Episode 222: David Gaylord, Co-Founder of Bushbalm

In 2015, David Gaylord graduated with a degree in Digital Marketing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. During his early years in the marketing world, his dad insisted on him using his technical skills to help the family business (Gaylord Hardwood Flooring) and create a website. David decided that a smart move for his family business would be to become a Shopify merchant. This ended up being a great move for the family business and eventually David started working for Shopify to learn more about e-commerce and marketing.

It was a short while after when a co-worker of his, after his honeymoon, came to him with a fresh (literally and figuratively) idea! Natural products to treat your sensitive areas. With his digital marketing background and everything he learned at Shopify, David saw an opportunity and recognized a white space in the market for these products. Bushbalm was officially created. A skincare line specifically but not limited to targeting areas that are commonly ignored.

In this episode of WHERE BRAINS MEET BEAUTY™, we discuss the inspiration behind Bushbalm, his career journey, how David built a successful skincare company, and of course, his definition of success.

Dan Hodgdon
Jodi KatzWelcome back to Where Brains Meet Beauty. I can’t believe how fast the year is going by. Thankfully, we still have a couple of more exciting guests in the lineup. You might remember that Where Brains Meet Beauty had the honor of being BeautyConnect’s headline media partner this year. This innovative event brought over 350+ beauty decision makers, disruptors, and strategic partners together. Our executive producer Aleni had such an insightful experience during the event, and meeting incredible founders, investors, and service providers.

One of those founders was David Gaylord, co-founder of Bushbalm. Bushbalm was selected by the event attendees to win the Beauty and Wellness Spotlight, an award showcasing the best unique and disruptive emerging brands in beauty and wellness this year. Congrats to Bushbalm. If you haven’t heard of them before, Bushbalm is a skincare brand that both solves and breaks the silence on common skin challenges that aren’t often talked about. Their evolving skincare line is specific, but not limited to targeting areas that are commonly ignored, such as the bikini line, underarms, legs, and tush, just to name a few. This natural skincare line is making big moves to work on effective solutions for every skin concern niche.

Today, we are lucky enough to be joined by David on the show. Not only is David a co-founder of Bushbalm, but he’s been the mastermind behind all things digital marketing and tech within the company. We are so excited for you to hear more about David’s career journey today. To see more of what David is up to behind the scenes, be sure to follow him on Instagram @davidgaylord and check out the business @bushbalm. So hi, David, welcome to Where Brains Meet Beauty.
David GaylordYeah, thanks for having me. Excited to be here.
Jodi KatzAs a reminder to everyone listening in on Instagram, insert your questions for David in the comments, and we’ll get to them later in the show. David, this is a career journey show. And my favorite question, I’ve been asking it our entire fifth anniversary season, is let’s go back in time to your 11-year-old self. What do you want to be when you grow up?
David GaylordYeah. This is kind of an easy one for me. It’s funny, there’s myself and then my brother. So if you asked him, he would have said he wanted to be an accountant when he was 11. And today, he’s an accountant. And going back to me, though, my dad was an entrepreneur growing up. He had a hardwood flooring business. So for me, I always just wanted to be like my dad. I wanted to own a business, and I wanted to be part of a business, whatever that looked like. So yeah, growing up, I always thought, I want to start something. I just—I didn’t know what I wanted to start when I was 11.
Jodi KatzIt’s so sweet to hear that you wanted to be like your dad. I feel like this could go either way for people. Either they totally want to join the family business or they want nothing to do with it. What appealed to you about it?
David GaylordYeah. So growing up, I’ve always liked school as well. So I saw the family business as a place where I could just learn different skills. And the family business for me, they did manufacturing, they delivered everything, they had a website. So, it was a place where I could truly learn what went behind the scenes. So I think I started working for the family business literally at 11. And then I was there until I was about 21. And that was kind of after university. And yeah, it was just like the perfect place to learn what goes into it, because there’s a lot, you realize.
Jodi KatzOkay. From the wood flooring business to skincare and sensitive spots at that, what were some of those first jobs in the flooring company for you?
David GaylordYeah. So probably the first one was I did all the staining of all the trim. So I was covered in stain all the time. It was a bit messy. And then some of my best jobs at the family business was when I was in second year university, I took their whole business to ecommerce. So they started an ecommerce website where they sold mostly samples. But that journey was—I learned so much about stuff we do today. And every kind of D2C beauty brand knows is you have to have a website. It has to convert. You gotta drive traffic. All those different things.
