Startups 100: where are they now? Wild

Charlie Bowes-Lyon, co-founder of Wild, tells us how appearing on the Startups 100 Index helped the sustainable startup gain legitimacy as one of the UK’s most exciting new businesses.

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Wild reached our top 30 in 2021’s Startups 100 Index, and we always knew the refillable natural deodorant startup was destined for great things the minute we came across their application.

Just over one year old at the time, Wild had already amassed over 200,000 followers on social media, as well as 5,500 five star reviews on Trustpilot.

Fast forward to 2022 and the eco-friendly company has been very busy. From closing a £5 million investment round back in February, to releasing one of the ads of the year (if not, in our opinion the century) in collaboration with the charity Polar Bears International.

And if that wasn’t enough, there have been whispers of a brand new product launch, although Charlie Bowes-Lyon kept his lips firmly sealed on the matter when we sat down to talk with him a few weeks ago.

What we did discuss however, was Wild’s ambitions for the future, what he believes the government could do to support sustainable businesses, and why featuring in the Startups 100 was an important component of their continued success.

wild product

Saving the world can be fun

Founded in 2019, Wild’s vision has always been to make sustainability less of a chore, and more of a fun experience for consumers.

Since featuring in the Startups 100 Index last year, founders Charlie Bowes-Lyon and Freddy Ward have continued on this trajectory.

And it has proved hugely successful. The company recorded 400% year-on-year growth in 2021, selling over 2.5 million of its compostable deodorants.

So far, throughout 2022, they’ve released what Bowes-Lyon describes as “wacky deodorant scents”. These include toffee apple and fan favourite candy floss. Plus, they’ve produced case designs in partnership with a host of high-profile charities, including the likes of Pride.

Bowes-Lyon believes this light-hearted approach to sustainability is one of the secrets behind Wild’s success. He explains:

“Sustainability is such a heavy topic, and is often approached in such a serious manner. But the way we operate is to make it so people don’t feel burdened by being eco-friendly.

“Instead we try and make it fun, so our customers feel like they aren’t trading down to be sustainable, but trading up.”

Giving Wild legitimacy

As for the benefits of featuring in the Startups 100 2021 Index, Bowes-Lyon is grateful that the awards helped the company not only improve visibility but also its legitimacy as a product people could trust.

“We were barely over one year old when we featured on the Startups 100 Index. And at that time for us, it was hard to make people aware of exactly who we were and what we do.

“And when you sell products, particularly online, this lack of awareness can be a real problem. Many consumers question whether you and the products you sell are real because they haven’t heard of you.

“But getting featured in the Startups 100 Index helped establish us as a legitimate company. It helped lend credibility to who we are.”

Getting featured in the Startups 100 Index helped establish us as a legitimate company. It helped lend credibility to who we are.

This increased visibility certainly helped encourage Wild’s growth. Along with the startup’s highly imaginative, and successful, advertising campaigns.

Playing the Wild card

Easily the most bizarre piece of advertising created by Wild is the incredibly entertaining polar bear ad (seen below), in partnership with Polar Bears International.

The video has already amassed over 23 million views across different platforms, and as Bowes-Lyon notes, “pushes the boundaries” of your typical ad. Reflecting on its success, Bowes-Lyon says:

“I wanted it to be risky. I wanted 90% of people to like it and 10% of people to be completely offended. And you know what? It’s got around a 93% like rate on YouTube, so overall has been really successful for us.

“In fact when they [YouTube] crunched the numbers, we worked out we had around a 10% brand uplift as a result of the ad, which is decent!”

Bowes-Lyon is well aware that Wild owes part of its success to its large presence on social media and its imaginative advertising campaigns. Other startups in the ecommerce sector should certainly take note of how Wild have handled themselves in this respect.

And as a former marketer himself, Bowes-Lyon highlights the importance of marketing for any startup, urging entrepreneurs to “make a marketing professional their first hire as it could make or break your business, even if you have the best product in the world.”

Make a marketing professional your first hire as it could make or break your business, even if you have the best product in the world.

Could the government make Wilder decisions?

Wild refillable

The topic moves to how the government could support startups, particularly during an energy crisis that is leaving thousands of small businesses struggling to keep the wolf from the door.

Bowes-Lyon believes the onus is on businesses to face these challenges themselves, as many did during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Good businesses have always been able to cope with harder times. There’s never been a 20 year period where there hasn’t been some kind of economic downturn.”

The Wild co-founder argues that free-flowing VC money has propped up startups for the last ten years, and now things are getting tough, some may struggle to survive.

“People need to create profitable businesses that make money. And if they’re not geared up to do that, then ultimately they will fail at some point anyway.”

He does, however, believe the government should be doing more to encourage the development of sustainable, ethical startups.

“The government should introduce sustainability grants to help businesses with ethics at their core. In our [Wild’s] situation, we actually came dangerously close in our first year before we released the product of running out of money, and ending things.”

From Wild’s experience, it takes a long time to become established as a sustainable startup. This may deter entrepreneurs with ethical or eco-friendly business ideas from ever taking it any further.

For Bowes-Lyon, “it would be great if there was more incentive for people to go out there and think up clever ideas, that may actually have a really big impact on the future.”

The future is Wild

As for the future of Wild, Bowes-Lyon has high hopes of expansion.

In his ideal five year plan, “you would walk into a bathroom and everywhere you go, someone would have Wild products and none of those products, nothing would ever go in the bin.”

The sustainable startup is also in the final stages of B Corp certification, which it expects to announce in the coming months.

And with a new product launch potentially on its way, the future is bursting with opportunity for Wild.

Could your business be the next Wild? Apply now to the Startups 100 Index 2023.

Written by:
Ross has been writing for Startups since 2021, specialising in telephone systems, digital marketing, payroll, and sustainable business. He also runs the successful entrepreneur section of the website. Having graduated with a Masters in Journalism, Ross went on to write for Condé Nast Traveller and the NME, before moving in to the world of business journalism. Ross has been involved in startups from a young age, and has a keen eye for exciting, innovative new businesses. Follow him on his Twitter - @startupsross for helpful business tips.

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