Goat farming sparks career change for NYC couple
Two Men, 80 Goats, And A Whole Lot Of Kindness: How Beekman 1802 Landed In Ulta
If you’ve seen Schitt’s Creek, you’re most likely aware that David Rose (Dan Levy) and his partner, Patrick Brewer (Noah Reid), run Rose Apothecary in the middle of a small town. On the outside, this closely parallels the lives of business owners Josh Kilmer-Purcell and his husband, Dr. Brent Ridge, so much so that in January they actually turned their picturesque Sharon Springs, New York business, Beekman 1802 Mercantile, into Rose Apothecary in January 2020. (See them as Patrick and “DAAVID” here.)
The city dwellers didn’t initially plan to become goat farm owners, but after a 2006 fall weekend getaway complete with apple picking, the New York City pair quickly fell in love with the rural scene. While driving around upstate New York, they found for sale “Beekman Farm” built in 1802. By the spring of 2007, they finalized the purchase of the farm as a weekend escape from the city. It wasn’t until after a few months of living there they found a note in the mailbox that would change their lives. That note was from their neighbor, Farmer John, who explained that he didn’t have enough money to keep his farm in business, and was wondering if his neighbors would be so kind to house the herd of goats and let them graze on their pastures. Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Ridge thought it over, agreed to take the goats, and also offered Farmer John a place to live on their property, where he still lives to this day. And just like that, two men with zero farming experience became goat owners.
Goat farming was a stark contrast to their day jobs in New York City, where Josh was a senior creative director at a boutique ad agency, SS +K, and Brent was the VP of Healthy Living for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. After the 2008 recession, Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Ridge were laid off within a month of each other and, with a huge mortgage, they decided they had to make the farm profitable to keep their country dream alive. The goats were the logical asset for the duo and with the help of Farmer John’s herd, the pair got to work, making goat milk soap full-time.
Early on, the pair learned that goat milk was helping people with sensitive skin and minimizing the effects of rosacea, dermatitis, and other skin conditions. They set out to capitalize on that trend by launching Beekman 1802, a line of skin care products named for and produced from the milk from their beloved goat farm.
The pair have a natural chemistry and charm to them, and their enthusiasm and passion for educating people about the science of skin has helped their business grow. Beekman 1802 quickly built a solid reputation in the skin care community and began selling on QVC QVCA +0.2% and HSN. And being on TV and holding cute goats didn’t hurt either. In 2009, the duo even started filming the self-titled TV series, “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” which documented the trials and tribulations of juggling their farm, business, and relationship.
Dr. Ridge’s background is in the field of geriatric medicine, and intrigued by science and chemistry, zeroed in on the fact that the pH level of goat’s milk is the same as in the human skin. He explains: “When you cleanse with [Goat Milk], you don’t disturb the pH, you don’t disturb the acid mantle of the skin and therefore, you don’t disturb the microbiome.” The microbiome is a word that Dr. Ridge says a lot when he talks about their products. Essentially, the microbiome controls all the inflammatory processes which make your skin dry or oily, or break out, show signs of aging fine lines and wrinkles.” Their products are formulated to “feed the microbiome,” acknowledging that people’s faces change throughout the day.
The business ethos of Beekman 1802 is refreshingly simple: it’s all about kindness. Their customers are called “neighbors,” the products only contain items that are kind to the skin, and they literally list “kindness” on their product ingredients.
And launching this the middle of a nationwide pandemic? No sweat.
Kilmer-Purcell states “We started with no money on a farm. And we started a beauty company in Sharon Springs, New York. Like, if we can do that in a recession, we can get through this.” They were supposed to headline at the giant Ulta conference hosted in Arizona this past spring, where they were presenting their story and company to over 400 nationwide stores. Disappointingly, It was cancelled due to COVID. Dr. Ridge says “how else can we really get the managers excited if we can’t be in front of them?”
Even still, their passion for “Kindness” still existed—they knew they just needed to get creative. Dr. Brent spent hours working on an Excel spreadsheet, identifying Black and female-owned small businesses that have been affected by COVID. They ordered cookies to be delivered from each and every one of those companies to give to the employees at the 400+ Ulta stores. This simple act, which supported local businesses, also created a local connection for the Ulta employees. Kilmer-Purcell says, “Our story is our local roots. So choosing local bakeries to send to their local store told our story as well as or better than we could. We could have gotten up there at the conference to say, ‘Oh, we’re a brand about kindness. But now when you deliver warm cookies to all the employees of the store….we don’t have to tell them more about kindness, they just inherently know that.”
Ulta says of their exclusive partnership: “At Ulta Beauty, we have been fans of Beekman 1802 for some time now. From their inspiring farm-fresh roots to achieving incredible success on direct home shopping networks, and of, course, baby goats – we have been so inspired by their brand and are honored to be their partner in bringing the brand from the screen to the store aisles.”
Dr. Ridge reflects, “Had it not been for Farmer John reaching out to us in desperation and asking for a little bit of grace and kindness from us to house the goats and him, the company would have never started.”
Luckily for the Beekman 1802’s “neighbors,” that kindness is now helping complexions everywhere.