Jodi KatzDid a lot of your friends have jobs like yours in their early teen years?
David GaylordNot really. I think what was good is I got more responsibility when I was younger. So I actually took a year off high school, or about a semester off high school in grade 12, when my parents—my dad actually opened up a new store. And they got a three-month lease, and they didn’t want to take a big risk. So they said, “Would you be the only employee for three months? And if it works, it works. If it doesn’t, we’ll shut it down.” It did work. But yeah, that was just—I had so much responsibility at such a young age. I think I was 17 at the time. And lived in a total new city on my own. It was a really cool experience.
Jodi KatzHow far was this city from where you were growing up?
David GaylordIt was only an hour. But it felt like 10 hours, probably.
Jodi KatzSo you got to be almost like a business unit manager, and I guess you were 17 years old at this time?
David GaylordYeah, exactly. So I ran all the sales, all the inventory management. I actually did deliveries, so I showed up to work at 7:00 or 8:00, and I’d sell all day, and then I would do deliveries from 5:30 to kind of 7:00 at night. So it was just like, I was the whole business. There was no one else involved, really.
Jodi KatzAnd because you’re at a distance from headquarters, the headquarters team really needed you to report, I assume, on productivity and sales and things like that. So that’s a lot of responsibility.
David GaylordYeah. For anyone kind of going in business or just in life in general, that was when I learned how to use a spreadsheet. And the skills of a spreadsheet today are quite useful as well.
Jodi KatzI love this. You didn’t tell me that you basically ran your own store at 17 years old. This is very cool. Actually, I have a question for fans and for David at this point. So, if you look on David’s LinkedIn, you’ll notice that he was part of student government in college. I, too, was in student government. And we have something like very, very in common, David. What was your highest position in student government?
David GaylordI was student government president in my last year, which was kind of, yeah, a climax. It was awesome.
Jodi KatzI, too, was the president. What other positions did you hold?
David GaylordI had the—it was like the sophomore representative. And then, oh, I forget what my third year was. I think it was vice president or something.
Jodi KatzI think my first role—I think I aimed high my first year, but I didn’t get whatever I was going for. But I ended up as the Greek life liaison. Greek life at a small college is complicated because it’s part of the social life, but there’s also—it’s pretty disruptive. So I had that role. I don’t know that I made the most of it, but I guess did my best. And then I think I had another role, maybe secretary or something, and then finally president.
David GaylordRight. Yeah. And I’m sure you learned a lot as president. I certainly did.
Jodi KatzYou know, it was such an incredible experience for me. It was where I felt like I was with my people, more so than in the dorms, more so than in class, in the sorority. I felt like I was around my people. I felt the most connected to that. It was also a refuge for me. I felt really safe in student government world, where everything else socially felt complicated. I retreated to the student government office and just felt like this is my place to be. So I’m curious, what do you think you learned most during that experience, and what do you bring some student government into your work today?
David GaylordYeah. I find student government, or just in general, just caring for something is important. So, student government was where we just care about the school I was at. So I just find that experience makes it better, because all of a sudden, you’re more invested in the school and more interested. You meet more people that are also interested in the school. So it just brings up just your morale and your excitement for the school. So in business in general, one of the harder parts of running a business is getting everyone really excited about the business all the time. So it’s like getting people hyped about new products, rallying everyone around one thing.
At student government, it’s maybe an extra 10 parking spots somewhere. Or in business, it’s like, let’s have a really big launch because Black Friday’s coming up. You really need everyone to work extra hard at that time. And that’s a challenge. But being kind of together on the same kind of mission is huge.
Jodi KatzWell, this is actually an incredible segue to what I want to talk about, which is how you brought your experience with your family business and then student government forward into your role before being an entrepreneur, which was at Shopify, which I imagine was a super cool place to learn. How did you end up with a job there?
David GaylordYeah. So I ended up at Shopify. I worked for the family business. And in my second year of university, built our website on Shopify. And then I built another one for them actually the next year. And for a while, I was in Shopify every day. And I think most entrepreneurs who have beauty businesses are also in Shopify every day now. But yeah, so I ended up applying to different roles. And I got accepted for a role at Shopify in customer service. So it was really entry-level. But the skills I’d learned with the family business and using Shopify was really, really valuable. And then from there, I had the decision of do I go to the family business or I choose Shopify? And I decided to choose Shopify just for the corporate experience, understanding what a bigger company looks like. And also, I figured I’d learn more on the tech side. So that was probably the right choice at the time.
