By Jason Frye | Photography courtesy of Katie Mcdill Photography and Kate Spitz Photography
Former stockbroker Ryan Munson is pleasing a new kind of client with his natural beard balms and oils that are ‘mindfully made’ in Mississippi.
“Your beard smells ah-mazing!”
My wife said this to me hours after I’d used Three Kings Beard Balm by Munson & Brothers for the first time. It took 21 years of beard wearing and 15 years with my wife for anyone to pass on such a beard compliment, and now I’m hooked.
Munson & Brothers, based in Columbus, Mississippi, makes a quartet of beard balms—Three Kings; Thieves Blend (clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, rosemary); orange, cinnamon and clove; and sweet mint—along with beard oils, body-friendly soap and lotion, lip balm, and mosquito repellant. Ryan Munson, the founder, owner, and the nose behind each blend, uses only natural oils to create his line of high-end men’s grooming products, to the benefit of the hair and skin of his clients.
“I started the business after my daughter had a problem with dry skin that over-the-counter remedies wouldn’t cure,” said Munson.
When Munson and his wife would treat their daughter with store-bought lotions and balms, she’d cry. He began to look into the ingredients.
“The first ingredients I saw listed were long, unpronounceable, unnatural products, and I didn’t like that, so I decided to do something about it.”
He started doing research into what natural oils and essential oils were good for treating skin ailments, hair and hair follicles, searching for something to treat his daughter. The result was Munson’s Body Butter, a blend of jojoba, argan and sweet almond oils; beeswax and shea and cocoa butter.
“It worked. Our daughter liked how it felt and it helped her skin, but I didn’t know I was onto anything then,” he said.
Munson gave some of the body butter out to friends and family, notably his “brothers,” a group of guys he’d been brewing beer and making soap (“Fight Club-style,” he says) with for a while. A question arose: can you use this on your beard? The answer was “Yes,” but Munson decided to take it a step further, add in essential oils that would smell great and make the balm more effective for hair and hair follicles.
The new batch was a hit,too.
The enthusiasm and feedback pushed Munson to take his products to farmers markets and festivals, where he soon found he had a hit product on his hands.
“I got serious with packaging and then one of my brothers convinced me to take it wide, so I did,” said Munson. “We sell over the Internet, and are on track to be in 100 stores by the end of 2017. We go to retail trade shows every quarter and are doing everything we can to get the products out there.”
But entering the men’s grooming and men’s gift segment can be difficult.
“Products for men are too often relegated to jokes,” he explained. “It’s all camo toilet paper and barbecue sauce in a ‘whiskey’ bottle. There’s very little that’s useful or luxurious, and we offer both; we make a product that treats men seriously.”
By “seriously” Munson’s talking about the art and practice of making his oils, balms, and body products; the products themselves, which help men feel, look and smell better; and the therapeutic value in each of the goods he sells. In everything he does, the motto of Munson & Brothers guides him: Mindfully Made in Mississippi.
“I think there has been a disconnect between consumers and products,” Munson says. “We’re trying to bridge that gap, trying to satisfy that thirst.”
In Munson’s home state, as elsewhere, consumers are hungry for the handmade. Craft beer is on the rise; every gift shop and grocery features shelves and rows of goods made by local and regional artisans; and word spreads about high-quality products — like Munson’s.
Making beard balm, beard oil, soap, and body butter is a shift for Munson, who was a stockbroker “at one of the big first-name/last-name brokerages” for five years prior, but he tired of the grind.
“I started to gravitate toward processes I could control,” he said. “Something about the hands on, apothecary aspect of what I’m doing now appealed to me, though I had no idea I’d grow so far so fast.”
With interests building in retailers across the South, and the new wave of barbers and men’s groomers in need of products that their clients can trust, Munson & Brothers finds itself in the perfect position to practice that Mindfully Made philosophy and deliver grooming products men can be proud to use.