From the top · 11 December 2015

Tangle Teezer: From Dragons? Den rejection to 70 per cent annual growth

CEO Matt Lumb: "were definitely not a startup any more"
CEO Matt Lumb: “were definitely not a startup any more”
For many young companies, exporting to a couple of countries would be a big achievement. Few owners dream of distributing products to 70 locations around the world after eight years of trading.

But this is the reality for detangling hairbrush brand Tangle Teezer, recently named Export Champion of the Year at the 2015 Growing Business Awards, hosted by our sister title Real Business.

Since founder Shaun Pulfrey was rejected from Dragons? Den in 2007, his company has sold over 20m units and now generates 86 per cent of its turnover overseas. Sales have grown from 1m to 30m, and the business has been a designated Coolbrand? four years in a row.

Business Advice spoke to Tangle Teezer CEO Matt Lumb to find out just how a company with thirty staff has grown so rapidly and spread its reach so far and he had one answer: Aggressive expansion.

This year alone Tangle Teezer has properly started? distributing in India, grown its base in China and made headway into the notoriously difficult to crack US market described by Lumb as a graveyard, littered with household names that have tried and failed to make it.

In the UK Tangle Teezer’s marketing efforts were initially targeted at professional hair salons, but as it has expanded globally the company has used a range of different entry strategies depending on the market, from home shopping networks to selling on airlines.

The firm found its usual methods werent working when it came to penetrating the US market, however. We were working through a distributor in 2014 but we realised at the beginning of this year that it wasnt working. Things just werent moving quickly enough. So we grabbed the bull by the horns and set up a subsidiary company there in February, said Lumb.

But despite increasing its global reach ambitiously, Lumb has made sure Tangle Teezer remains selective about the type of stockists it sells to. Were solely distributed in premium outlets. You won’t find us in mass-market retailers, he said.

At times such rapid growth in demand has been hard for Tangle Teezers production facilities which are all based in the UK to keep up with. People say that it’s a nice problem to have, worrying about growing too quickly, ensuring enough supply. But it has been really difficult, at times, said Lumb.


 
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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics as well as running a tutoring company.

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