Starting an organic men’s skincare line was a logical step for Paul Anderson, who had been clocking up an A-class list of clientele at his grooming salon MANKiND in the hip Sydney suburb of Surry Hills since opening for business in 2004.
Having successfully cracked the male grooming market by attracting a client list that includes the likes of fashion designer Peter Morrissey, director Baz Luhrman and Wallaby Drew Mitchell, Anderson saw a demand for environmentally friendly skincare products specifically targeted to men. He launched KiND in 2009 to fill this niche, and has been enjoying steady growth across both arms of the business since. This year, KiND went global after Anderson signed a five-year contract with a Japanese distributor, and he has plans to export his unique products to other markets in the near future.
It might sound like a dream run, but as Anderson explains in this interview, he couldn’t secure funding for what the banks considered an untested business concept – which meant putting his house on the line.
Have you faced any challenges in setting up the business?
Money was and always is the great challenge when it comes to setting up any business. I had to put my house on the line to start MANKiND, as I couldn’t get a business loan for a men’s grooming clinic from a bank. They wouldn’t touch it because it was a new concept and there weren’t any business models to compare to – there was too much risk.
So using my house as collateral we took out a line of credit and leased a lot of the equipment – which we paid off in the first two years. To create KiND in 2009 I had to take a risk again. It was up to me to fund the research and provide the cashflow to manufacture the product.
Most men don’t take great care of their skin. What are you doing to reach this tricky target market?
Location was always going to be the key for MANKiND – you couldn’t put a Men’s Grooming Clinic anywhere and expect it to thrive. The heart of Surry Hills is the perfect positioning for such a salon.
So, KiND’s biggest asset is MANKiND. It’s a prescriptive clinic, hence the green cross which is a symbol for chemists in other parts of the world. This means we’ve been able to get our products in the hands of a lot of men through the MANKiND side of the business.
Your products are environmentally friendly – how important do you think it is for businesses to have a social conscience now? Why?
It’s absolutely imperative that businesses have a social conscience these days. Social standards tell you so.
For us it made sense because it completed the brand. By using the word KiND for our brand, it meant that we had to run the idea across all concepts for the product. KiND on the skin, KiND on the environment, KiND on the hip pocket, and so on.
You’ve been running your own business for close to 10 years, so what’s the secret to building a business that can last the tough times?
You need to have a service or product that people want or need to begin with but even then, there are so many pitfalls.
Even when times are tough you need to stick to your business plan and not lose sight of the bigger picture. The day-to-day things are important pieces too, as they keep your business ticking over.
I suggest you get the best team you can get and treat them well, manage your cashflow and always be looking to improve your procedures and your service or product.
Work/life balance – is it a myth or something achievable for entrepreneurs?
It’s certainly not something that exists in the first few years. It does come with time though, but you really have to work to make it happen.
Looking back over your time as an entrepreneur, is there anything you know now that you wish you had when you first launched your business?
I wish I had started my business earlier in life, when the risks weren’t as burdening and they didn’t have the potential to affect my family as well.
What’s in the pipeline for KiND?
We’re working on more products, more stockists and more countries!