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Simon Duffy

Simon-Duffy-100Simon Duffy founded Bulldog, a natural skincare brand for men, six years ago in the UK. The business has now grown to selling products in 10,000 stores in 12 countries including Big W and Woolworths in Australia and last year it turned over $4.5 million. He talked to SmartCompany about metrosexuals, manufacturing through collaboration and how to land a contract with a major supermarket.

Co-founder and co-owner: Bulldog

Age: 36

Based: London

I had a lightbulb moment in Wholefoods in New York as there were natural skincare products for women and babies but none for men.

90% of women are using a moisturiser and only 20% of men so it is fast growth off a small base with big potential.

Metrosexual is a word that I hate, I just think more and more men are taking care of themselves. I think it is ultimately about self-improvement and I think self-improvement is something most Australian men can understand.

We were ambitious from the start and raised £1 million to start-up. We did not want to start small. We really wanted to take on L’Oreal, Nivea and Gillette.

We went in with a business plan to raise the money and spoke to high net worth individuals to try to persuade them to invest. We probably had 100 meetings and we now have 18 investors.

My business partner Rhodri Ferrier has a financial background and mine was in advertising so we complement each other, but it was really that we were good friends.

The initial conversations with Sainsbury’s [Bulldog’s first major stockist in the UK] were the hardest as we had to convince them that as individuals we could pull it off.

You need to have something unique. You can’t turn up and offer something which is more or less what the retailers already have.

Once you get an opportunity to work with someone you need to build a relationship for big retailers to get behind you. They are not just buying into the product; they are buying into the people behind it.

Our model is one of collaboration with lots of different people. We only have four people in our head office and we probably collaborate with 50 different companies.

Businesses can no longer hide from consumers, how businesses put products together is powered by Twitter and people researching products online. I think that’s true of every industry.

In male skincare we are seeing really fast growth, not just from younger consumers but every generation will be more prone to using these products. Men are more worried than ever before about ageing, wrinkles and grey hairs and more pressures in the workplace. The overall trend is that more and more men are using these products than ever before.

My bathroom is like a bombsite of 200 different shower gels and whatever we are working on at the time. It infuriates my wife and in our dream house one day I will have my own bathroom.

In the UK we will be the third biggest male skincare brand after Nivea and L’Oreal in 2013 so we will be outselling Gillette’s male skincare. We would like to recreate that in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Spain and South Korea.

Internationally we are happy with the number of countries we are in so we won’t try to open new markets in the next three years. The focus is on everywhere Bulldog is sold now, getting it humming.

Animal safety is a big issue. To sell your products in China you have to have animal testing data to satisfy testing requirements but within the UK it will be soon illegal to sell or market products tested on animals anywhere in the world.

Cara Waters

SmartCompany editor

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Cara Waters is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter at the Financial Times website FT Adviser in London and she also worked for The Sunday Times in London.