And actually, for the first six months I worked at Shopify, I also worked at the family business and did a bunch of extra work. So I was just working too hard then. But yeah, I think I made the right choice now. And actually, my oldest brother just took over the family business fully. So my dad just retired, which is super exciting.
Jodi KatzOh, how sweet. So he was an accountant background and is now running the business.
David GaylordOh, no, sorry, I have two brothers. Yeah.
Jodi KatzOh, okay.
David GaylordSo we have the accountant brother, who’s very helpful during tax season.
Jodi KatzI bet. So this idea of working two jobs at one time, so you’re working for the family business and at Shopify, right? So, if we fast-forward to the development of Bushbalm, here you are again. So you had actually started at Bushbalm with your co-founders very early before you left the full-time job, right?
David GaylordYeah. So it was 2016. So the idea of Bushbalm was really Tim and Mel on their honeymoon came up with the idea. It’s kind of an interesting fun story.
Jodi KatzOkay. Tell us the story. Oh, we need to hear the story.
David GaylordYeah. So Tim and Mel were on their honeymoon, and it was after the beach. And I guess it’s hot and sweaty, whatever. And Tim, he freshened up because Mel loved his beard oil. So he kind of put it everywhere. And by everywhere, like everywhere. And they came back from their honeymoon and were quite close. And Tim and Mel were telling me the story about how they think this is just a cool idea. Could skincare or scent-based care travel to down there? The idea was freshening up, right? And I was like, “I love the idea.”
And typically, it’s like you have the idea, and then you make a name afterwards. But this one was the case where Tim was like, “We already have the name. We want to call it Bushbalm.” And I was like, “Oh yeah, that’s a brilliant, such a cool name.” And then from 2016 to 2022, we ran the business as a part-time business. We had our other jobs. Mel actually as a graphic designer had her own business as well. So, super busy. Super tied up. And we all ran it kind of a side hustle. And then at one point, we really found product market fit.
And the key was, no one at the time really wanted scent-based product. Scent was actually not interesting at all in 2016. But as we got further along and talked to more people and tested more, we realized waxing salons loved our product. And waxing salons wanted something for irritation, redness, kind of post-wax. So that was the direction that we went in and formulated in. And that was what really made it hit. And then 2020, 2021, we had really, really good years growing.
And then the funny part is, now scent is actually kind of coming back, which we thought scent was probably gone for a long time. But yeah, now we’re seeing scent is a trend is starting to emerge, which is interesting.
Jodi KatzCould you ever have imagined that you would be an entrepreneur and a co-founder and have to tell someone’s honeymoon story as part of your normal daily course of business?
David GaylordNo, not at all. And the interesting part now is, Bushbalm, we’re a team. There’s 13 of us now, and we’re all pretty fun and open and honest. And in our industry, we are breaking down taboos. I’ve probably said “pubic hair” 15 times today, just because I have to. That’s part of our job. And for us, we’re good to talk about it, just because it’s kind of what we’re trying to spread, the word of, there’s skincare down there and it’s fine. Whereas, yeah, 2016, the world kind of wasn’t ready for what Bushbalm was trying to offer.
Jodi KatzLet’s go back in time a little bit when you were at Shopify and you’re starting to get a sense that Bushbalm could live on its own, and you would potentially be leaving a full-time stable job. What was happening in the business and in your heart at the time when you’re like, “I’m ready to move into this full-time. I’m ready to say goodbye to what feels safe”?
David GaylordYeah. We hired some great employees at the start. So our first hire, Rachel, came on. And what we realized was Bushbalm, people liked it and understood it. And the next step was, okay, let’s make better products, and then also, let’s focus on the brand. So Rachel came in. And from there, we really started to take off. So, seeing the brand that resonated with folks took a lot of work, whether that’s like social media, all of our advertising, or even just showing up on a retail shelf. What do you look like on a box? How does that translate?

So at that point, we launched our dark spot product, Star Brightening product. And it really helped the business grow. And then quickly after, we launched our trimmer, which, for men, trimmers are traditional. You’ve seen trimmers forever for public hair for men. And then we launched one for women. And 2021 was a year where I don’t think that was growing in popularity at all. And as we’ve seen over the last two years, it’s actually grown a lot. So TikTok, I would say, is the reason that people are more openly talking about it. But yeah, that was at the point, as soon as we launched the trimmer, I really saw growth in the business. And we were all ready to kind of jump in full-time. And the real thing was we had to grow a lot of products, make the line bigger to sustain itself. And then, yeah, we launched a lot of new stuff in 2021.
