Startup Snapshot: The new business that smells like a hot prospect

  1. Gruhme

    ChrisGoodfellow UKBF Regular Full Member - Verified Business

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    Gruhme is an award-winning British brand selling men's fragrance and grooming products. Their fragrance Gruhme No.14 won Best Men's Fragrance in the grooming category at the Beauty Shortlist Awards earlier this year, and founder and CEO Rob Hallmark has big plans for the future.

    We caught up with Hallmark about his plans for the future.

    1. Who are the founders, and why and when did they set the company up?

    I am the only founder of the business, but Tom Kollen joined in 2016 as a shareholder and head of marketing and sales.

    The motivation was partly (mostly!) an early mid-life crisis, I was 32 and decided I fancied a change from being behind the desk as a 24/7 corporate lawyer. I was keen to get into selling a brand and a product. Something I could pain over without worrying about the bill I was creating for the customer.

    I was also becoming detached from my favourite brands from the 80s and 90s as I felt their passion was waning due to many of them changing hands from their passionate and pioneering founders to safe and margin-focussed corporate parent companies.

    I felt it was time for a challenger and was inspired by others who had taken that leap in recent times into the corporate minefield from a humble beginning, such as Innocent Smoothies, Green & Black chocolate and Gü Puds.

    2. Can you sum up the idea in one sentence?

    To infuse men's grooming into a 21st century brand with all the benefits of both tried and tested fine ingredients, and modern manufacturing techniques.

    3. What kind of funding do you receive/have you gone about gathering?

    It started with my savings, then my car, then my flat, then anywhere I could find the extra cash to keep going. Some came from the family then a few investors and I also managed to secure a Grant for £25,000.

    Ultimately, it took a lot of goodwill from suppliers and supporters as well as getting to income from sales as soon as possible.

    4. What kind of marketing do you do?

    Word of mouth and attending events has been the best for spreading the news of the brand. However, it is quite time consuming to reach the wider audiences required to become a viable company, so we have included some magazine coverage and, fortunately, some front page editorials in a few business publications.

    5. How do you plan to expand your customer base?

    Compared to our market we are barely scratching the surface but we love the feedback and encouragement from our existing customers. It really feels like they want us to go all the way into becoming a major brand.

    Once people realise we're not trying to beat the market (it's worth many, many billions after all) but just offer a viable and exciting alternative we believe the message and story will quickly offer up a strong and loyal customer.

    6. Do you have a mentor? What's your team like?

    We have several mentors. Many of whom we have never met and likely won't given their fame and our lack of it, but that doesn't stop them inspiring us.

    Mentors who have built up their own businesses are the best to work with. Some people were just in the right place at the right time, so they never experienced the doubts and the struggle, you want people who have been through the trenches, but not yielded too much to the cynicism of it all either!

    For the big vision we like to look at well-known success stories as our brand mentors, such as Branson, Dyson, Tom Ford, Jo Malone, Jo Fairley and many others who started out with just an idea and grew their brands into powerhouses from there. Many even changed an entire industry.

    The team is incredibly loyal and it's important to never take that loyalty for granted, we've had our shares of bumps and bruises from things along the way, but they are always there, even if up to their necks in water at the crazy and last minute demands!

    7. What particular problem do you aim to solve and where do you aim to be in the next few years?

    We have seen really exceptional support from our existing customers and have so much goodwill behind us, but the established market will take longer to come round as they have seen so many brands in this sector come and go.

    Consistency is a key tool to winning that confidence, we have to be as thorough and precise as the major corporates but very flexible in how we achieve that image on our tiny (non-existent really) budgets.

    We're almost entirely reliant on our sales for cashflow and that's a scary, but exciting way to operate!

    8. Finally, what advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

    I'd love to see more entrepreneurs out there having a go and wish there was more support for them. I would ask them to be prepared to spend a lot of time and energy in building contacts, the more you have and the more useful they are the better your chances.

    This doesn't mean you need to have been at school with these people or been friends in a previous life, this means you have you use the tools and contacts you have to get closer to people. Start with searches on LinkedIn, work on your email language and style. Be approachable, but courteous and professional. And show personality and passion, too.

    You have to patient, don't blow a bridge with busy people by jamming their inboxes all the time, but equally time and money will not hang around for you either so be prepared to keep your foot down at all times too.