talked about. I'd written this book. I didn't know what to do with it. I didn't have connections. Was sitting on a plane back from a business meeting next to a God that was an agent for another author. And that's how my first book got published. And marketing was so interesting... That was the days of Myspace, believe it or not. Anybody, you could go one by one and ask, will you be my friend? Will you be my friend? Will you be my friend?
Dr. Brent Ridge: We spend weekends...
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: So we went on David Sereno's page and Augustin Bros page and just ask everybody on their page, will you be my friend? Will you be my friend? And I honestly think that's how it became a bestseller, was MySpace one by one. So thanks to Myspace-
Conor Begley: Oh my God.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Wherever you are.
Conor Begley: I love that. I think I've used up most of my time here. Let's do one kind of fun end of show question. So you're on this Beekman journey, it's really exciting. We're going to do some crazy stuff. But if we were to drop Beekman, and this is something that entrepreneurs do, so I can ask this as one entrepreneur to another. So if you were to drop that and do something totally new, what would it be? And this could be individually, it doesn't have to be together. What would it be?
Dr. Brent Ridge: I want to be a nomad. I just want to travel around the world with no other responsibilities and be completely anonymous. That's what I'm working towards. Anonymity.
Conor Begley: So like the Amazing Race, but without the TV cameras.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Yeah. No cameras. Yes.
Conor Begley: What about you, Josh?
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: For me, it's volunteering. I've always been like, I have a great affinity towards it, developmentally challenged, and so I would like to dive into more charitable aspects, volunteer aspects, but hopefully we both get our dreams someday.
Conor Begley: I mean, those are still things that can be achieved. I really appreciate you guys taking out the time. Thanks again and congrats on all your success and amazing life so far, and excited to see what you guys do in the future. It's going to be great.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Thanks, Conor. And congrats on all your success too.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Yes.
Conor Begley: Thanks. I'm working on it. Hopefully I'll live as interesting a life as you guys. Bye, guys.
Dr. Brent Ridge: Bye.
Josh Kilmer-Purcell: Bye.
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In Ep. 74 of Earned, we sit down with Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, the incredible founders of goat milk-powered skincare line Beekman 1802. To start, we explore why Brent and Josh are so eager to pursue new, varied opportunities, such as starring in their own reality TV show, *WINNING* Season 21 of The Amazing Race, and authoring best-selling memoirs, to name just a few. We then dive into the couple’s rural backgrounds, and learn why they decided to purchase the 19th-century Beekman Mansion in upstate New York. Brent and Josh share the story of how helping out their neighbor, Farmer John (and his goats), in the wake of the devastating 2008 recession eventually inspired the creation of the Beekman 1802 brand. Next, they reveal the impact that having their own TV show, and winning The Amazing Race, had on their brand and community. We step back to their early days building Beekman 1802, and hear how their ambitions have evolved after surpassing $150 million in revenue and accepting a $100 million investment from Eurazeo. To close the show, Josh and Brent explain why kindness is the core tenant of their brand and company culture, and the couple reveals their best advice for maintaining a healthy personal and professional relationship.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Why Brent & Josh took advantage of every opportunitiy to grow awareness around Beekman 1802
- Why kindness is the core tenant of Beekman 1802's brand and company culture
- How the "51% rule" can help maintain a strong working (and personal) relationship
[00:53] Why Brent & Josh take advantage of every opportunity
[05:13] The origin story of Beekman 1802
[11:05] The impact that Brent & Josh's reality TV show—and *winning* The Amazing Race—had on brand awareness
[16:59] How Brent & Josh scaled and sold Beekman 1802, and their ambitions for the future
[24:01] Why kindness lies at the heart of the brand and company culture
[29:28] The 51% rule for maintaining a positive working (and personal) relationship
Connect with the Guest(s):
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