Jodi KatzAnd what were the feelings inside of you when you’re walking in or virtually walking into your boss’s office to say it’s time for you to move on?
David GaylordYeah. It’s kind of exciting. You’re kind of nervous. The main thing, I would say, is I have nothing against Shopify. I love Shopify, and I still love the company. It’s amazing. But at the same time, you’re at a job where it’s a pretty big company. There’s a lot of creative people around. But, depending on your role—I wasn’t creative at Shopify. I was very corporate. I was very number-oriented. Whereas I come to Bushbalm and skincare and beauty, it’s just a beautiful industry. It’s so fun and so interesting, so different. And you get to see all these different lenses. Whereas if you’re at a tech company, there’s lots of lenses, but it’s different. Whereas beauty and skincare, it’s kind of like art. It’s just this fascinating place where art meets science. And yeah, it’s just a different industry that I fell in love with.
Jodi KatzWhat advice would you give someone who is keeping their day job, working in their side hustle business? What would you tell them if they’re thinking, they’re trying to figure out, when is the right time for me to say goodbye to the day job?
David GaylordYeah. The best thing we ever did was we went to—I’m sure there are still these—but Etsy shows. It was like the craft market small show. If there’s any sort of show near you that’s low-cost. For us, it was one of the best things ever, where we just went to a show. We had a little booth. We didn’t spend that much money. And we met people. And we told them about it. We showed them the product. And just talking to people about Bushbalm and the idea was amazing, because they had feedback, they had thoughts about packaging, about products we could make. And that went so far into what we actually made. So yeah, I’d recommend that to anyone. Just actually talk to people and get their feedback, show them the product. Don’t be scared of kind of giving away your idea, because yeah, it takes a lot of work to get it to the next level. But without the feedback, it’s gonna be really hard.
Jodi KatzLet’s shift gears a little bit and talk about how as co-founders, the three of you, how you divide and conquer, how you split up division of responsibilities or not. Was this hard to achieve? And what is your point of view on how you split the load?
David GaylordYeah. I think it’s kind of—at the start, you kind of do everything, right? And that’s the scary part. And over time, you realize what’s too much. And for us, it was often, in the early days, shipping. So I was shipping boxes out of my house, and it was chaos. There was boxes everywhere. But then we found a 3PL. So that workload is just immediately gone from everyone’s plate. So how we thought about it was, okay, what are the things we do, and then what are the things that aren’t scalable, and then how do we either outsource them to other people or hire employees to help us with those?
So how we’ve kind of split it is front of house and back of house. So sales and marketing, and then supply chain ops, HR, all of those things. So you kind of separate it, and immediately, everyone is less stressed because there’s two different departments, essentially. And then from there, it’s divvying up what work takes the most time and effort. And a good example is supply chain. Tim took most of supply chain out of our plates. And right then, it made life so much easier, because that’s just immediately hard, and it’s a lot to think about. And some folks need to be freed up creatively to do design or marketing or sales, whereas, yeah, if you’re always thinking about supply chain, it’s hard to be creative.
Jodi KatzSo it’s a 13-person organization. Do you ever notice that people come to you or your partners to kind of escalate a question or a topic or a concern, but they’re actually going to the wrong person?
David GaylordYeah. It’s like training. You’re trying to get everyone to have autonomy and the ability to make decisions, which just takes time. But yeah, I think we’ve kind of gone through that. And it’s kind of interesting to see someone once they feel the power to make the decisions, how much faster the business goes. So yeah, I think every smaller business starting up, you’re gonna go through that. And it really—yeah, it slows things down if you have to go through every different person to kind of make something happen.
And yeah, in the early days of any small beauty company or business, I’d say you’re always asking everyone, because there’s only six of you in the room. And then as soon as you’re 15, 20, 30, you can’t ask everyone. And we’re kind of at that stage right now, where there’s got to be pretty quick decision-making and kind of not letting it go to too many other folks.
Jodi KatzSo we’re gonna switch gears now, David, on the last topic for the interview part of our show, and it’s a really important topic to me. And it’s about how we perceive and define success. So, when I was early in my career, I thought that just meant money. I was like, “Oh, success means you make a lot of money.” Now for me, success is measured differently. It’s like, I’m wealthy in freedom. I’m wealthy in flexibility. And those are the things that are important to me now. So I’m so curious, if you can go back in the time, maybe when you were working in that one hour away location for your family business or when you started at Shopify, how did you define success back then?
