Please take a moment to introduce yourself. Who are you and who is your team, where are you based?
I'm Steve Lockhart and my wife Nichole and I are the owners of Lockhart's! We've got an incredible team of 5 very hard working women and myself. Our baby girl Mina Kay also joins us from time to time but she's not even walking yet so we haven't taught her how to brew yet. I am the one that develops our unique formulas and deals with all of the business side of things (though I have had to give a lot of that over to our accountant who is a lifesaver). Nichole had to step aside from running the operations when she got pregnant with our first child so that she could focus on being a mom, however, that hasn't stopped her from putting in a solid 40 hours every now and then to keep things running smoothly. Taylor Snedeker has since taken over the management of operations and making sure that orders are filled in a timely manner and our brew schedule aligns just right to keep things moving as efficiently as possible. Missy Dora is our other brewer who has for the most part taken over production of all of our "Authentic" oil-based products while I focus on all of our "Professional" products. Morgan Miller is our packager and brew room assistant. She's the one that makes sure all orders are packaged properly so that there's no dings or dents on the tins when they arrive. Kaytlyn Campbell is our customer relations specialist. She's the person that follows up with our customers and makes sure that our products are meeting their needs and helps with any questions or concerns. She makes sure all of our wholesale contacts are always kept up to date on new releases and does everything in her power to make sure all retail customers have an excellent experience with Lockhart's products.
How and when did you get started brewing your own products?
This all started in our kitchen as a way to make sure I had hair products that would tame my hair properly. I had gotten a job as a car salesman after wrenching on cars for many years and I needed something to tame my hair while working on the hot blacktop. It all started in late 2012 and our first sale was actually on my mother's birthday (May 16) of 2013 so it's easy to remember! We started simply out of our own kitchen. I ruined countless of numbers of Nichole's kitchen utensils and I don't think she's quite gotten over that to this day... All of our products come through trial and error and we're constantly trying to push the envelope. With each new product, I learn a few tricks and a few new ingredients and I try to incorporate that into the next product we create. It's an ever-evolving art form.
What’s behind the name?
Well... It's my last name! However, each product has its own unique name of course, each with its own story. Transcend is one of my favorites since it's a collaboration with our Australian distributor (The Pomade Shop) where a percentage of each jar is donated towards mental health charities. Our family has been hit very hard with the ramifications of non diagnosed mental health and we hope that we can at least let people know that there are people out there who can help you even in your darkest moments. Goon Grease is the products I get the most questions about of course since it's been our staple for a long time. As most people know, we're from Michigan where hockey is HUGE (you Canadians know what I'm talking about). In hockey the "Goon" is that bad sumbitch you send in to protect your superstar on the team. He'll go in and clobber whoever is trying to take out your teammates and is more than willing to knock someone over the head if needed. Though "Goons" are a bit rough around the edges but are some of the most loyal companions that you can have on your team.
If you had to choose a ‘hero’ product/s from your line which would you say it is and why?
I think most people would definitely say that our hero product is Goon Grease. It's certainly become a staple in any pomade users arsenal and has been around long enough to prove itself as a solid heavy hold pomade that stills provides a bunch of shine. My personal favorite product however is our Paradox pomade since it still provides a nice and solid firm hold, washes out with just water, and leaves my hair feeling nice and healthy.
If you had any advice for budding home brewers who are interested in making their own products what would it be?
Learn everything you can about every ingredient and WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. The most important tool in your toolbox is your notebook. If you don't take good notes you'll never know how each ingredient interacts with other ingredients. In order to create unique products and not just some boring run of the mill products, you'll have to really push the limits and you can't do that without the knowledge you'll gain with a simple pad of paper and a pen (and time). If possible find a good mentor, both for business and for brewing as well. Don't be a know it all, forget everything you think you know and just LISTEN. Experience is key here. There's a lot of things that can get thrown at you in the business world and it's nice to know how to prepare for those things ahead of time.
What are some of the challenges of being an independent brewer that the average consumer may not be aware of?
Regulations. There are different regulations that have to be taken into consideration in every country in the world. That and taxes. That becomes increasingly frustrating as your business grows. I suggest hiring a good CPA right from the start. They are worth their weight in gold. The number of times that I've had to sick my accountant on the State Treasury for a mistake the state made is mind-boggling. Just be prepared to run a business if you're serious about brewing and that includes all of the boring stuff as well.
How important is packaging/labeling?
It's important for catching a customers eye initially and for developing brand recognition. We always try to keep our labels as clean as possible so people can recognize the Lockhart's "look." It's very simple but effective. Think Coca-Cola, it's very well designed, very simple, and very recognizable. We try to shoot for the same thing. Rarely will you see us rebrand or change up packaging altogether. The product is always most important though. The way I look at it is that the packaging is the resume, the product is the interview. You can make a good impression and still fall flat on your face with a bad product. However, if the product is exceptional you will gain a lifelong customer.
What can we expect from Lockhart's in the future?
We're always working on new stuff over here at Lockhart's. Right now we're working on expanding our production capabilities and growing our team. Right now we're working on a big project for this year that will include a bunch of other brewers. It's been a bit complicated to organize it all but it's looking promising. I can say that we are going to be growing our "Poe" collaboration line with ModernManTV with a new product about to be released in early Spring.
What is it that you think makes the homebrew and artisan market such a strong market right now?
I've always viewed the homebrew market as an underground scene, similar to a local music scene. The only thing keeping it strong is support within the community, not cut-throat competition. The more the brewers work together the more they prop each other up. We're all in this together and as long as people are finding our products in one way or another, it benefits the entire community.
But wait there’s more!
We really just want to be an example of how if you put your mind to something, you can do it. No matter how difficult it may be. We do things differently than your average lab and because of that, we're able to create very unique products through different methods that we have to figure out ourselves. Creativity is the most important thing in this business. Surrounding yourself with a good team with creative minds is one of the most rewarding aspects of this business. Being able to bounce ideas off of other team members is half the fun.
Be sure to check out all of the Lockharts Authentic products on our site here.