Do you want to build the business you’ve always dreamed about? Join Simon Duffy (Co Founder of Bulldog and Waken) and Eric Partaker as they discuss what it takes to launch a product and build a brand in today’s environment. Take away tips and insights into how you yourself can join the path to achieving your goals.
You can start now – There’s a certain mindset where people think they have to understand everything about a problem or a business opportunity before they make a start. You don’t need to have all the answers before you start.
You don’t need to be an expert – You don’t need to be a domain expert in almost any part of what you’re doing. You just have to believe that you can be good with people and you can collaborate your way to success, whether that’s through building a great team or hiring great consultants and experts to support your vision.
The formula for success – Innovation is a combination of vision, opportunity and desire.
Think beyond the category – High interest products can perform very well in low interest categories of products.
Be Bold – Have the determination and the confidence to give something a go. You don’t have to be an expert in the category to launch a brand.
Be Determined – And once you’ve given it that go, be determined. Have confidence in yourself. If you think you’re seeing something that other people haven’t seen yet, have the courage to have a crack at something entrepreneurial for a few years.
Eric Partaker: Simon, you are a personal care entrepreneur, extraordinaire. You’ve gone from accounting, to blue chip, to inventing one of the UK’s largest men’s skincare brand, Bulldog Skincare. I think that is doing over a $100 million now, globally, in sales.
Simon Duffy: That’s a lovely introduction, thank you. I actually think the last time I checked in with the team, it’s probably about $150 million worldwide in 35 countries. Been a cool journey, way bigger than perhaps, we thought it might be.
Eric Partaker: And you had a successful exit with that in 2016. I know you sold that to Edgewell Personal Care.
Simon Duffy: Correct.
Eric Partaker: And I know you got some of your background and innovation from Saatchi & Saatchi, and now you’re one of the co-founders of Waken Mouthcare, which I think you started 2019, right?
Simon Duffy: Yes, we started in January, 2019. Launched in November, 2019 in store, over here in the UK.
Eric Partaker: Okay. And you’ve even developed curriculum for the entrepreneurship and innovation section at the New College of the Humanities, right?
Simon Duffy: That was something I really wanted to do. I know I did that for seven years. It was a really cool university concept. They were trying to combine the best bits of the Ivy League in the US and the Oxford, Cambridge tutorial based system over here. But they also wanted to take humanity subjects and make sure that people who left, having studied humanity subjects, more employable. And that’s where entrepreneurship became part of their overall program. And I developed the curriculum and taught that for seven years. And that was seriously cool to have a go at teaching and to try something different and spend time with younger people. Because I think entrepreneurship is such a fascinating and brilliant thing to do, and it is really underserved by the education system. So, that was a personal passion project.
Eric Partaker: Let’s start there. Were you born an entrepreneur?
Simon Duffy: I think I always had an entrepreneurial leaning. I was always trying to come up with schemes to make a little bit of extra pocket money, but I’ve always admired people like the mark Zuckerberg. Maybe he’s an outlaw, but he created something straight out of university. If I look back in to my own personal entrepreneurial journey, I think there were a few formative experiences that got me to the point where I was ready to take it on.
Simon Duffy: I think in my own story, I started in a really conventional job, accountancy in London, as generic as it could possibly have been based on my background. I had the opportunity to go to New Zealand. I thought I’d only go for a year, but I ended up there for five years, worked in Saatchi & Saatchi and started to work on innovation. But I think just taking myself out of my comfort zone, going to a brand new place where nobody knew me was just that thing I think I needed. And it was such a positive, energetic, and practical mindset over there. I think that really rubbed off on me.
Eric Partaker: When I took accountancy courses in university, those were the most dull, worst courses. I hated them. There were few people that I met that were like, “Oh, I can’t wait to get to that accounting class.” But how do you go from something that I think most people would think is quite dry and very un-entrepreneurial to what you’re doing these days? How did that happen?
Simon Duffy: Well, like most people, I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do after university. And I wanted to study history – I studied history at university. So I joined a leading account firm in the UK, which ran a scholarship scheme. I didn’t want to go straight to university. I wanted to travel, so therefore I needed to earn some money before I traveled. So I joined what they called this scholarship scheme. And I joined with the graduates, the big graduate intake following university. And then I was employed by this company during my university holidays, which helped to fund my university. And I finished university, finished three years doing history and thought, what do I do with history? I don’t want to be a history teacher. And I thought accountancy would be a good three years to get some business know-how and experience onto my CV before I really figured it out.
