Finance Hunter Ruthven · 21 July 2015
Securing equity backers such as ex-Jack Wills chairman Will Hobhouse and Charles Tyrwhitt founder Nick Wheeler
From driving down to Frankfurt with 10, 000 stuffed in a briefcase to raising 500, 000 in 48 hours, Cornerstone founder and CEO Oliver Bridge toldbusiness Advice how he plans to leverage a subscription model to have a company turning over 1m within a year. Oliver Bridge is one of the less frequent examples of someone who has gone from the investment world, working for a venture capital firm, to becoming an entrepreneur it normally works the other way around. However, his hatred of shaving and even greater hatred of all things shopping, led him to create a business offering men throughout the UK (and hopefully soon other areas of the world) with a shaving products subscription service. Cornerstone, as the company goes by, brings together German-engineered razors and British-blended skincare products online. Taking inspiration from wildly-successful subscription businesses such as Spotify, Bridge spent 18 months working under cover waking up and going to bed at ‘stupid oclock? and maybe pulling a few sickies. Bridge believes the shaving market lends itself in a very natural way to subscription as, if you do shave, it is something done very regularly and comes with it constant need for products. Dollar Shave Club in the US has shown that the model works, it is now just a case of proving that in the UK for Bridge. And when lined up next to snack delivery service Graze, which Bridge is amazed by due to its ability to create a subscription business out of a non-essential product like nuts and dried fruit, Bridge believes he is on to a winner. The core consideration when starting out, he revealed, was a firm focus on quality products. As the nucleus of the business was borne out of shaving rash, the first port of call for Bridge was top notch? products. He spent months? working with dermatologists, going to premium department stores to buy products and then make notes on what worked for him and what didnt with all that fed back to his team of chemists. He remembered back to one of his initial desires to create a shaving gel that would warm up, mirroring the effect a hot shower has in softening up the face and in essence becoming thermo reactive. However, finding out it was too chemically unstable, Bridge decided against becoming the Willy Wonka of shaving products and instead set out on finding the best ingredients. on the razor side, the first thing I did was emailed and wrote to every razor factory to get sales. Having got one back from Germany that I liked, there ended up being a huge minimum order quantity, he revealed. to get round this I ended up driving down to Frankfurt with 10, 000 in a suitcase. After this 30-hour round trip I came back with 15-20, 000 razors, but was emailing my mum [on the go] to check import regulations to make sure I wasnt breaking the law. Since launching to the market in June 2014, Cornerstone has acquired 5, 000 subscribers and is now turning over approximately 30, 000 a month. With his sights fixed on becoming a 1m turnover business inside the next year, Bridge decided he needed access to additional capital and so took to equity crowdfunding. Using the Crowdcube platform, Cornerstone has just finished a round which saw it raise just shy of 900, 000 from 246 investors. What is perhaps more impressive is that the company was 79 per cent oversubscribed, having broken though its initial target of 500, 000 inside 48 hours, and that Will Hobhouse (ex-chairman of Jack Wills) and Nick Wheeler (founder of Charles Tyrwhitt) came on as backers. Diligently doing his homework, Bridge shopped around the various equity crowdfunding platforms in the market and ended up plumping for Crowdcube because of its dominance in marketing and strength of its network, he said. it has 180, 000 registered investors, which is enormous. One of our objectives was money, but we also wanted free PR. We are a B2C product, aimed at men between 30 and 50 which is the same as the investor world, Bridge added.
ABOUT THE EXPERTHunter Ruthven
Hunter Ruthven was previously editor of Business Advice. He was also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs.