An interview with Dr. Shave
We’ve worked with Glasgow-based shaving and grooming supplier Executive Shaving since 2013 and it’s been a great experience getting involved with all kinds of aspects of the business, from email marketing, creating long-form content and recently offering migration consultancy. This month we met up with owner Brian Mulreany and asked him a few probing questions on everything from the challenges of running a small business to the declining popularity of beards.
Can you give a brief summary of your career history to date?
I started off working as a toolmaker at Timex, before moving into financial services where I eventually managed 13 TSB banks with a total of 113 staff. I then moved onto BUPA and my last role there was Sales Director of BUPA Dental Care. When BUPA sold out to the French insurer AXA PPP I was made redundant, but BUPA helped me set up as an Independent Health Insurance Broker and 8 years later AXA PPP bought that business.
You took over Executive Shaving in 2009 – Can you tell us about this?
I wasn’t involved with the brand at all beforehand but my business shared the same SEO experts as Executive Shaving and I heard the owner was thinking of selling. I used some of the proceeds from the sale of my last business and (like Don Corleone) I made the owner an offer he couldn’t refuse!
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
As an online business, keeping pace with technology can be challenging. We’re planning to launch a new site in mid-January 2018 because even though our current website was launched only 2.5 years ago, it’s already out of date.
For example, customer buying habits have changed significantly in the last 2 years. Previously only 12% of visitors to our website used a mobile device, but that has since increased to almost 50%.
On another note, Amazon is a real threat to small businesses like Executive Shaving, because they have the power to drive down prices and cut margins. In the long term they destroy competition by aggressively price undercutting, then when they have put a competitor out of the market they increase their prices.
How did you initially attract customers to the brand and how has that changed as the business has grown?
Initially we relied on our Google listings as we featured highly for the important search terms such as ‘shaving brush’, shaving sets’, ‘shaving cream’ etc. When this started to become tougher we used PPC to drive traffic and around 5 years ago we tried out email marketing which has been really productive for us. We are also active on social media and our YouTube channel is highly successful – one video on how to shave with a safety razor has been viewed almost 700,000 times in 2 years.
You create a number of your own products – what made you decide to do this and why is it important to you?
We really wanted our own brand identity and I had an ambition to develop shaving creams and balms that were better than the existing big brand names. Our shaving creams, soaps and balms are all natural, as well as being colourant, alcohol, and paraben-free. We’re delighted that they get great reviews and high repeat sales.
What are your plans/hopes for the business going forward?
One of our products, the Chieftain Single Edge Razor, has been in development for almost 2 years. At first we struggled to find any firm in Scotland to take the project on, but just as we were thinking of giving up Scottish Enterprise put me in touch with an under the radar firm of precision engineers in Glasgow. They have now produced prototypes for us and we are hoping to launch the product within the next two or three weeks. Assuming the Chieftain sells well, we also have plans to develop our own stainless steel safety razor.
These two new razors should take the business forward to the next level – as far as I know we are the only firm in the UK that is actually manufacturing single and double edge razors.
There’s been a lot of focus on facial hair trends over the last few years – what are your thoughts on that?
I’m of the opinion that we hit ‘peak beard’ in 2016 – this year I have noticed that Movember has been very low-key with barely any press exposure compared to previous years. I’d recommend that if you have a beard you should keep it neat, groomed and clean – or better still, why not keep up with the times and shave it off!
Tell us about Dr. Shave?
Dr. Shave offers our free advice service – generally I fill the role, though occasionally one of my expert colleagues will step in. It’s a major source of income for us and, although it can be a lot of work, it’s really worth our time.
We tend to get asked the same sort of questions on a daily basis, usually along the lines of ‘Why can’t I get a close shave from my Gillette Fusion’ or ‘I get post-shave irritation/razor burn/itchiness/redness etc, can you help me?’ The most frequently asked question is definitely: ‘I’m paying a fortune for razor blades that don’t last, what can I use that will give me a close shave and save me money?’ We always reply by email or telephone and explain the problem and offer solutions.