Simon Duffy: But I would say after about six months, it was dry. And I knew it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. It was the wrong place to expend my energy, just straight out of university. So I packed it in, moved to New Zealand and found a job. I think I told my mom I was going for a year, and ended up staying for five and just absolutely loved it. Met my wife in New Zealand. Then the team I was in all moved to New York. So I had another two, two and a half years in New York, which, for similar reasons and different reasons, was also just absolutely awesome. The bars and the energy we great but also, the opportunity to work with some of the biggest and coolest brands in the world on their innovation strategies.
Simon Duffy: That also gave me a little bit of insight and inspiration. They did some things brilliantly, but also, as an innovator, I think you also see the frustrations and how long it can take to get certain decisions. And it gave me the confidence to try this stuff for myself. So after seven and a half years away from home, I moved back to the UK to start Bulldog in 2006. And if I was to think back to where I could have been, if I had decided to stick it out at accountancy, it would be a much poorer existence, I would think. I don’t mean financially. I just mean being unfulfilled, doing something I wouldn’t have loved, but I could easily have seen myself getting trapped into that mindset – living in London, staying with the same friends I knew from school and university and working myself up a big firm. I’m so pleased that I didn’t do that. And I tried to do something else.
Eric Partaker: And I think it’s so inspirational too, because I bet a lot of people listening aren’t entrepreneurs but would like to be entrepreneurs. They might be in a job like accountancy or something else, which is traditionally considered more risk averse and not the entrepreneurial in nature, but you’re definitely breaking the mold and demonstrating that you can completely switch tracks. Personally, was risk aversion a thing for you or did it not really factor in? Was it easy just to assume the risk of starting your own thing?
Simon Duffy: Well, yeah, I think so. I don’t want to be glib about that. I think if you sit down rationally, and try and list out all of the reasons why it doesn’t make sense to start a male skincare company, there’d be so many: resources, big companies, difficult space. It traditionally wasn’t a space that had grown that much before we started. So there’s thousands of reasons to say no, but ultimately you just have to back your conviction. I think you have to think, “I have a vision for where I think this category is going to go and I think enough consumers will see this over time and join this space to make a viable business.” And you just have to make a start.
Eric Partaker: Sorry to jump in, but I just want to pull on this thread a little bit. I’m just curious about your point of view on this. Do you think that, as an entrepreneur, that you view risk in the same way, but you are better at figuring out ways to protect the downside of that risk? Or do you think fundamentally, that you just don’t think things are as risky as the average person views them to be?
Simon Duffy: I think it’s the latter. I think fundamentally, I don’t see it as risky, because I loved my career and I left a really good job and I thought, what is the worst that can happen? I can start a business and it goes bankrupt in two or three years. I’ve had a go at this thing that I’ve always been interested in and perhaps it may disrupt my career. Perhaps I’d be able to plug back into a big agency with all of this additional learning that I’ve had and experience and opportunity to have tried new things. Perhaps I even plugged back to a conventional job, higher up the ladder anyway. Seriously, what’s the downside? Perhaps there’s a bigger risk waking up at 45 or 50, having always wanted to try something and then just thinking, “Oh, it’s too late because I’m trapped into a mortgage or I’m supporting a big family at this point.”
Simon Duffy: So I really thought it’s now or never. In my personal life, I was reaching a point having lived away from home for seven years, thinking what country am I going to live in? And I had a girlfriend who I wanted to propose to, that I wanted to have a family with. So I thought, at this point I’m 26, 27, 28, we really should get started on this because I have a window of time where we can scrimp and live in bed-sits. I lived on a building site for a bit, but you can’t really do that when you’ve got kids.
Simon Duffy: So I did feel, “Come on, man, you have to give this a go. You’re running out of time if you want to try this.” So that was an incentive to try. The other thing I’d say is, the number of people in, let’s call them conventional jobs, that I’ve met while I’ve done Bulldog and while I’m doing Waken who say, “Hey, can I come and talk with you?” It could be friends, could be people that just get in touch. I always try and make myself available.
Simon Duffy: I’ve got this idea. They’ve got brilliant ideas, but more often than not, they are great ideas. And the number of people I think I’ve met who have great ideas, who don’t even make a start. I think partly, it’s just about having the courage and your conviction to say, “I’m going to put down tools or my career for a year, and give this a go for a year. Sprint at this, see how much I can do and then make a decision: Do I want to stick with this? I don’t want to be too proud to pack something in that isn’t working and go back to what I was doing before, but most people don’t even make a start. So that is such a sad fact.
