Aiming to be a cut above the rest is startup Cornerstone, a men's shaving brand that will deliver you shaving products at regular periods via the post. Imagine graze.com but for shaving.
The razor sharp Oliver Bridge (apologies in advance - tenuous links may continue) is at the age of 25, making Cornerstone his third venture, having previously started BiggerFeet.com (a large footwear e-tailer) and GenderChecker.com (an online name search engine) when he was at school and university.
Walking in to the cut-throat retail industry may seem tough for most of us but not Oliver who within 18 months had raised £175k from a group of angel investors to take Cornerstone forward. An inspirational self starter indeed! You can imagine then how delighted we were when Oliver both signed up as a Startacus member and also agreed to answer a few of our questions on his startup, background and a bunch of other stuff besides!
So, Oliver, you started your first business aged 15. Do you think you were born with the characteristics to become a self starter, or was that initial eureka moment all you needed?
I think I probably developed the self starter instinct as a child and teenager. Looking back, my parents were constantly pushing me out of my comfort zone and I think that helps you to become more independent, willing to try new things but more importantly, curious. In my view, a big part of being a self-starter is having intellectual curiosity - wanting to know how things work, always wanting to find a better way, not settling for an answer. I think if you're lucky to pick up those traits from your parents, teachers or mentors, then when you are presented with a eureka moment, you are actually in a position to make something come of it.
Working in Venture Capital must be rather handy - we appreciate you raised £160k from a set of Angel Investors to develop Cornerstone. Any tips for any startups looking to raise capital?
Yes, it certainly was handy, and in fact the three years I spent in the VC industry were fascinating - it's like being paid to do a real-life MBA! Aside from the technical skills of financial modelling and business plan writing, what time spent in the VC world really gives you that is valuable, is a broad perspective across multiple companies, sectors, strategies and entrepreneurs - it allows you to gain an appreciation of what works and what doesn't, to learn the ingredients of a successful business. It's this, as much as the technical financial skills that give you credibility when speaking to investors.
My tips to start-ups looking for capital from investors would be to demonstrate to investors how you are a low-risk, high-reward investment opportunity. In our case, there were a number of factors that made us low-risk - the SEIS tax structure, a low break-even point, the fact that both shaving and online subscription models are established categories familiar with consumers. I also presented Cornerstone as a high-reward opportunity - our internet model allows for scalability, there was a large target market, and a number of large, cash-rich companies who might be interested in buying us out at the end.
If you can do this, you show to investors that they're likely to get at least their money back, and possibly will get a lot more. If you were thinking about putting your money into something this is what you would want to hear, so make sure that's what your investors hear.
Where did the idea for Cornerstone come from?
I've never found shaving particularly enjoyable - it's always given me cuts and skin irritation, and the cost of razor blades is far too high! I was stood in Boots one day, queuing up in a hot, busy shop to pay over the odds for a product that was going to hurt my face and I just thought, there must be a better way to do this.
So, I suppose Cornerstone is for the man who wants a better, more comfortable shave, but also hates being ripped off, and doesn't enjoy shopping for toiletries.
What is Cornerstone and what makes it unique?
In a nutshell - we offer a flexible, regular delivery of razor blades and men's shaving supplies. It means no more shopping for toiletries, no more dull razor blades - just a smooth, comfortable shave every single morning.
it's pretty simple - men go to our website, tell us which of our products they'd like and how often they shave. We then send them a regular delivery of shaving supplies so they always have everything they need for a great shave. And, to stop unwanted build-ups of razor blades or shave gel, we email our customers 5 days before each delivery to give them the chance to pause their deliveries or pause their 'shave plan'. It's a flexible, regular delivery.
There are several things that make us unique - we have our own range of products that nobody else stocks, we only sell online, and the flexibility of our shave plans gives our customers confidence. All-in-all, it is a significant break from the traditional bricks-and-mortar high street shopping model, and a definite improvement for consumers.
Any sneak peeks into your business plans and where you plan for the business to be in 6 months from now?
Well it's simple really - we want to be convincing men all over the UK to switch to Cornerstone - to a better quality, more convenient and less expensive way to shave! We do have several further products in the pipeline, but for the time being, we're just focussing on the shaving market - there's lots to go for!
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