Bulldog Natural Grooming: Simon Duffy and Rhodri Ferrier

How an ad exec and investment banker turned chemists to create a range of male grooming products

There was a time when ‘male grooming’ consisted of a shower, a shave and a splash of Old Spice. But according to Bulldog co-founder Simon Duffy, the wheels of change are already in motion.

Bulldog Natural Grooming, founded by Duffy and Rhodri Ferrier, produces personal care products for men, made entirely from natural, organic, ethically sourced ingredients.

The idea came to Duffy during an excursion to a health food store when he was living in New York. “I was in Whole Foods buying organic moisturiser for my wife and I noticed there was nothing for guys,” he recalls.

After conducting research into the natural skincare market, the two friends were convinced that this was a viable business opportunity. However, rather than setting up shop in New York, they decided British soil was where they would start their business. And with a predicted turnover of £1m by the end of the financial year, it seems British men have truly lapped up the offering.

Duffy explains he had a “real impulse to come back home and do it here” for two reasons. On a personal level, he had recently got married and was entertaining thoughts of starting a family, something he’d rather do on home turf. Second, the legal and regulatory landscape around starting a business in the US, especially without holding a green card, is very tricky.

The UK provided an instant advantage. Bulldog didn’t so much enter the market for natural grooming products as create it. “We can’t believe a brand like Bulldog didn’t exist already, as we buy more Fairtrade products in the UK than any other country,” says Duffy.

After quitting their jobs (Duffy at Saatchi and Saatchi and Ferrier at an investment bank), they returned to London as the hard work began. Raising finance was one of the biggest challenges, with the pair facing 70 meetings before coming to an agreement with several high net worth individuals.

Despite not having a chemistry background, Duffy and Ferrier ensured their formulas were cutting edge, but it wasn’t easy. “In the natural products industry, there’s a debate raging about what the exact standards for these products are,” says Duffy.

Bulldog’s big break came when it partnered with Sainsbury’s in a 12-month exclusivity deal. Since its lapse in July, the brand can now be found in Waitrose, Tesco, Superdrug, Debenhams, Ocado, Whole Foods and Planet Organic. Deals with supermarkets are notoriously tough to strike, but senior buyers at Sainsbury’s saw the potential of Bulldog as an alternative to the many men’s lotions and potions on its shelves. “They’re presented with so many ideas, but when you scratch beneath the brand everything is fundamentally the same – it’s just another shampoo or facewash,” says Duffy.

Getting Bulldog stocked on supermarket shelves was just one hurdle, the next was getting men, or their spouses, to buy it. This meant overcoming one of Duffy’s grievances with existing men’s products. “Traditionally, female brands like Nivea or L’Oréal slap on a ‘for men’ badge, add some black and silver, and some daft car speak, then suddenly you’ve got a product for guys. But really, you’ve just got your girlfriend’s brand rebadged,” he complains.

For Duffy, Bulldog’s strength is its inherent masculinity. “We are men talking to men as opposed to women talking to men,” he says. “That’s the difference.”

 

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