Eric Partaker: And I think this is a really important insight that we’re talking about here. Again, somebody listening right now could probably be thinking that well, yeah, the reason I haven’t started something is because I can’t figure out how to make it less risky. As an entrepreneur I can totally relate to what you’re saying as well. It wasn’t that I was good at de-risking things. It was more that I didn’t perceive the risk to be as big as the average person perceives it to be. I think that’s far more powerful, because what we’re actually talking about there is that, you have a belief that even if that happens, that you’ll just pick yourself back up, right?
Simon Duffy: Yeah.
Eric Partaker: Instead of trying to only move if you can eliminate all of that from happening.
Simon Duffy: That is so right. And I also think you’ve got a risk from a slightly different perspective. There’s a certain mindset where people think they have to understand everything about a problem or a business opportunity before they make a start. And I think that totally misses the point. I think you need to make a start, create a concept, and get it into market to really start the learning. You’ve got so much rich insight when you actually start, that’s the period where you should be really learning. Too many people try to do too much research and take too much time to de-risk success. That misses the point.
Simon Duffy: You need to do enough to get going with a sense of purpose, but then you’ve really got to open your eyes, really learn, really try and understand what’s working or isn’t, to perfect your proposition. So you don’t need to have all the answers before you start. And also, you don’t need to be a domain expert in almost any part of what you’re doing. I think you just have to believe that you can be good with people and you can collaborate your way to success, whether that’s through building a great team, or like, when we did with Bulldog, identifying consultants, third parties, companies that you can work with to take a big complex problem, break it down into lots of different bits and then find experts to work with, to solve all of those little bits and roll it up into something that works.
Eric Partaker: Yeah. That’s the thing that I’ve always comforted myself with is that no matter what venture I want to start or new thing that I want to do, that I almost think of it as: matter is neither created nor destroyed. And in the sense that all the expertise that I need, to make whatever this business a flying success, it already exists. It exists within people, books, knowledge out there. And so the only thing that we need to do as entrepreneurs, is be the masterful coach or orchestrator or conductor and find it all, stitch it all two together, and make it work.
Simon Duffy: It’s like getting the right people to do the right things at the right time. That’s what you’ve got to do. Yeah.
Eric Partaker: So, okay, very cool. So Bulldog, just describe for those that don’t know Bulldog, what were its main products? What were you doing there?
Simon Duffy: We made brilliant, naturally formulated, sustainably manufactured skincare products for men. Laterally, we’ve also added razors and blades, deodorant, shower gels, but it all started off in skincare. We wanted to compete with the likes of Nivea and L’Oréal to really affect change in this category. Hitherto, this was a category that perhaps, only about 15% of men were using skincare versus 80 or 90% of women. So something wasn’t working with these massive, established brands and companies. The idea with Bulldog was to bring sustainable and natural thinking to the male skincare space. But to do it in a way that would attract men into this category for the first time. So we did that through simplifying and demystifying this space for people that hadn’t used these products before. Often, wellness entrepreneurs take a category that is working and then just offer an eco alternative to a behavior that is understood.
Simon Duffy: And that’s a brilliant thing to do. I think the challenge with Bulldog was a bit different because the category wasn’t really working. Part of our job was to attract new people into this space for the first time. So that was something that we did. The idea for it came in New York. Annabel, my wife, sent me out to Whole Foods to get a skincare product for her. I loved Whole Foods, it was cool, vibrant, full of all this stuff that I was interested in, natural and sustainable, but it was a real buzzy energetic place. I went to the Union Square store, December, 2005, it was freezing cold, to get this naturally formulated skincare product for her. And I thought, I’m going to get moisturizer for myself. I couldn’t find it, so I asked the Whole Foods shop team “Where is your male skincare section?” They replied, “Oh, we don’t have one.”
Simon Duffy: And I was like, “Oh, that’s interesting. So what do you do when men want skincare products?” And they said, “Well, we recommend this product from Alater or this product from Kiss My Face.” They’re typically female brands. And I thought: there’s a gap in the market here, no one is doing this. If it’s not in New York City, in Whole Foods, maybe it doesn’t exist. And then with my friend, Roger, who was my business partner in Bulldog and is my business partner in Waken, spent that first six months for trying to validate. There’s a gap in the market here, but is there a market in the gap? And could we create products in a way where we could make a business out of this space? What would that involve?
