After a big year in 2015, PEN caught up with John Cowan, entrepreneur and owner of Alluvian. Now that Alluvian has had a full year of operations under its belt, we find out what made the men’s grooming brand what it is today.
Some pretty exciting things have happened in the past year, can you put into words what the journey has been like?
It’s been a lot of hard work, but has been great how things have moved forward. I’ve been testing the local market trying to come up with a cohesive brand and finalizing a product offering. Additionally, I’ve been raising awareness on the plastic-free and affordable luxury concept.
An interesting thing happened throughout which was getting connected with farmers from Columbia and forming a relationship for an oil which is popular in European markets.
One of the great things which has come out of the last year has been for me to get more involved with the Startup Peoria community.
Now that you’re fully vested, what’s changed about how you go about business?
Once you start ordering large quantities of anything, it forces you to be come serious. For instance, I bought 55 gallon drums of olive oil and coconut oil and have had them delivered to the house. It becomes real right away and you have to get moving on making the product.
I’ve also been taking my branding very serious since it’s a highly competitive market. I’m specifically looking to create something that can distinguish itself from the other products.
With product experimentation, you have research of what you think will work. However, the reality can be much different. It’s been great connecting with new and interesting people, testing out ideas and getting feedback.
One of the cool partnerships to come out of the last year is with the Moonlight Coalition and their gift shop at the Peoria airport.
You won Startup Peoria’s KeyStart competition in July. What was the prep like, the feeling of winning, and the results that have come from it afterwards?
The whole KeyStart process was great. It made me focus my thoughts and get a concise pitch down. During the preparation I was forced to fine-tune my idea which brought it down to an understandable level. This is definitely very helpful with how I approach things now looking back at it.
Winning provided this sense of validation to my idea. The KeyStart funds were put to use towards a trademark to protect the intellectual property.
Since the competition, I’ve really been able to strike a good balance between the business versus philosophy. I’m more confident in my abilities and in understanding what my focus is. I’m able to better articulate to consumers what I’m selling which helps when you’re trying to differentiate your product.
How have you been able to balance a startup, your full-time job and home life?
My full-time job helps me afford what I’m doing with Alluvian. Since I have a unique job which gives me a few days off at a time, I can work on creating products in my off time and then go back to work with a clear head.
I’d say there’s been a pretty good balance. I’ve had a really good network support. Not only do they help test products, they do a good job to keep me in line.
What can we look forward to from Alluvian in the future?
I’ll be expanding from a men’s grooming brand to an affordable luxury and lifestyle brand. I’m working to get some new products to market shortly. Currently, I’m creating a catalog to help with marketing and seeking to improve securing more wholesale accounts. Hopefully, I’ll also start the application for B-Corp status.
Sample Alluvian by going to the PEN Market and purchasing a local product made by a business located right here in Central Illinois!
Images courtesy of Alluvian