Good day! I am Captain Fawcett and my tale unfolds thus...
Captain Fawcett was established in 2010 by Richard Finney, from his home in Terrington St Clement, Norfolk. Compliments about his own Moustache Wax, produced on his kitchen stove purely for personal use, led to an initial run of 100 jars and thus simply First Class Gentleman’s Grooming Business was born.
Captain Fawcett aims to provide everything the well-groomed gentleman’s washbag might require, from Combs, Brushes, Beard Oils, Eau de Parfums and the range includes quirky items such as the Moustache Guard Mug and Bamboo Fibre Socks. Captain’s Fawcett’s Private Stock is the product that started the whole enterprise.
The brand’s distinctive personality inspires both loyal British and international customs from Barbershops, Tailors, Hatters, Tattooists, Department Stores such as Jarrold of Norwich, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, Gift Shops and discerning individuals with a love of tradition and modern sense of style.
What's your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
With a background of 25 years in ﬁlm and TV, working on productions such as Memphis Belle, Chaplin, and Billy Elliot, Richie Finney didn’t set out to build a leading men’s grooming brand. Yet what began as a kitchen experiment has become a swiftly expanding global business.
Keep a stiff upper lip regardless and persevere because if you believe in something others will follow.
Richie began making moustache wax in a baked bean tin at home, just for himself. One day his wife, Emmy and Bafta Award winning hair and make-up artist, asked for her own supply to take on set. Richie ordered 100 empty jars on Ebay, stuck on home-made labels with Pritt Stick and thus kick-started what has become a world-renowned brand.
Richie’s own start in life was less than straightforward, with time on the road living hand to mouth for significant periods of his youth. Now as a successful entrepreneur, he is able to support male mental health charities and those down on their luck with an empathy that comes from hard-gained personal experience.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
When Richie realized his Moustache Wax had appeal beyond his own stiff upper lip, his business began to emerge through a mixture of serendipity, instinct, hard work and finding people to help put ideas into action.
His love of Boys’ Own Adventure plus Richie’s off the cuff humor and story-telling instincts evolved into the notion of an Edwardian explorer, Captain Peabody Fawcett Royal Navy Rtd. who is the company ﬁgurehead? Commitment to the character of Captain Fawcett informs everything from traditional correspondence to social media, packaging and product design and the Captain’s voice rings true. It is, in effect, the voice of Richie Finney himself. Working tirelessly as the Captain’s ‘Right Hand Man’, dressed in his signature brown shop coat and a range of eccentric hats, Richie is a familiar ﬁgure at trade fairs, competitions, shows and charity events nurturing a sense of participation that transcends culture and language.
A global adventurer and by his own description ‘a tubby biker’ with his feet rooted firmly at his West Norfolk HQ, Richie was named Business Person of the Year 2018 by the Kings Lynn Mayor’s Awards and Captain Fawcett Ltd was voted Small Business of the Year.
In March 2019 Captain Fawcett’s Marvellous Barbershop Museum opened at his Emporium. A personal homage to tonsorial art, the museum is a fascinating collection of beautifully displayed barbering essentials gathered on the Captain’s world travels.
By Richie’s own admission, Captain Fawcett is a tad ‘tongue and cheek’, an extremely hard-working business built with warmth and soul. He claims that at 62 he doesn’t think of competitors because he’s just doing something he loves. He’s not worried about fashion and believes implicitly in being true to oneself. By doing just that, Captain Fawcett now has a significant influence that Richie puts to good use supporting charities and eccentric enterprises with a sense of adventure and social conscience.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
2020 will be Captain Fawcett Ltd’s 10th anniversary…Moving from the kitchen table to international markets has been extraordinary. Now selling into over 40 countries, distributed in 16, with several award-winning products in the ever-developing range, Captain Fawcett has established itself as a worldwide market leader in its field, whilst remaining loyal to its home town of King’s Lynn in Norfolk.
Now a growing global business, Captain Fawcett’s Emporium is still firmly based in Kings Lynn, West Norfolk at an extraordinary HQ which opened in 2017. Part production plant, part business HQ, the Emporium also houses an intriguing collection of historical barbering and gentleman’s items which form the Marvellous Barbershop Museum.
In 2017 Quarto published “The Quintessential Grooming Guide for the Modern Gentleman”, authored by the owner and his business partner who worked tirelessly in collaboration to design a book that has since sold over 45,000 copies, translated into 8 different languages with more to come.
Links with fellow small businesses are key to Captain Fawcett’s commitment to the local business community. For example, to create the company’s quirky Beer’d Shampoo Captain Fawcett worked with local brewery Elgood’s of Wisbech to source the beer and the resulting shampoo won the 2017 Pure Beauty Bronze Award for "Best New Male Hair Product”.
