A decade ago, Brent Ridge was working as a physician and his partner Josh Kilmer-Purcell was an ad executive in New York City. Today the two men run the highly successful lifestyle brand, Beekman 1802, which just shattered records with its launch on HSN last week. So how did these two city slickers end up owning a 60-acre goat farm and start a booming business that encompasses skincare, food, home, a quarterly magazine and their own reality show The Fabulous Beekman Boys? They credit it all to their neighbors.
Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell bought a farm in Sharon Springs in upstate New York in 2006 as a way to escape from the city. “We just thought it would be a weekend getaway,” Ridge tells PEOPLE about the farm that is now frequented by celebs including Mindy Cohn, Tiffani Amber Thiessen, Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart.
But in 2008, both men lost their jobs during the recession and had to devise a plan to afford their mortgage and save the farm. “We started Googling ‘What can we make with goat milk,’” says Ridge. (Their property housed the goats of their neighbor, farmer John, after he lost his own farm.)
They started with goat milk soap, learned how to make it from the help of one of their neighbors, and Ridge began selling it at Henri Bendel. “I stood on the floor at Henri Bendel for eight weeks straight, 10 hours a day, selling the soap and talking about how amazing it was for the skin.” A buyer from Anthropologie happened to try his soap, brought the product into Anthropologie stores and put the Beekman Boys on the map.
More and more of their neighbors in their small upstate town of 547 people began pitching ideas of products they could sell to accompany the soaps and before they knew it, a business was born. “As city people who have worked in media before our role in this little village in upstate New York was to help build a brand that all of our neighbors could sell products under,” says Kilmer-Purcell.
To this day, they refer to all of their customers as “neighbors” and 50,000 people a year make a pilgrimage to visit their brick and mortar store located on the half-mile-long main street of Sharon Springs, New York.
“I think part of the reason we have grown so quickly and so solidly is because all of our neighbors and customers feel just as part of the success for Beekman as we are,” says Kilmer-Purcell. “They can come to Sharon Springs and they can meet all of the crafts people, they can pet the goats, they are as much a part of the brand and the company as we are. They call themselves neighbors as well.”
They expanded their brand by incorporating goat milk into as many beauty products as possible. “We started noticing how our skin felt differently even in the midst of our harsh upstate winters,” Ridge explains. “We didn’t discover goat’s milk as a beauty regimen, it’s been used for thousands of years from milk maidens who used to wash their faces with it every morning to Cleopatra who used to bathe in it, it’s only now that we understand why it’s working, because the protein structure is similar to human milk. Your skin really just drinks it in.”
Today their skincare line includes a wide-range of products from bar soap, to shampoo and conditioner to eye cream cleansers and skincare. And last week they made a significant step by debuting their beauty line on HSN — to astounding results.
Their launch signified a push towards introducing more natural products on the network and their debut was the largest beauty premiere the company has ever had. “It was a really extraordinary day,” Rob Robillard, VP of Integrated Beauty for Qurate Retail Group, tells PEOPLE. “We sold out of 177 items on the day and their “TS” (Today’s Special) sold out by 2 p.m. Our customers really loved what they were selling and we brought a lot of new neighbors on board as well. We’re happy for them.”
But Robillard knew they would be a hit with the HSN customer right from the start.
“They really are authentically amazing guys. The minute I met the two of them I knew instantaneously that their story was beautiful, their narrative was amazing and they were really extraordinary story tellers themselves so I knew that they, and their story, would be exciting to our customers,” says Robillard. “It’s a great story and it’s great for the guys, great for their community, great for their suppliers, great for the goats! We’re really happy to be one part of helping to make them a success.”
And their success trajectory is even more impressive considering that their business is all local and independent. “Particularly with the beauty industry, it’s so rare to see an independent beauty company that doesn’t have private equity funding or isn’t owned by one of the big conglomerates, we truly still are a homegrown, made in the USA, completely self-funded beauty brand,” says Ridge.
For Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell, teaming with HSN connects them even further with their “neighbor.”
“HSN allows us to make the product, we come and talk directly to a neighbor and then they come directly to us and it’s the most direct amazing, rewarding relationship,” says Kilmer-Purcell.
As the largest employer of Sharon Springs, they staff over 100 people, over 80 percent of which are female, and they never plan on moving their headquarters elsewhere. “We keep the post office open with the amount of mail order we do,” says Kilmer-Purcell. “We are such in an economically challenged rural area and for everyone to be able to survive and to thrive, we have to work together.”
And that community mindset is exactly what Kilmer-Purcell says is the key to their success. “Our company motto is work hard, never quit, and help your neighbor. We really say as long as we do those three things we can grow as big as we can grow because it just keeps helping everybody. We have to stick to those three ethos.”
In addition to their beauty products, the Beekman Boys will be back on HSN throughout the year to introduce the HSN “neighbor” to the rest of their “living brand” (they dislike the term lifestyle brand).
On August 20 they will introduce their Happy Place home cleaning line, and later launch their gourmet food line on HSN. “We’re looking to help them be a living brand across our network throughout the rest of the year,” says Robillard.
The Fabulous Beekman Boys are doing some pretty “fabulous” things.