Simon Duffy had a lightbulb moment while shopping with his wife – all the skincare products she used were natural but there was nothing similar for men.
Instead of admitting defeat, the now successful entrepreneur quit his job and set up a business selling chemical-free, ethically-produced male grooming products.
Bulldog was born six years ago when Duffy vented his frustration at the lack of natural male skincare options to a friend. They realised there was a gap in the market and now have moisturisers and shaving gels in bathroom cupboards around the world – without using chemicals, artificial fragrances or testing products on animals.
We spoke to the ethical businessman about his company’s unusual niche in the beauty industry.
What inspired you to start Bulldog?
The idea came when I was shopping for skincare products for my wife. All the products she used were natural and when I went to buy my own I realised that there were just no natural products out there for men.
A few days later, I met with my good friend, now business partner, Rhodri Ferrier, and told him about my idea for natural skincare products for men. We agreed to work together, and not long after in 2006 we quit our jobs and focused on creating Bulldog, despite having no experience in the sector.
What’s the most challenging thing about the men’s skincare industry?
Formulating our range was the biggest challenge for us as we were breaking new ground. It involved a great deal of work, countless reformulations and collaboration with some very talented people. It was a huge buzz to see our products on shelves for the first time.
Secondly, the ongoing challenge of cutting through in an industry that is traditionally dominated by big multinational players with large advertising budgets remains.
Bulldog competes by being different. This means that Bulldog challenges industry conventions on ingredients, packaging, ethics and marketing. Bulldog is the only brand that is bringing something exciting and fresh to the category at the moment, and this is key to our success.
We truly believe that if we continue to offer the best products on the market, the results will continue to speak for themselves.
A few skincare lines for men have emerged in recent years – how do you differentiate your brand?
Bulldog remains unique for a few reasons – ingredients, ethics, value, performance and our focus men.
We’re passionate about the ingredients we use in our products and want men to care as much about what they put on their skin as the food they eat. Our products are body friendly, meaning they don’t contain controversial man-made chemicals such as parabens, sodium laureth sulphate, artificial colours or synthetic fragrances. Instead, Bulldog products are loaded with essential oils and other natural ingredients to deliver superb grooming results.
We’re also the first male skincare brand to be certified as Cruelty Free by Cruelty Free International. Our products are not tested on animals and never contain ingredients derived from animal sources. In the UK, the Ethical Company Organisation’s annual review of male and female skincare brands recently named Bulldog as the industry’s most ethical company.
Before Bulldog, I would never pay $35 for a moisturiser so we knew value was always going to be key. Our Original Moisturiser has an RRP of $11.99 and comes in a 100ml tube, making it much better value than other brands that typically offer 50ml.
We’re really proud that we can make affordable products without any compromise on our commitment to using the highest quality natural ingredients or delivering great performance.
What kind of growth is the business enjoying?
We are really pleased with the rapid growth of Bulldog globally. The business started just six years ago, and today Bulldog is available in 12 countries through more than 10,000 retailers. This is testament to the strong demand for natural skincare for men.
In the UK alone, we have enjoyed significant growth over the last two years. Bulldog is now one of the most popular men’s skincare brands available. We recently overtook Gillette’s skincare brand to become the number three brand in the UK. Ultimately we’d like to be number one.
In Australia, we’ve landed great distribution through major retailers including Woolworths and Big W. We are also hoping to partner with new retailers later this year as well. We’d love to get a Bulldog in every bathroom in Australia.
Tell us more about your global expansion?
Today Bulldog is in 12 countries, including Australia and New Zealand, the UK and USA, all Scandinavian countries, Germany, Ireland and Spain. We also just launched in South Korea which is really exciting. Today I think you could find Bulldog in more than 10,000 stores worldwide.
We have found this expansion both rewarding and challenging. Having achieved a solid base, we intend to take a step back from entering new markets for the next few years. The focus now is on building growth in existing markets to further secure our position.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
I think the best advice I could give is don’t conform to industry conventions and to make sure you work with great people.
Are there any entrepreneurs you look up to?
Yes, there are plenty. I guess the first entrepreneur who inspired me was Ole Kirk Christiansen. When I was a kid I was obsessed by Lego and loved making stuff. Ole was the inventor of Lego and from a business perspective it’s an incredible story.
What advice would you offer to other entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs?
Once you have an idea, go for it. Rhodri and I had no experience in the skincare industry when we made the decision to start Bulldog. It was a leap of faith that could easily have gone the other way, but even if it had, I believe that the lessons we would have learned by starting our own business would have been valuable in the long run.
Being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone. You have to be brave and have the support and encouragement of the people around you, but it is extremely worthwhile and my advice is not to be afraid to try something new.
What’s next for you?
We see huge potential for Bulldog to extend its product range, whilst continuing to deepen our market-leading skincare expertise.
Luckily for us, the demand for naturally formulated skincare products is a fast growing trend. Eventually we’d like to put a Bulldog product in every bathroom in the world.