Cornerstone: Oliver Bridge

After starting his first business at 15, Oliver Bridge shares his latest offering, an online subscription service offering men 'a better, more simple, way to shave'

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Name: Oliver Bridge
Company name: Cornerstone
Number of Employees: 1
Location: Greater London
Date launched: 05/06/2014

Tell us what your business does:

Cornerstone sells razors and men’s shaving products on a regular, flexible subscription over the internet. It means a man’s bathroom cupboard is always stocked with shaving essentials without the need to remember to go shopping.

We’ve bench-marked the quality of our range against leading department store brands, but because we sell direct to the customer we are significantly less expensive. In a nutshell, Cornerstone is a better, more simple way to shave.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

I was buying replacement razors in my lunch hour one day and was shocked at the cost. It got me thinking that there should be a less expensive alternative that didn’t require me to spend the valuable time away from my desk in a queue in Boots.

How did you know there was a market for it?

Despite the well-documented rise of the beard, the majority of men prefer to wet shave so there are a lot of potential customers! Cornerstone offers a better quality, cheaper and more convenient way for men to wet shave – so it stands to reason that there is a size-able market for our products.

What were you doing before starting up?

I was working for a venture capital fund, identifying and investing in technology and e-commerce businesses. Before that I worked for an ‘innovation consultancy’ – helping brands like M&S and Unilever develop new products.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Yes – from an early age I’ve had the entrepreneurial bug! My first business was – a large footwear retailer inspired by my size 13 feet – which I launched when I was 15 (and which Startups was kind enough to cover).

At university I launched, a database of names and their genders, a tool which is now used by marketing professionals and academics around the world to make sense of their data – we recently registered our two millionth search.

How did you raise the money?

I borrowed £5,000 from Startup Loans and raised £160,000 from a group of angel investors in September 2013. My background in venture capital was incredibly helpful as I was able to put together a credible business plan to get investors’ interest.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

Our customers sign up over the internet. We ask them how often they shave and which of our products they’d like; based on that we suggest a delivery schedule for their subscription containing the shaving essentials they’ve selected.

Every time their subscription box is posted to them we charge their card. A week before each delivery we send a warning email to allow the customer to make any changes to their delivery date or product selection. They can also cancel at any point – it’s very simple.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Sourcing quality manufacturers for our products was probably one of the biggest challenges but one which we were determined to crack – without a good product you won’t be successful no matter how good your marketing is.

The process we followed was extensive online research followed up by time-intensive on-site visits to all those that responded to our initial enquiries. Our philosophy is that until you’ve actually put your feet on the ground in the factory and looked the supplier in the eye, you can’t tell whether they’re the right partner for you.

What was your first big breakthrough?

Two weeks after registering the business, I first met the supplier that now makes all of our liquid products – our scrub, shave gel and post-shave balm. After meeting the team and hearing about their other clients – leading brands that you find in department stores all over the UK – I knew we’d found the right partner.

That was very exciting because the weeks and months that followed involved testing dozens and dozens of different product samples – I could literally see the business coming to life before my eyes.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Say yes to everything; it’s amazing what opportunities are hiding away in unexpected places.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

I’d love to be taking Cornerstone into Europe and the US. For the time being, we’re UK focused but the scale of the global opportunity is enormous.

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