Collaborations with celebrities including Ricki Hall, Jimmy Niggles, Harnaam Kaur, Sid Sottung, Luigi Scapicchio, The Jodphur Company, and Rufus Hound have brought awareness of Captain Fawcett to an international stage.
Designs and launch plans are ready for a series of new products in 2020.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The Captain Fawcett business model developed organically, balancing risk, opportunity, and collaboration while staying absolutely true to the integrity of the brand’s figurehead, Captain Fawcett himself.
Thanks to invaluable support from the DIT and Chamber of Commerce, the company has largely overcome recent challenges such as obstacles to shipping perfumes abroad due to Dangerous Goods transportation rules. The first price rise since being established in 2010 was also necessary last year to ensure the superior nature of our consumable products which utilize expensive essential oils and waxes. Shortages have resulted in increased prices from our suppliers so balancing quality with cost to justify Captain Fawcett’s reputation for affordable excellence will always be part of the business plan.
A rolling challenge is finding and securing the right personnel as the company is fast-paced, working in international markets requires a solid attention to detail. Captain Fawcett currently has a fabulous team employing both in-house staff and long-term retained freelancers who work tirelessly together to achieve the company goals. It will be essential to maintain this balance as the company continues to grow.
Secondly moving from the kitchen table to international markets has been an extraordinary journey and the biggest challenge is advancing growth to new sustainable levels. A couple of years ago things began to plateau as being in the middle ground position the company was unable to take advantage of the discounts that come with purchasing larger quantities so other measures were necessary to increase sales and profitability.
The first action was to find distribution partners who were willing to get behind the brand and support its growth with the existing pricing; secondly, Captain Fawcett began to enable more cost-effective purchasing and the locking in of reliable suppliers, a process which is ongoing.
Investment secured in 2018 has enabled the development of 24 new products for launch in 2019 and 2020. In 2018/19, as the Captain’s Right-Hand Man, Richie visited 19 countries seeking new distributors and strengthening relationships with Captain Fawcett’s valued customer base. These travels were in part supported by assistance received from the Department of International Trade in a bid to further the growth of export markets.
The most exciting challenge is moving into and opening up vibrant new markets for Gentleman’s Grooming, such as India. Captain Fawcett as a company has been looking ahead and as such new and thrilling relationships are already well underway.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Early to harness the marketing opportunities of digital platforms, the brand has developed a distinctive voice/personality, both online and in-person at trade fairs, industry gatherings and attendance at a number of other events. To maximize impact, the social media team work 7 days a week and have grown Facebook to 19k followers, Instagram to 51K and Twitter to 5k.
Consistently entertaining content wins and sustains an engaged and entirely organic following, strengthening the brand which is known widely throughout the international industry and results in an increase of both sales and distributors approaching the company.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Richie is most influenced by John Timpson CBE who founded the key cutting and shoe repair business ‘Timpson’, now run by his son James. Most UK high streets have a Timpson store; John also writes a column in the Daily Telegraph which shares his refreshingly honest common-sense style of leadership and ‘upside down management’.
It really boils down to keeping things simple, trusting your colleagues to do their job and taking care of your staff if they’re having problems. “A company with a strong and positive culture will be consistent in treating colleagues, customers, and suppliers with honesty and respect and they, in turn, will be proud to be associated with the company values.” An absolute gentleman.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
You can’t really plan everything. In hindsight, I see how much luck was involved. With fortunate timing and a bit of insight, you can take a few risks. You need resilience. Press on, when assailed by self-doubt, just press on. Overcome setbacks, learn from them and be totally true to what you’re doing. Don’t sell out. I was given the advice I needed early on in life. It was Mother’s advice and it’s true: ‘If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try, try again’. And Father’s advice was ‘Not everything that glitters is gold’ i.e. don’t take things at face value. Question everything.
If you’re creating a product, take care of the details, the presentation. And in any business, take care of your relationships. You can’t do it alone and people are interesting. Different relationships, connecting people, that’s interesting too. People are important so value the good ones, don’t dismiss ideas - encourage them. Work hard to make the most of luck and time. Find good people who share a vision because it’s reassuring when you flag, and you will sometimes. And build a rapport with customers, whether you’re manufacturing or customer-facing in person and on social media - that’s important.
At times things will go wrong. They always will. So think I’ll beat this, I won’t let it beat me. And if you have a good idea, follow it through. There will be setbacks, let downs. You’ll be reliant on other people. Sometimes things won’t be as you imagined. And sometimes that works out for the best, so keep going. Keep a stiff upper lip regardless and persevere because if you believe in something others will follow. Che Guevara said ‘Believe in the impossible’. That’s good advice. Ha! So thank you to Mother, Father, and Che!
All the Hirsute!
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