Meet Will King, CEO, King of Shaves

Will King sitting on a throneThe Power of Social Media

Tuesday 5 October 2010, 18.00-20.30


Will King graduated from Portsmouth Polytechnic in 1987 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and got a job selling advertising space for Marketing Magazine.

Discovering an aptitude for sales, he soon moved into the world of corporate events and conference/video production, working on a number of high profile launches for a variety of international companies.

The recession of the early 1990s brought substantial cutbacks to marketing spends and led to Will being made redundant. However, he seized upon this sudden free time to develop shaving oil – a product inspired by his long-running battle with razor burn. Starting in his own kitchen, he worked away until he had a bottled, labelled shaving oil. A game of cards with his father brought about the name King of Shaves after the king of spades was dealt – “After all, it’s your name, isn’t it?” commented King senior.

With several thousand pounds secured from friends, family and his business partner, Hiten Dayal, Will founded The King of Shaves Company under umbrella company Knowledge & Merchandising Inc. The product wasn’t an instant success and sales in the first year totalled just £300 against a £30,000 development cost, but Will drew on his marketing skills to secure more retailers. By 1997 the company’s turnover had increased to over £1m, and was doubling year on year.

In 1998, Will King and Hiten Dayal secured a fragrance licensing deal with Ted Baker plc, and in 2000 sold the first King of Shaves products in America, as well as signing another licensing deal with cult Soho barber, Fish. In 2003, it was the first company to create a mainstream line of ‘male cosmetics’, called XCD. Sales in 2004 were just over £11m.

The King of Shaves brand has overtaken Wilkinson Sword and Nivea to become number two to Gillette in the shaving prep market in the UK, and the products are also taking off in the USA where they are now being sold in over 20,000 stores.

In June 2008 King launched the Azor - the first British designed, engineered and manufactured razor in over one hundred years, which quickly secured the position as the number three best selling system handle in the UK*.

In April last year (2009) King split the King of Shaves business from Knowledge and Merchandising Inc, so that they now operate independently.  King also pioneered an innovative ‘Shaving Bonds’ scheme, whereby he invited customers to invest into the business at an interest rate of 6% a year, with the aim of  raising £5m to spend on marketing and brand awareness.  

In 2009, King also launched his first book published by Headline. “How To Build A Great Business In Tough Times” quickly reached the No. 1 Business Book on sale in WH Smiths, where it stayed for the whole month of September. It offers an inspirational insight into the building of a multi-million pound business, both for entrepreneurs and consumers alike.  

King of Shaves has won numerous awards over the past few years. The company was named the T Mobile Fast Growth Business and the Product Business at the Growing Business Awards last year (2009) and was crowned the CBI and Real Business Company of the Year in 2008.  Will was also named a regional winner for the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for London and the South East region and has taken on judging roles in the CBI Real Business Awards 2009 and the O2 X Business Awards in association with Shortlist magazine 2009.

* Based on unit sales 4 weeks to November 1st 2008 IRI data

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