Simon Duffy: And we were doing that while we were both working, and then it got to the point where we had to commit to this. This is really exciting. Let’s just do this. Let’s raise some money. We moved back to the UK, got it going, found a factory and started speaking to retailers June, 2007. Six products started in Sainsbury’s, which is a big grocer over here, for the first time. And we worked from there.
Eric Partaker: We’re going to get to Waken, what you’re currently doing, in a moment, but just sticking with Bulldog. Because to me, this feels like it really was your entrepreneurial training ground, and that being the case, there was probably a much higher percentage of mistakes in that experience than there is Waken. So what were your most valuable mistakes during the Bulldog time?
Simon Duffy: We didn’t get our packaging right. So we had three or four goals that I think, optimizing the presentation to consumers and really understanding what was working. But back to what I was saying before, that was always the idea as well, to get these products going and then to learn as we go. So if you did a focus group, which is how big consumer products companies think about innovation, why aren’t men using skincare? I doubt a single person would’ve said, “Yes, but if there was a naturally formulated one named after a dog, I would definitely give it a go.” No one is saying that. So you are making a bit of a leap, but the downside of changing your packaging is, you are itching to do it, because it’s a better way of communicating your features and benefits and values and purpose to consumers, but it leaves a big warehouse full of obsolete stock.
Simon Duffy: So that was quite an expensive change to make. I think we also weren’t focused enough when we started. We started with six products, but that included a shower gel, a shampoo, shaving, skincare. I think we worked out, before we could go broad, we had to really win and create something that had real momentum in just one product category. So after a couple of years we decided, let’s really focus on skincare. So for us, that meant moisturizer and face wash. So men who were a bit cynical about skincare said “This is not for me.” We would say, don’t worry about everything else, just try these two steps. Wash your face, moisturize your face. It takes about the same time to do that, as it does to brush your teeth. You definitely have time. And if you just make this small, positive step, your skin will thank you over the long term. You’ll start to have healthier skin.
Simon Duffy: So that added a lot of focus to the business. And with that came economies of scale and we were able to improve our cost profile. That meant we could invest more. I think what I’d wished I’d done with Bulldog was to recruit experts into the team more quickly. I think Roger and I were a bit guilty of trying to do everything ourselves, not really finding quickly enough the right balance between what bit should we do ourselves, and what bit should we put people in who are frankly, better than us and get better at building a team and delegating.
Simon Duffy: So I think that was a learning thing for both of us, but partly that was to do with resource. We raised about a million pounds, which sounds like a lot of money, but for professional people that are involved in investing in brands, it’s a tiny amount of money to launch a brand with. And that was pretty much the only fundraising we ever did. So we really set ourselves the challenge of figuring out how to make Bulldog profitable and scaling within our own means. So we didn’t build a huge team or have huge marketing ahead of sales. We generated everything through figuring out a profitable model and then scaling a profitable model.
Eric Partaker: Beautiful. And so entrepreneurship and innovation, obviously they go hand in hand, which is most certainly why that was the curriculum you developed during the seven years that you were quite enamored with when you were teaching. So is there a formula for innovation?
Simon Duffy: I don’t know if there’s a formula where scientifically, do this, do this, do this and you always get an answer. But one of the things that we taught at The New College of the Humanities was, it’s a combination of vision, opportunity and desire. So if you can imagine a Venn diagram with three overlapping circles, you’re really looking for your brand idea to sit in the middle of those three circles. And we spent time during that university period unpacking what that meant. And what I mean by that is, you’ve got the founder’s vision. What are you trying to do? What are you trying to do that’s different? What are you anticipating? You’ve got the category opportunity. Where is the gap in the market? You’re trying to understand the role that you can play. Meaningful differentiation is I think what you’re looking for there. It’s one thing to be different to the category, but you need to be different and relevant.
Simon Duffy: You need to be doing something that people are going to want to support financially. And then it’s consumer desire. Do people actually want to buy this? And the best brands sit at that confluence between vision, opportunity and desire. So if there’s a formula, at least to defining what you’re doing, that would be part of it. And then I think, you need to hit it with discipline and determination. It’s not a formula, but I think a success factor is tenacity, not giving up and work ethic. And then I think you also have to be a great collaborator: good with people so that you can work out what you’re not good at and then work out people that you can work with, to get it done. And then I think you have to be flexible, nimble and not too proud, because you’re developing something which you’re really proud of. And you have to be totally prepared to listen and understand, what’s working, what isn’t and then change it as you go. So I’m not quite sure whether that’s a formula, but those would be I think, common factors that would help with the process.