David GaylordThat’s a hard question, I’d say. For me now, it’s still more about learning. I’m still at the stage where it’s less about being successful, per se. But it’s like having a lot of skills to understand what you want to be better at. So yeah, now I’m still learning. We’re launching in retail shortly. And that’s a new thing for me. So success is kind of always unlocking new things to learn, versus a certain number or a certain size. It’s really, yeah, just understanding, can I keep learning in the role I’m in? And if that’s the case, then I’m pretty excited by kind of what we’re doing.
Jodi KatzThat’s so sweet. I actually really love hearing that. Most of the time people think it’s money, so. Which is fine, too.
David GaylordYes.
Jodi KatzBut as an entrepreneur, I’ve noticed that the universe keeps giving me opportunities to learn. I don’t always want them. Sometimes I’m just like, give me a break. But there’s always something great at the end of the challenge, whatever that challenge is.
David GaylordRight.
Jodi KatzAnd now finally, I’m at this place where I got on the challenge. Okay, come. Let’s get started here. Let’s figure out what we’re gonna learn. But it took a very long time to be willing to accept these challenges on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.
David GaylordYeah, 100%, definitely.
Jodi KatzSo, let’s talk about the seduction of success. So you say you want to keep learning and always be challenged by learning new things. I’ve found being an entrepreneur a pretty seductive experience, meaning if I have goals and ambitions and I reach a goal, my body craves more. I want another thing to get the check mark next to, or—we ring a lot of bells at my company, so I want to ring another bell. But with that means I love my job, I love seeing my ambition come to life. And now I have a taste for more, which means more hours working, right? And that could be at the expense of other things that are important to me. So I’m wondering, do you feel seduced by your entrepreneurial journey and your path to success?
David GaylordYeah. Every time you do something—I find the thing with a beauty business or any business, maybe, is you always feel like there’s a new thing you can keep doing. So it’s hard to actually ring that bell. You’re constantly thinking oh, the next thing is we have to do this, we have to do this. But the thing that I get the most excited or eager to get to the next stage is any product, when we get new product samples, I’m always blown away. I’m like, oh my gosh, this is so crazy. We’re getting the actual bottle. And how does it pour out? How does it work? Really the fine details of that is where I get super intrigued, because it’ll take us three more months to get the next samples, or three more months to get the update. So it’s a slow, slow process, but very rewarding to kind of see those things come in. But yeah, I find it’s just really, really hard to ring a bell and congratulate the team. You really have to do that more often. And it’s just hard to always celebrate.
Jodi KatzYeah. I had to come up with a system for myself to celebrate the wins, even if they’re teeny, teeny tiny, because I was in this place all of my career, not just now, of, “Okay, something good happened. Great, it’s done.” And I moved on to the next thing and never spent a second just sort of sitting in, “Oh wow, that’s cool that that happened,” or “I finally did this,” or “I’m proud of myself.” So what I was doing was skipping over the wins. And then when something bad would happen, guess what? I would be in that hole for like a week. So I had to train my body to realize that every day there’s successes, so that when the not great stuff happens, and not great stuff does happen, I’m really buoyed by the good stuff. So I literally have bells all over my desk, and my team does too. And we ring them for things big and small. And it helps us. It really does help on the days that are not that great.
David GaylordYeah, totally. Now, I’ve gotta figure out something like that. Maybe we’ll get a gong in the office or something.
Jodi KatzYeah! I actually—the bell thing, I did not invent this. I saw it on one of those reality TV shows. I think it was a real estate show. Any time they’d sell a house or something, they’d ring a bell.
David GaylordOh yeah.
Jodi KatzAnd I borrowed that, because I really needed it. I was feeling really low on those hard days. But the lowness would stick around for way too long to be productive. And it’s been many years of ringing the bell, and it works.
David GaylordThanks.
Jodi KatzWell, David, this has been super fun for me. I hope that you’ve enjoyed your time here. You’ve been our 222nd episode, so thank you.
David GaylordWow. Amazing. Yeah, thanks for having me. This was a ton of fun.
Jodi KatzYeah. I’m super grateful for you sharing your wisdom. And our fans, our listeners here are grateful too. Thank you so much for joining us for another episode in our Health-themed quarter. Thank you, everybody.

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