Kyle LaFond credits stinky middle school boys as the inspiration for his company, American Provenance, manufacturer of all-natural personal care products in rural Mount Horeb.
While teaching science in New Glarus, Kyle gave his students an assignment to develop their own green, sustainable product or service. The youngsters enjoyed the project and challenged their teacher to do one, too. Because many of those prepubescent boys tended to sweat a lot and werent the best at using deodorant, making a product for them seemed a logical choice. A natural product, one that wasnt a chemical-laden spray, was also appealing to Kyle. So it was, after encouragement from family and friends, Kyle started American Provenance.
American Provenance products for men include deodorants, aftershave, body spray, beard balm, and hair pomade. The womens line consists of deodorants, body spray, hair pomade, shave toner, and solid perfume. Soaps, some made with goats milk, for both men and women are produced by Milwaukees Oil & Ash Soap Company with American Provenance fragrances. In addition, American Provenance offers leather conditioner for boots, belts, and bags and wood conditioner for blocks, boards, and bowls.
Kyle believes in keeping his products simple with a minimal use of ingredients. By using classic recipes and essential oils to replicate vintage scents from the 1940s and 50s, Kyle is paying tribute to the past.
The American Provenance production facility is located on Kyles grandfathers dairy farm, in the building that was his machine shop. His great-grandfather bought the land and his grandfather farmed it. For Kyle, having his company on the farm is a tie-in to his grandfathers legacy. Its a way for him to walk in his grandfathers footsteps and honor the memory of a man who influenced Kyle during his formative years. His grandfather died in August of 2014, and Kyle began his company in May of 2015.
It took Kyle six years of dirty kitchens, double boiler pans, smelly armpits, and stained t-shirts before he perfected his products using no fillers, artificial colors, or preservatives. He started his business with savings and a Small Business Administration loan. Kyle gives kudos to the University of WisconsinMadisons Small Business Development Center, where Michelle Somes-Booher, one of its business counselors, guided him through the process of developing a business plan. He still meets with his counselor monthly. She helps to keep him on course or change direction as needed.
Ninety percent of American Provenance products are bought by women for men. According to Kyle, guys dont like to buy personal care products, so its up to their wives and girlfriends to do so. Women began to ask for products specifically for them, so Kyle started his womens line in November. Next will be products for babies and a skin-care line, again, by popular request.
One can find American Provenance products at several local outlets: Community Pharmacy, Context Clothing, Hometown Pharmacy, Hy-Vee, Isaacs Soaps, Metcalfes Market, Miller & Sons, and Willy Street Co-op. Other Wisconsin locations include retail partners in Cedarburg, Mequon, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, Reedsburg, and Wauwatosa. American Provenance products can also be found online and at several retailers in Colorado and Illinois. Kyle particularly likes selling his products at family-owned shops, specialty stores, independent grocers and pharmacies, and co-ops. He prefers to work with businesses that advocate a philosophy of health and wellness.
The name American Provenance was born out of Kyles sales experience. Products that are popular start with the letter A, he explains. Also, many great businesses in this country began in someones shed or garage, so American was a good name for his company. Provenance, meaning the record of ownership of an item to prove its authenticity, came from one of Kyles favorite television programs, Antiques Roadshow , on PBS.
Kyle decided to put two-stage distinctive names on his American Provenance products because they were easier to trademark. Firepits & Flannels and Shotguns & Shenanigans for men, and Pinups & Paramours and Daggers & Diamonds for women are some of the available scents. The product labels are also unique with designs by Andrew Holdorf of Six Roses Tattoo in Middleton. Andrews work represents traditional American style tattoo artthe kind that might be seen on servicemen who fought in World War II. According to Kyle, these products with exclusive labels look cool in a guys bathroom.
This past November proved to be a big selling month for American Provenance because of the Movember movement, when men grow moustaches in support of mens health awareness. Kyle explains that many men dont know how to maintain facial hair. Beard balm is the answer. With daily use, theres no itching as a beard or moustache grows out, bacterial growth on longer hair is minimized, and skin beneath facial hair stays soft.
Recently, Kyle teamed up with Chris Borland, former UWMadison and San Francisco 49ers player who retired after one year in the NFL, to create a gift box of American Provenance products. Proceeds from the sale of the box benefit the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, which helps NFL players with financial grants and medical assistance after their playing days are over. Many of these players are not of the modern era and do not have the benefits and pensions that todays players receive. The gift set consists of the six American Provenance products with a masculine scent of sweet birch, bergamont, and wintergreen. Kyle is particularly proud to be partnering with Chris, whom he met at a Ryan Bingham concert at the Majestic Theatre in Madison. Chris didnt want an endorsement deal, and that was fine with Kyle because honoring tradition and things that have come before is important to him.
This coming year, Kyle plans to refurbish the barn on the farm to give him more space for American Provenance. Hell also be hitting the road to grow retail outlets for his products in the Midwest. Kyle is no stranger to being a road warrior, having worked as the Director of Business Development for Capital Brewery for a number of years.
Kyle says American Provenance is the most expensive girlfriend Ive ever had. Every time I turn around, theres something else she needs! But whatever the need, Kyle will continue to bring high-quality, natural products to marketones that are handmade in small batches with an homage to the past.
Jeanne Engle is a freelance writer.