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October 21, 2014

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In search of goatee symmetry

Arkansas man tours West to bring beard-trimming aid to masses

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Sam Morris

Scott Bonge shows how to use the GoateeSaver, a Hannibal Lecter-looking device he developed and peddles on the Internet for $19.99. Bonge is trying to get Wal-Mart and a host of pharmacies to put the invention on their store shelves.

Beyond the Sun

Scott Bonge, of Little Rock, Ark., is on a 45-day road trip to shake as many people’s hands in 30 states as he can, and to encourage them to follow their dreams.

His dream is for everyone — well, men at least — to achieve the perfect goatee.

Scott is the inventor of the GoateeSaver, an adjustable, face-hugging shaving guide for your chin fungus.

It is not a pretty device. Well, maybe the device has its own beauty, but a man wearing a GoateeSaver looks like a cyborg with a respirator. Or possibly like he’s eating the world’s largest electric razor. The comparison Bonge hears most often is with Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs.”

He’s not bothered.

“The product is not intended to be used out in public,” Bonge says. “It’s meant to be used inside, when you shave.”

And how does the GoateeSaver work?

Allow Bonge to demonstrate by putting the bit between his teeth.

He’s bet his dreams on this device, which you hold onto with your mouth, adjust to preference and shave around with confidence. It’s a demonstration he’s willing to give over and over and over.

In Las Vegas on Tuesday, Day 5 of his 8,000-mile road trip (he says he’s glad he’s driving a hybrid), Bonge was searching out the press, celebrity goatees and strangers on the street. He is selling the GoateeSaver for all he’s worth.

And these days, most of what he’s worth is in the GoateeSaver.

In the past, Bonge was a stockbroker making seven figures a year. After the dot-com crash, he worked as a pharmaceutical salesman, making six figures a year. Then, two years ago, he was laid off. He found himself unemployable, because of his old salary. No one, he says, wanted to hire anyone who had grown accustomed to such a salary.

So he turned to an idea he’d had five years earlier — one that was right under his nose.

Over the years, Bonge has occasionally gotten his goatee crooked or lopsided, forcing him to shave the whole thing off and start anew. There had to be a better way.

“People ask me, ‘Why not a BeardSaver?’ ” Bonge says. “But I’ve always worn a goatee. I’ve never worn a beard. I don’t know the issues involved in a beard.”

With his wife’s blessing, he sunk his savings into the GoateeSaver, hiring an engineer and burning through $500 prototypes.

After two years of development, the GoateeSaver was ready to go. For the past two and a half weeks, he’s been selling it online for $19.99. He’s sold his first 2,000. He’s talking to Wal-Mart and a host of pharmacies about putting it on store shelves. An arena football team, the Arkansas Twisters, is considering buying a bunch in team colors, to give away as a promotion.

And so, on his promotional tour, Bonge is carrying something besides a laptop and a bag of GoateeSavers. He’s carrying something he wants to give back, to tell people.

He was outside a Phoenix motel Monday and a guy came up and asked him what he was selling. Bonge showed off his invention and they got to talking. The guy had come out from Illinois, hoping to play football. That didn’t happen. Things fell apart. So Bonge asked him, What do you really want to do?

Turned out, the guy wanted to coach kids in sports, keep them from making his mistakes. Bonge said, Well, why don’t you?

“We all put on this little face, like everything is fine in life,” Bonge says. “But sometimes it isn’t. And sometimes we need something else.”

What we need is the courage to reinvent ourselves.

While he was talking to the would-be coach, another person came up. A woman. A prostitute, in fact, who had heard him talking.

Not that the woman, who called herself Frosty, wanted to change her life.

She just liked what he had to say.

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