Friday, 23 October 2009
I asked Will King for some tips for entrepreneurs. His answers make inspiring viewing. As you can see, I'm still learning about videoing... don't miss the Adams Family hand that floats over the couch about half way through!
I always find it interesting to meet people who have succeeded in business, and to find out more about their attitudes to their success. In my time as a journalist I have met quite a few successful entrepreneurs and their behaviour has been as varied as their personalities.
Some are brash and loud, the kind of people who would have earned a disdainful sniff from my mother, and a comment of "you can always see new money".
Others, like Will King, the founder of the hugely successful shaving empire the King of Shaves, turn out to be absolute gentlemen, and a pleasure to meet.
When his parents decided to "take me off the payroll," after he finished his degree in Mechanical Engineering, he found a niche for himself in sales and marketing and did very well until the recession hit in the 1990s and he was made redundant.
"It was a traumatic experience," he said. Enough to make him decide then and there that he was going to be master of his own destiny, and to run a business was based on a product that he could sell.
The product which turned out to be the one that would bring him success was a shaving oil. The inspiration came to him when he was watching a girlfriend using baby oil when she shaved her legs and he realised that the oil may be a great way to prevent his sensitive skin from reacting so badly to shaving.
"People said the King of Shaves idea would never fly," he told me, but when you see his passionate belief in his product, you realise that if anyone was going to make it work, it would be Will King.
And, in keping with his royal name, he decided that the first customer that he would persuade to stock his product would be Harrods. Well, why not?
"I got hold of Mohamed Al Fayed's personal fax number," he said. "And eventually persuaded him to buy a small consignment."
That word "eventually" is key. So many would-be entrepreneurs fail because they give up too soon.
"I knew if Harrods stocked it, I could persuade Boots to take it too," he said. And the British pharmacy giant did just that in the following year. Then came Super Drug and Tesco and an endorsement from Will Carling - then British rugby captain - and Target in tne US and a host of stores in Australia and New Zealand. His products are now being launched in Clicks stores in South Africa.
By the end of the '90s, King of Shaves was the number 1 shaving preparation brand. It was a real David and Goliath story, but it wasn't enough for the intrepid Mr King.
"Most men only shave once a day, so our growth could never be exponential," he explained. So he launched a range of men's skin care products and found himself in the vanguard of what was to be a booming trend towards men's grooming.
Next step was the launch of the Azor, his revolutionary razor which is causing more than a few backward glances from the people at Gillette, who have discovered that their top spot in the worldwide shaving market is not quite as secure as it used to be.
Five years in development, the Azor is "the first eco-sensitively manufactured razor" King says. I have my husband and my son trying it out, so watch this space for their reviews.
Will King is also a enthusiastic disciple for social media... twittering as kingofshaves and blogging here. It's a great example of how social media can really be harnessed to increase a company's profile.