On the surface, Nik Pfarrer, comes across as a pretty laid back guy. It turns out he really is, but with a fervour for working hard with unrelenting passion. We find him working hard in the kitchen of a small shopfront in Newcomb on his own. He was so focused on mixing his protein bars that he didn’t notice us come in.
The story behind Bearded Bros reads like a smooth novel, without a twist or turn in sight. Nik quite literally fell into the business after falling in love with exercise at his local gym – a place that sounds like a second home. The underlying approach to everything Nik does is ‘give it a go’ with a shrug – and that’s exactly how it has been from the start.
“I made the protein breaky bowls and gave it to a few mates at the gym. That’s basically how it started”
With his mates loving his creations, he knew it was time to take it outside the gym.
“I went to Launch Espresso, gave them 20 protein bars and simply told them to see how many they’d sell.”
After speaking to many creatives who absolutely cringe at the idea of approaching a store to stock their wares, the blase approach by Nik was incredibly refreshing. It was evident that to him that it wasn’t going to hurt asking.
“I’ve almost never been knocked back. I actually don’t think I’ve been told no yet.”
When asked how he’d respond if they did say no,
“No big deal. I’d find another place.”
NIk evidently has a love for his business but is clearly able to separate his emotions where necessary. The Bearded Bro range has expanded organically and relies solely on customer feedback.
“One place sells out of the white chocolate protein bars but another hardly sells any. I also try new flavours regularly to see how they go. If they sell, I’ll make more. If not, then I won’t.”
That said, it took Nik about three months to perfect his recipe ratios. He even tried to use a pea protein to cater for the vegan but found that it simply didn’t work.
Besides making the food, Nik’s also like every other small business owner wearing every business hat imaginable. He does his own design (relying on his background experience as a designer), does his own accounting, manages all orders and delivers everything himself. Sure he has the support of his wife and even two of his three kids come over after school to help out in the kitchen some days. He rarely takes holidays and when he does, he’s very reluctant about it.
“I take one holiday a year. The last trip was 18 days and it was far too long.”
Nik acknowledges that he could do with more time and help but there are no plans to hire staff in the near future. Nik recounts his experience of running a cap shop.
“I started out with employing a couple mates and it worked really well. But then they moved on and I had to find new staff. It wasn’t worth the hassle.”
On top of his family commitments (his youngest is three years old) and growing business, Nik also manages to squeeze in DJing gigs on the side.
Then there’s the new offshoot brand, Bearded Brew, which is another notch to the belt. The first thing we noticed when we entered Nik’s shopfront was a faux-vine covered cart-like thing, which we soon found out is going to be the new Bearded Brew coffee cart.
“There’s no cafe near our gym. So everyone has to either grab a coffee on their way to work or at work so I thought why not give them a coffee after their workout?”
Thus, the master of opportunity turns his idea into a coffee cart – a perfect complement to his products and his love for his gym. The idea is to keep the coffee cart in the gym for the time being, with Nik manning the espresso machine every morning after the morning bootcamp session.
“It’s all a test. We’ll see how it goes. We [the gym] want to add another location, which hopefully will be big enough to have a kitchen so I can move Bearded Bros there. Then if the cart goes well, I’ll build another and put it in another gym.”
There’s no plans for the cart to be available for event hire as the logistics of getting council permission isn’t worth the hassle.
“I don’t have plans right now to expand my audience beyond Geelong. I’m more focused on expanding my range instead.”