Juniper Ridge Founder, Hall Newbegin, on business & creating a beautiful experience
I'm going to tell you a bit of a story so hang with me. A few years ago, Makers Workshop was in it's infancy and I was writing Inside the Makers Workshop features. I came across this brand, Juniper Ridge, who was distilling fragrance from the plants of the west and I thought "well, thats a cool workshop to have- these gorgeous trails." Right? So, I contacted Hall, the owner and proceeded to tell him how I wanted to write about this idea of him working in nature but not realllllly talk about his products because I didn't want to put my name behind something I didn't really know to be good/quality product (That's a whole other conversation but anyway). The next week, a box arrived on my doorstep full of Juniper Ridge.
Now, I know when people say words like favorite it's usually a load of fluff and bullshit but, you can take all of the goods words and stuff them into that one - Juniper Ridge is one of my favorite brands, products, people. The end. Since, the day that I said "mehhhh I'm not so sure I want to write about you, I don't really know you." I've gone on to work beside these guys, seek their business advice, trust their personal advice, value their friendship, and believe in every. single. thing. they do. Since day one, they have invested their time and support back into the people around them - from photographers, videographers, musicians to tattoo artists. Anyone who knows them can attest to their true nature of spirit and work. And yea....they're pretty badass. I've invited my pal Hall and JR founder @crawlonwetdirt, to share a bit about his biz Juniper Ridge.
Enjoy the ride.
What is something you wish you would have known when you got started?
I wish I'd had a better idea about how to run a business. I thought if I could just figure out how to put the beauty of Sierra Nevada or Big Sur in a bottle, it would all work out. Totally not true!
What are your gear hacks?
Keep it simple. Don't use a tent when you're backpacking in the mountains of the West. Bring a tarp, just to be safe. There are six reliably rain-free months in the mountains. Throw a tarp, a sleeping bag and pad, food and a stove in your pack and get out there!
Any tips for first timers at market?
Be thoughtful about your margins and finances in general. It matters. Money is like oxygen for a business — without it, you have nothing. You could have a profound, beautiful idea for a business, but if you're not paying attention to the nuts and bolts of your finances, you won't make it.
How do you unplug while staying plugged in?
I'm so much better at unplugging! It's hard for me to stay plugged in and be the boss man running the biz. On one hand, it gives our employees the latitude to be creative and entrepreneurial. On the other hand, I've let things go too far astray and it's really hurt the business. So, I work to keep a balance there.
How has your business evolved/stayed the same?
We've stayed the same by staying true to our original mission: putting the mountains in a bottle. That's what we've always done. We still do it authentically using sustainably harvested plant material from the mountains of the West. We're still mission driven, donating 10% of our profits directly to groups working to defend and protect those places. We've always used real, wild harvested plants and never used any petrochemicals. All these things will never change.
We've evolved in every way possible. I've made lots of mistakes and learned every time. When you're pioneering something, like we are within our industry, you are guaranteed to belly flop and fail. All you can do is learn from them and avoid them in the future. Keep pivoting and trying new things until you find what sticks and works. Then you run with it.
I’m a terrible businessman because I’m inherently reluctant to promote my own business. When I host an event, I want to get people out on the trail. I want to turn them on to place and help them have a deeper experience with nature. We’ll spend hours smelling the earth and never once say the words “Juniper Ridge.”
How does culture influence your work?
I’m really interested in setting up a beautiful company culture. With a dozen employees, we’re really just getting started in this realm. One of the most exciting things about being an entrepreneur is you can do this stuff however you want to. It’s important to me that Juniper Ridge to be a beautiful thing to experience whether that’s behind the scenes, on the trail, or on the opening end of a bottle.
What's in your gear bag?
Clippers, loppers, sometimes my big broom puller and my Smittybilt trail blaster tool. I spend a lot of time working on the weed-infested forgotten trails on Mt. Tamalpais and the Sisquoc River in California.
How do you push your work further?
Talk us through your thought process. Staying innovative means I need to be out there on the trail all the time. We work with real ingredients to capture real moments in time. Out on the trail, the rusty gears in my head start squealing and grinding to life. The Juniper Ridge creative process looks something like this: Hall goes on a two-week backpacking trip through the high Sierra Nevada in late summer. Hall falls in love with the smell of high alpine sagebrush meadows accented with dense conifer trees. Hall proposes an idea to the team about a new Field Lab project: Sagebrush and real tree sap, a seasonal expression of the High Sierra. Tanya and Pablo line up wildcrafting spots with our partners to legally and sustainably harvest small amounts of materials. We hit the trails, we harvest, we distill and we bottle. Our new Field Lab is born. So, that innovation comes from new experiences in familiar places.