Q. What strategies would you recommend to a sole trader looking to start their own business? (Amira Jindi, East Kent College)
A. You need to determine if your business is a ‘lifestyle’ business – ie – it can fund your lifestyle, or if it is a ‘growth’ business that might scale into a bigger business and need more money. It’s important that your business has the opportunity to grow, especially if it’s a product based business that needs to be used by thousands of people to make enough money. You must do something you really enjoy doing, as your passion will show in how the business is regarded by customers. Try and pick a business that can capitalise on trends – for example meat free, vegan food is big now, as are business that are selling sustainable products or lifestyles. You wouldn’t want to start a business selling plastic straws now, but 10-20 years ago that would have been fine. Research your market, ask customers what they are looking to buy, wanting to buy and needing to buy. Selling things that people ‘want’ rather than ‘need’ will hopefully give you better profit margins.
Q. What were key motivators behind your success? (Flynn McKennon, Millfield)
A. Firstly, solving a problem that existed for me. I suffered from razor burn, I’d studied engineering, and knew that oil was a good lubricant. I researched natural oils used in aromatherapy, read books, and blended a shaving oil solution that alleviated my razor burns. Then, I persisted! I couldn’t afford to have my shaving oil bottles, so spent two weeks hand filling 10,000 bottles in my kitchen, which were then supplied to Harrods and Boots. The shaving oil product was very different to chemical based cans of shaving foam and shaving gel, they were very portable and as soon as people realised they worked, they recommended them to other people. The business then grew organically, as more and more people tried the products.
Q. What is your favourite razor? (Alex, Millfield)
A. I use either our K5 five bladed razor, or our K4 four bladed razor. Pretty much all razors are very good these days, but the choice of the shaving oil, serum, gel or cream is important. We are the ‘shaving software’ that powers the ‘shaving hardware’.
Q. What is the most valuable trait for an entrepreneur to have? (Charlie Powell, Millfield)
A. To be honest, there are two: passion and persistence. You must love what you are doing as, in the early days things are hard and it’s easier dealing with long hard days if you love what you’re doing. Secondly it has to be persistence. Keep going when others stop. Many runners might start a race, but there is only one winner. If you can keep going when others give up, you will be left with a small field of competitors and stand a good chance of succeeding.
Q. In your opinion, is it worth going to University? (Henry Palmer, Millfield)
A. I would say “Yes”. Only you are responsible for completing a course of study and university is a good indicator of your ability to stick at things and succeed in them. However, it’s important to study the right subject that you enjoy and that may have some future relevance for your career. I studied Mechanical Engineering, which helped me many years later when it came to designing products and filing patents. However, there is no point studying just for the sake of studying – many entrepreneurs start University but then drop out if they have a good idea. A good education and knowledge of language and numbers is very helpful, of course.
Q. Once you established your USP, how did you launch into the marketplace? (Oliver Kalugin, Leicester College)
A. The original King of Shaves shaving oil product was very different to other conventional shaving preparation products. I used my skills in selling that I had learned on previous jobs to secure meetings at Harrods and Boots, and over many months convinced the buyers that they were taking a very small commercial risk in stocking my products and that I believed that the customers would love the products and return to buy them. After many meetings, I got listings in Harrods and Boots. Sales grew over the first five years, entirely down to people recommend the products and we exceeded £1M in sales. However, if the product had been the same as other products, and I hadn’t taken had the differentiation, I think that the outcome would have been very different. In any marketplace, it’s essential to have a product that is different, superior, and better at satisfying customer desires than your competitors. When you have ‘King’ in your product name, you have to be the best, and 26 years later, I still believe our shaving products are the best.
Q. Is it hard taking risks, and how do you know if the risks will be worthwhile? (Aggie Waldron, Millfield)
A. Of course it’s hard to take risks, especially if you don’t know if you’ll be rewarded with success or failure! If we knew taking risks would result in success, everyone would be an Entrepreneur! The best way to decide whether to take a risk is to use a four part rule and ask yourself if your product is:
- Priced for Profit
- Priced for Sale
- Unique (No one has it)
- Desirable (Everyone will have it)
When you look at our shaving oil, you can see that it satisfied all of these categories and therefore stood a good chance of being trialled. So, if you are looking at a sandwich shop, there is no pont selling the same sandwiches as other competitors – you need to differentiate with ‘type’ of sandwich (like Subway) or ‘freshness’ (like Pret a Manger). If you do the same as others are doing, you will struggle to differentiate your business.
Q. What strategies could you use to sell a higher priced product? (Marc Cano, Millfield)
A. OK, so margin is very important, but the higher priced things are, the fewer people are likely to buy them. So, if you are selling higher priced items, they must be visibly and demonstrably superior to other products or services. Many companies try to build up a ‘brand’ that separates their offer from another offer. This can take a long time. But, the more value you add into your product or service, the easier it is to use, the better it performs, the longer it lasts – the more you can charge for it.
Q. Do you have any brilliant tips on increasing sales through marketing on social media? (Matt Trutie de Varreux, Millfield)
A. Although I founded King of Shaves 26 years ago, I still maintain a founder ‘presence’ on social media, and have oversight of our company Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts. When people realise they are being replied to by a ‘Founder’ they are not only impressed, but trust the authenticity and honesty of the company or product. Use Twitter for customer service, use Instagram to display how great your products or business looks and Facebook to create a community dialogue and discussion. If I can still do it aged 54 – you can too!
Q. How old were you when you stared your first business? (Lisa, East Kent College)
Find out more: www.kingofshaves.com