Will King, King of Shaves
It’s been a roller coaster ride for Will King, the founder of shaving products business King of Shaves, which experienced considerable highs and lows since it was started nearly 30 years ago. It now has a turnover of £4 million and employs 10 people.
- What was the inspiration for your business?
I had always had trouble shaving because I have sensitive skin and the razor would leave my face itchy and bleeding. One day my girlfriend suggested that I put some bath oil on my skin before shaving to see if would make a difference. It felt fantastic, so when I was made redundant from my job with an events company, I decided to create a shaving oil that would solve the problem of razor burn for other people too. I bought a selection of exotic and essential oils from an aromatherapy shop and mixed them together to create a shaving oil and filled 10,000 bottles by hand. Then I cold-called the owner of Harrods and persuaded him to stock my product.
- How did you finance the growth of your business?
I started the business with £17,500 borrowed from two friends and my parents and a £10,000 loan through the government’s loan guarantee scheme. I financed the growth of the business through invoice discounting, and between 2009-12 we raised £1 million from our customers through a Shaving Bond, which was paid back in full.
- What has been the most difficult or challenging part of growing your business?
Deciding to enter the razor market with our Azor (2008) and Hyperglide (2014) razors and compete against the global brand Gillette despite us only being a small company. I wanted to, and did, bring genuine competition into the razor market but I perhaps bit off more than I could chew. It took over a disproportionate amount of focus in the business and trying to deliver on something that ultimately didn’t quite get over the line took a lot out of me personally; I stepped down as CEO in 2014 but remain a director and the largest shareholder. Silver lining: We did sell patents we owned for a lot of money a few years later.
- What has been the impact of the pandemic on your business?
It has had quite a big effect - sales were about 30% down at one point but they are now coming back up. Men have been shaving a lot less during lockdowns – they all got smellier and hairier and lazier but now their wives and partners are saying hang on a minute, you need to up your game a bit as the world opens up.
- What key lesson have you learnt about setting up and growing a business?
If you are creating a product then it has got to solve a problem or provide a solution, and it needs to have a purpose. I think that is why King of Shaves is still here after all these years - because people still love our shaving oil, and they like the fact that we are now leading the way with our refillable packaging and our responsible, environmentally friendly approach.
- What has been your biggest mistake?
Listening to people I shouldn’t have listened to and trusting people I shouldn’t have trusted. Stepping outside of my core competencies and trying to do things that I probably wasn’t qualified to do. I should have just kept on doing what I was doing.
- What has been the secret of your success so far?
A continuing belief in what the business is doing and why it is doing it, and the fact that our products are genuinely loved, bought and used by hundreds of millions of people.
- What advice would you give an entrepreneur just starting out about how to grow their business?
Impossible is nothing; just do it - with purpose.
- What personal quality or characteristic has been most useful to you as an entrepreneur as you grow your business?