Interview with Beard Head founder David Stankunas

Back in 2006, while on a skiing/snowboarding trip in Lake Tahoe, Beard Head’s creator, David Stankunas, struggled keeping a bandana on his face while carving up the mountains on a blustery snowy day. The bandana kept falling out of place, constantly became too loose, grew moist with condensation, and was just uncomfortable. With a background in product design and corporate experience in the apparel industry at his disposal, and with plenty of time to brainstorm (i.e. stew in his frustration) while sitting on chair lifts in-between runs, David’s frustration soon turned to elation as the idea for Beard Head, the first ever bearded headwear brand, was formed.

Beard Head then appeared on Shark Tank in 2015 to attempt to get an investment from the Sharks.

David and Beard Head founder appeared on Shark Tank in 2015
David and Beard Head founder appeared on Shark Tank in 2015

1) How did you come up with the idea for Beard Head?
In 2007 I was on a snowboard trip in Lake Tahoe, and I brought along a bandana to protect my face from wind and keep it from getting sun-chapped. As I was riding throughout the day, the bandana became really uncomfortable. It kept coming loose, falling down, and it was difficult to breathe through…it was just really frustrating. So, whenever I had some downtime sitting on a ski lift alone with my thoughts, I ended up trying to think of a better idea for a product. I knew I wanted something that would cover my face and keep it warm, but also NOT cover my mouth so it would still be comfortable to breathe. I also wanted it to look a little…funky…something unique (you know, because I’m a snowboarder, and sometimes I want to look a little crazy). Once I got back home, I started playing around with different prototypes, and eventually the Beard Head was born!

2) What makes it different to all the other face covers?

There is no other company that has the breadth of designs we have. We have more than 200 SKUs, and are constantly introducing innovative, new, fun, and creative designs. No one else comes close.

Our production capability outpaces that of any of our competitors. Our quality and consistency is better than that of our competitors. We’ve been making beard hats longer than anyone else in the business, and with that comes a high level of production expertise that no one can match. Our production team has a lot of experience in making this very specific type of headwear, and is very familiar with the intricacies that go along with making the perfect beard hat (and believe me, there are intricacies to little things like making a mustache shape just right, or a knitting a beard to cup your chin a certain way).

Additionally, our retail displays options are far and away better than anything our competitors offer, allowing for better merchandising and higher sell-through for our wholesale accounts.

3) How did your experience on Shark Tank help your business?

Obviously Shark Tank helped generate a huge amount of exposure for the business. Our sales spiked after the show aired, and have continued to be strong throughout the holidays and afterwards. That tends to happen when you get to show off your product to 8+ million people on national TV. But there was another benefit to being on the show. To prep my pitch to the Sharks, I had take time away from operations and focus much more on growth strategy moving forward. I always had a general idea on how I planned to grow Beard Head, but I hadn’t fully formed and articulated that idea because I was often too wrapped up in dealing with day-to-day operations. But the Sharks aren’t interested in a clever product that’s doing $1 million/year, they’re interested in the potential for major growth. Developing a pitch for the Sharks forced me to create a concrete plan to grow Beard Head into something truly worthy of their investment. While ultimately I may not have gotten the Sharks to invest, I walked away from the experience with a better understanding of my own company and its true potential.

4) What inspired to go into business?

I can’t think of anything that inspired me specifically. Being an entrepreneur has been a part of my identity for as long as I can remember…even before I knew what the word “entrepreneur” meant. I’m an optimist, I like to take risks, and I like to bet on myself. Eventually that led me to do what I’m doing today.



5) What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Don’t wait, just GO. My experience has been if you let issues like “I need to get a patent first,” “I need to do more research,” or “I need to learn how to make a business plan,” slow you down too much, you’ll never get off the ground. The early stage of a startup is based so much on momentum. My advice is to just GO GO GROW! The biggest threat to your business RIGHT NOW is slowing down, losing interest, over-planning, or getting demotivated from a small setback or scary prospect in the future.

I’m a big believer that the most effective way to learn is by doing…and it’s a lot easier to learn by doing something that’s directly related to you and your own business (versus some example out of a textbook, case study, blog, or article). So jump in and figure things out when you’re neck deep in it! Plans and estimates can certainly be useful, but my experience has been nothing is better than getting some product in-hand and actually selling it. Once you do that, you’ll often find that everything will start to come together. Don’t wait!
We would like to thank David for speaking with us.

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