Growth Through Innovation Fund
Grants of £1,000 – £25,000 available
Captain Fawcett, an award-winning manufacturer of grooming products for bearded and clean-shaven men based in King’s Lynn, stepped up its back-office systems launching an integrated e-commerce operation.
Starting out at his kitchen table eleven years ago with a single moustache wax, Founder Richard Finney has grown the business to a 3,000sqm premises on the Hardwick Narrows with a salon and museum. Now Captain Fawcett, which is also a wholesaler and retailer, produces 200 items and exports to more than 40 countries, with an established network of over 25 distributors worldwide. Its largest and most successful markets are The Netherlands and Australia.
In 2020, the business had its eye on new markets, attracting customers and salons and increasing online sales. It looked to add the USA, China, India and Japan to its distributor network. However, expansion plans also threw up issues such as intellectual property, grey imports and the counterfeiting of products. To protect Captain Fawcett’s products from being copied on the grey market, it looked to develop a track and trace system. However, during scoping work, it became clear it was not realistic to go down that route and the team decided to change tack.
A £3,440 grant from New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growth Through Innovation Fund helped the business step up its sales and operational potential by implementing e-commerce systems. Software company Outserve, which partners with Shopify, implemented an integrated accounting, inventory and e-commerce platforms. Says Richard: “We needed to link up our systems. In a year, we gained 200 customers but also lost 200. It wasn’t working efficiently. If a car hasn’t got a good engine, it doesn’t work. Now we’re getting people to use the systems and it is helping us to retain customers.”
The grant also contributed to meeting new distributors, including in Mumbai in India and China. “We’re opening up other markets now and China is coming close to fruition. Lots of work has gone into that and India. It takes about six months to register a product in India. Once the trade deal is done with India, the floodgates will open and we will be ahead of the game. The USA is a difficult nut to crack and expensive. It’s so diverse and hard with the spread you need. The challenges to export are the cost of an item, marketing to gain exposure and Brexit.”
Dealing with economic changes, he feels like it is being in a fight to keep the business running. Captain Fawcett exports 80% of its products, which means inflation is affecting the company. But he does not feel defeatist. “We need to be flexible while concerned at the same time. We must keep a stiff upper lip, a strong exterior, despite feeling like a wobbly chicken sometimes!”
When the pandemic hit, Captain Fawcett’s team responded immediately and helped with filling sanitiser. “We only furloughed people for six weeks and then pressed on. This enabled us to launch our new product. We have a phenomenal drive and respond quickly to situations.”
Reflecting on the development of his team, he says: “Finding quality personnel is a challenge. We have top people across the country, including in Twickenham, Sherborne and Hull. With Martin [Woolner] in position I can be creative. Recently, I was invited to join Goldman Sachs programme which is very exciting.”
The company is pushing on and has won several awards, including an export champion award from the Department for International Trade. Driving the business forward, Richard recommends that others to apply to the Small Grant Scheme. “The whole process was straightforward,” he says. “We also work with the local council’s Business Development Officer Paul Harrison. We’re a small business but make a lot of noise which has raised our profile.”