When Matt Bramlette found himself unemployed after a long and successful career in advertising and design, he took a new direction, stepped out on a limb, and opened a retail store. His first location was in the Crossroads Arts District of Kansas City, but later expanded and moved to Westport to a larger space with more foot traffic.

Despite his career in marketing and branding, Matt had no actual retail experience or entrepreneurial training. So before starting what he would later name, Mid Coast Modern, he turned to the Missouri Small Business Development Center for assistance and support. There he took advantage of a dislocated worker scholarship and enrolled in ELEVATIONLAB NEW Venture.

“The fact that there was a program available to dislocated workers like me was a huge incentive,” Matt recalls, “In fact, if it weren’t for the dislocated worker scholarship, I probably wouldn’t have taken the class at all because I wasn’t entirely serious about starting a business. I was fairly confident I wanted to start something new, but I didn’t know where to begin. There was a lot I needed to think through. I had the entrepreneurial spirit, but no business sensibility.”

That was in 2014. Today, the store is three years old and going strong. Mid Coast Modern features unique accessories for home and life many of which are made by local KC makers including Matt’s own brand, Bear Soap. Bear Soap is created and handmade by Matt and his husband Rick. Together they produce a line of personal care products that were originally for men such as beard oils, soaps, and mustache wax. The brand has been so popular with both men and women that they now create products that appeal to everyone senses and needs.

Bear Soap has made a splash not only in Kansas City but across the nation. The SBDC has continued to provide Matt with follow-on assistance with employees, bookkeeping, financial analysis, and coaching. The success of the Bear Soap brand has been so strong that he is already working on his next new venture. In a few weeks, Soap Bar will open just two doors down from Mid Coast Modern. This new specialty store will feature a wide array of personal care products for men and women carefully selected from makers around the nation. You will know the new store is open when you find yourself walking down Westport road following the fresh scent of the ever-expanding Bear Soap line as it’s being made before your eyes in the storefront window of Soap Bar.