Eric Partaker: I like it. And as you were talking, I was thinking about going back to my Skype days, when we were building the app before we sold it to eBay. So the vision was: the whole world can talk for free.
Simon Duffy: Yeah.
Eric Partaker: The opportunity was there. There wasn’t a good voiceover IP client with video on the market at the time. Desire: do people want to talk for free? Yeah.
Simon Duffy: Yeah.
Eric Partaker: So it’s tick, tick, all there. It passes the Skype test. So you built Bulldog, then sold it to Edgewell Personal Care. Did you already have Waken in mind? Or how did that happen?
Simon Duffy: I did not have Waken in mind when we sold Bulldog. I was a hundred percent focused on Bulldog, and in the run up to the sale, I’d spent a lot of time in America. At that point, we were the number one men’s brand in that Whole Foods’ natural specialty channel. I’d been in Chicago with Walgreens, Minneapolis with Target, all over the place. And I was building out opportunities to cross over into food, drug and mass in America, which was hugely exciting. And we were starting to worry about our capacity to supply and all the operational parts. We were building a bigger business than we could support. So it was an opportunity that these big companies started to look to partner with us and we thought it was the right thing to do with the brand.
Simon Duffy: But I was myopic on Bulldog, really. And then I had these two great years working with the folks at Edgewell, taking Bulldog around the world. We went from 12 to 35 countries. It was a cool thing to do, but I was itching to do something else. And I remember walking around big retailers all over the world, and people can do that themselves, it wasn’t really a data led approach to finding a new territory. We would just walk around stores and go, right, this category has been done. There’s some really cool, interesting disruptive brands in there. This category has been done. And then you got to mouthwash and it was like, wow, this is a huge category that I think has looked the same for 20 years.
Simon Duffy: And it’s the same in Target, it’s the same in Carrefour, it’s the same in Boots, in the UK. And then I looked at mouthwash and I was like, “Oh, that’s interesting. No one’s doing anything interesting in mouthwash.” And then I started to look at some of the data, just stuff that’s ready available on the internet. And it’s vast, compared to when we started within skincare, I think I said something like 20% of men, use male skincare products and that’s going up, but it’s about 20%. Mouth wash is used by 50% of adult men and adult women. Toothpaste is used by 95%. Then dental is a fast, fast category. And then things that personally interested to me, sustainability, natural ingredients, beautiful design.
Simon Duffy: This category is bereft of environmental thinking, beauty is being transformed by sustainable brands, indie brands, natural ingredients. You cannot enter a store without tripping over about 10 brands that are on this space. And that’s brilliant, because that’s where the world needs to go. In the Dental space, take a typical Colgate toothpaste tube: the way that’s formulated, that’s going straight to landfill. Those products are not recycled. It’s one and a half billion of those do not get recycled, but purchased in America, every year. It’s like, 300 million in the UK. A typical mouthwash bottle has black plastic caps that don’t get recycled. So it’s a category that is not thinking about the environment. Another example is mint. Mint is the go-to flavor in dental. There’s not a single major dental brand that uses real mint. It’s completely artificial mint.
Eric Partaker: Really?
Simon Duffy: Yeah. So I was thinking, you just could not get away in beauty with how the dental brands are offering consumers products. Everything’s synthetic, nothing is sustainable. And the other thing is, they’re just so ugly. So, when I moved to a different house in 2017, I was unpacking my bathroom. And this is again what was stimulating me to think about mouthwash. I had this old mouthwash, where you’d drink it out of the cup, then put the cup on. All the mouthwash would sort of smear down the shoulders of the bottle. It got dusty. It was so disgusting. And I think a lot of the time, people hide these products away like headache pills. And when they feel like they’ve got an issue, they reach for the mouthwash that sits at the back of the bathroom cabinet.
