Created in 1993 in Will King’s kitchen after he had been made redundant from his marketing job, King of Shaves is a remarkable start-up success story.
It has grown to become the UK’s second-largest brand of shaving software that can be found on the shelves of many of the country’s leading supermarkets and stores. King of Shaves products are also available in the US, Australia and New Zealand. So what advice does Will offer to start-ups?
“The world is an unforgiving place right now, so whatever type of business you’re starting up – it must be great. Think long and hard about what it is you want to do, and why.
I started King of Shaves with a shaving oil to solve sensitive skin problems. It was an amazing niche product that soon generated fabulous word-of-mouth recommendations – and now King of Shaves has millions of product users. With social media being so easily used to spread the good (or the bad) word, there really is no room for average.”
“You’ve also got to trust your instinct. Many people may rail against your idea, because you’ve had it, not them. They’ll tell you all the reasons in the world why it won’t work, but if it works for you – why not others?”
“Starting a business can make you feel lonely, so find a friend who’s supportive of you and your business. All the great entrepreneurs had great supporters (Jobs had Wozniak, Gates had Ballmer, the list goes on). Involve your friends, family – but also listen to voices of reason – people who’ve been there, done that. A problem shared is a problem halved, and even though you may lose some equity – way better to have 50% of something than 100% of nothing.”
“Do it differently. Almost everything I do at King of Shaves involves us ‘zagging’ while our competitors ‘zig’. Don’t do things differently for the sake of it, but you can embrace new and alternative ways easier than your (often larger) competitors. I got King of Shaves into social media and ‘digital dialogue’ with our customers via Facebook and Twitter back in 2007 – a lifetime ago.”
“Do you set up a business that fits in with the way you want to live or one that you set out to grow and one day sell for a good return? These are two different business models. You’ll never become a ‘gazillionaire’ owning one coffee shop, but if you have the vision to turn it into Starbucks, well – you may make a few quid. Be clear about the scalability of your business – its potential.”
“What about start-up funding? Banks are pretty ‘no-go’ right now, so search out alternatives such as peer-to-peer lending, invoice discounting, angel investors or even try to connect directly with your customers and get them to help you. I started King of Shaves with £15,000 from two investors, both of whom are still in the business (and very happy with their investment 19 years on). You don’t need millions, but you do need a genius idea.”
“So, in the words of Nike and Adidas: Impossible is Nothing; Just Do It. Many don’t, but those who dare – win.”