Turning 50 is often viewed by many as a ‘watershed’ moment. Whether it’s a case of ‘off with the old, on with the new’, or the purchase of a new Harley Davidson, the 50th birthday usually acts as either a turning point, or the beginning of the slide into a calmer, less work-oriented lifestyle.
Not so for Will King! After 21 years as full-time CEO of King of Shaves, and with his 50th looming this year, King recently stepped down to give himself what he described as a chance to ‘come up for air’. But, rather than beginning the slow, gentle descent into retirement, King is bristling with excitement at the thought of the challenges and opportunities head.
Will King founded King of Shaves in his spare bedroom in 1993, using £15,000 of seed capital and initially focused on shaving oils. Never one to fear rolling his sleeves up, he once sold the oils at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, megaphone in hand!
Top three selling brands in Britain
The business soon grew to be an international operation, with King of Shaves one of the top three selling brands in Britain.
King has certainly had his share of ‘scrapes’ along the way and the last few years were far from easy! The company’s first British-made razor – the Azor – which was launched in 2008, was locked out of the North American market and King endured a five-year slog to develop new technology to launch its replacement, the Hyperglide. Patenting the technology cost King £1m in legal fees and he had to raise £10m in investment.
‘What kept me going,’ he said in an interview last year, ‘was the momentum build of 20 years and the belief in myself. If it (the shaving business) was easy, everybody would be doing it.’
Coming up for air
King’s belief in himself is almost palpable. Now free from his King of Shaves’ commitments and most certainly ‘up for air’, his anticipation of what lies above the surface is tangible.
‘One of the things I’m really interested in is being an ‘Entrepreneur-in-Residence at a small number of companies,’ he said in a recent blog on his website. ‘That I believe could do with my insight (and paranoia) about how quickly change can happen in the ‘instant’ world we live in and how they can be extremely well positioned to adapt to it, and benefit hugely from it.’
There’s no doubt that Will King has witnessed the good – indeed the fantastic – side of business AND the extreme downsides, so he’s in a perfect position to advise those who may be considering entrepreneurship as their chosen way. Fortunately he’s in Ireland in April to proffer his nuggets of wisdom. Catch him at the Smart Business Show in the RDS this April by getting your discounted tickets here.