Simon Duffy: We thought, what if we could create these products that are just so beautiful, that you want to display them on your bathroom cabinet? Wouldn’t that be cool? People are at home so much more now as a result of the changes in work habits, brought about by the lockdowns and all that sort of stuff. Bathrooms have become havens. People think about them as their Instagram studios. Create eight products that are really hard working, brilliant, effective dental products, but just make them beautiful. That seems so obvious, but it was just so lacking in dental. So it just felt like wow, low interest category, and we just need to make high interest products. And I think that’s the thing. I hate it when people say, “Oh, it’s a low interest product.” I said, “No. It’s the fault of the major brands, that they’ve made this category, low interest.” Let’s make high interest products that people can really get behind and feel excited by, for the first time in that space. And that’s what we’re trying to do with Waken.
Eric Partaker: Love it. I absolutely love it, because there’s a couple of different… So you’d gone from accountancy…
Simon Duffy: Yeah.
Eric Partaker: …which people consider quite dull. To entrepreneurship. You have proven that that can be done. And then, you’ve taken what nobody even thinks of, frankly, as a category, and said, “Look, this can be shaken up. And not only that, but it needs to be shaken up.” Because the fact that these big brands don’t have anybody challenging them, all the artificial ingredients, the massive carbon footprint, the single use plastic that you’re talking about. Nobody is doing anything. And these are high usage products, meaning that there is a lot of stuff that’s going into landfill because we consume it so often, right?
Simon Duffy: Yeah. People are looking for ways that they can be more sustainable and sympathetic to the planet. You see that with avoiding meat, from vegans to just people who just have a couple of meat-free days. And I think the brands that you support on your products that you use every day, is just a great way to do that. Everybody should be brushing their teeth every day. If you just opt for aluminum tubes that can be recycled. If you just opt for a product that is just a little bit better, and everybody did that, that would make a huge impact when it’s all rolled up. It feels like a little thing, but it’s the same behavior as walking rather than taking your car, or dodging meat for a couple of days, or perhaps taking one less flight.
Simon Duffy: It’s just, all of these small things matter. One other thing we saw at Bulldog. We launched a bamboo razor and now we’ve got a razor where the handle is made from recycled glass, from beer bottles. And all of the packaging was in cardboard. Again, that sounds really obvious. But if you cast your mind to how you imagine this razor blade shelf, everything’s plastic, and then the handle is on a plastic sleigh that’s wrapped in this plastic oyster pack, which is almost impossible to open. It’s plastic, plastic, plastic, plastic. So we were the first brand to launch a sort of bamboo and metal razor in cardboard. It was dramatically less plastic. And we’re still not a massive brand when it comes to shaving. But you go to the supermarkets now, and every single brand like Gillette; all of their packaging is in cardboard.
Simon Duffy: We were the first brand to do that. And I think you can almost tip the much bigger companies into thinking more sustainably and offering consumers more sustainable products, just by being a thought leader in the space. There needs to be a thought leader, to charm, ferment, and precipitate positive change. At Waken, it will take a long time for us to be a meaningful share player. But by creating these high interest products that offer people something different, we can nudge the bigger companies to more positive behavior. And that would be brilliant, because it’s a learning problem at the moment, the lack of sustainability in this particular part of personal care, because they’re products that people use morning and evening, versus other products and they’re so fundamental to teeth health. So, hopefully we trigger a bit more action and urgency in some other people too.
Eric Partaker: Yeah. Absolutely. And I just want to underscore the point, again, people who are listening, if you use mouthwash, you’ve got to try this product. Try Waken mouthwash, because you literally will be helping the planet by doing so, and perhaps find a new product that you like better as well. Now, Simon, somebody listening can be like, “Oh, okay. Yeah, but Simon’s not like me. He’s just a serial entrepreneur, he’s just hitting home run after home run.” You had some great success, but I’m sure you’ve had plenty of down moments too. So can you take us through your most recent example of discomfort, professionally or something that didn’t make you feel all that great, a bit of a knockdown perhaps?
Simon Duffy: Well, the big challenge that we’ve had at Waken is partly timings. We launched in November, 2019, and in March the world changed. And it’s exactly the wrong time to be a niche, natural, sustainable product into these big retailers, because rightly so, these retailers are focused on feeding families very quickly, doing everything online, having massively less people in their businesses, and having less store hours. So there was definitely a period where we just weren’t getting any orders. That was a bit daunting. I think there’s been some times with Waken, where we under emphasized some important things on the first iterations of the products. We haven’t really told the story of mint, like these intensely refreshing natural mints. I think for our core consumer, I think what we’re learning is, we’re absolutely resonating brilliantly, but to perhaps take away some barriers for a broader audience, who are perhaps more wedded to the traditional brands, we need to tell our efficacy story a bit better.
Simon Duffy: It’s a bit hard to discover on the pack. So the way that we launched the product, we could have done that better. And we are way behind on our plan now, in terms of where we thought we’d be selling. So as any entrepreneur is now doing, we are keeping a tight view on cash and making sure that we are going to be able to get this into enough places to do it in a way that means we can sustain our business. I can tell you at the moment, the big challenge is internationally. I thought we would be in a lot more places around the world, but ongoing challenges on shipping containers, and the costs associated with that being so much higher is making the whole business development challenge a lot harder. And within the team, we’ve got experts doing our supply chain and formulation, and marketing and influencer marketing.
Simon Duffy: And the bit that I personally am taking on is going to all of the retailers that I know, internationally from the Bulldog period, where we were expanding to all these countries and get Waken listing. And I thought I’d have done a much better job at that, in terms of having more international distribution more quickly, based on the head start that perhaps I have through historical conversations, but I’ve just not delivered on a few things that I was confident that I was going to do. I’m totally learning and very aware of my own failings when it comes to reviewing everybody’s progress within the team, but I just keep chipping away. We’ve got a few exciting things coming. We’re launching in Korea. We’re launching in Singapore. We are hopefully launching in Australia. So we are making some headway now. It’s definitely been a bit lean, versus where I thought we would be.
Eric Partaker: Very exciting though. Very exciting. So just to wrap up here, what would you say is one thing that you believe, that few others believe as well?
Simon Duffy: Well, I think that you can make this dental category, high interest, I think for the first time. People shop on autopilot. It’s the same brands that our parents, probably our grandparents would’ve bought. And it absolutely baffles me, why it’s not a huge focus for entrepreneurs and other big companies around the world to try and bring the trends that you see in beauty and other places, to this space. So perhaps the one thing is, I just see an opportunity for cool, independent, natural, and sustainable brands to get to scale in this space, perhaps it’s that.
Eric Partaker: Yeah. And here’s probably plenty of other categories that, if people just open their eyes, look around, as you did, just walk through a store, walk around your neighborhood. What looks the same? What hasn’t changed for a very long time? Because it sounds very much that, that’s what you did. You walked through the stores, walked through the aisles and said, “Okay, well what needs a change here? What needs vibrancy? What needs a fresh perspective?
Simon Duffy: Yeah. I was looking for a huge, but entirely boring and stagnant category. Something that, where there hasn’t been anything interesting for 10 years, and that’s a good place to start. If you are starting in female skincare, then it’s a very vibrant, innovative led, hugely cool area. And I love it, but there’s a lot going on. Perhaps one of the things you might want to do is, find a space where there isn’t very much going on. Things have been the same and the big companies are really doing everything they can to keep it that way. And that’s where you can be really disruptive.
Eric Partaker: Okay. And then last question, a little bit more fundamental. If you could just share one success secret with the world, something that you believe would help unlock people’s potential, help them become part of that 2%, reflecting on your own life and experiences, what would that be?
Simon Duffy: It would be determination and the confidence to give something a go. I really want to emphasize, that when we started Bulldog, and then later when we started Waken, I am not an expert in male skincare and with dental. I am not a dentist. And you are up against huge companies that hold all the cards and you just have to give it a go. And once you’ve given it that go, be determined. Have confidence in yourself. If you believe that there’s an opportunity and that you see the world a bit different and you can anticipate where you think this category will be in five years, in 10 years, if you think you’re seeing something that other people haven’t seen yet, just back yourself, have the courage to quit your job and just have a crack at something entrepreneurial for a few years. And as we were talking before, there is risk associated with that. But I think the bigger risk is that, you find yourself 20 years from now, just wishing that you’d done something a bit braver and you took the safe option.
Eric Partaker: Better to have tried and failed, than to never have tried at all, right?
Simon Duffy: A hundred percent. I would totally agree with that.
Eric Partaker: Wonderful Simon, super, super happy to have you on the show today. Love all the little gems that we uncovered there, and I’m sure people find it very, very valuable. And yeah. Thanks for coming on to the show.
Simon Duffy: Thank you so much for having me. That’s been good.
Eric Partaker: See you later.
Simon Duffy: Cheers.
Eric Partaker: I know you’re going to absolutely love my next interview with Philip Stutz. You can find it right here. Just check it out, click there. This is a man who helped win three presidential elections. You’re going to want to check out that discussion. I’ll see you there. Click the link.