The Santander Small to Medium-Sized Business of the Year Finalist Focus: Simon Duffy

Tell us about your business.
Bulldog makes award-winning skincare products that are purpose-built for men using natural ingredients that really work.

Our business model combines a commitment to UK manufacturing, a passion for natural ingredients and a focus on animal welfare standards, with an approachable masculine manner.

How did you fund your business?
My business partner Rhodri Ferrier and I initially got Bulldog off the ground by combining our life savings and maxing out credit cards to scrape together just under £37,000.

Once we started talking to large retailers, we realised that we would need additional cash to get the brand going. We spoke to hundreds of potential investors and got knocked back more times than I care to remember. However you have to be persistent and believe in your idea. Ultimately, we found a group of people who loved our concept of removing controversial chemicals and replacing them with nature’s highest quality skincare ingredients. The people who invested in Bulldog are as passionate about Bulldog as we are.

What is the biggest challenge SMEs are currently facing?
In our own experience we have found that developing an export business has been incredibly rewarding but not without new challenges. These can come in a number of areas and it is important not to be put off by this.

In my opinion British SMEs could do more to look for growth overseas. There are such great opportunities out there. My recommendation to any business thinking about doing this for the first time would be to seek advice from the UKTI.

Can you give any advice to others starting up businesses?
Once you have an idea, go for it.

Rhodri and I had no experience in the skincare industry when we made the decision to start Bulldog. It was a leap of faith that could easily have gone the other way, but even if it had, I believe that the lessons we would have learned by starting our own business would have been valuable in the long run.
Being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone. You have to be brave and have the support and encouragement of the people around you, but it is extremely worthwhile and my advice is not to be afraid to try something new.

How do you foster innovation throughout your business?
At Bulldog, our aim has always been to nurture a collaborative and entrepreneurial team culture. We encourage everyone to get involved in strategic discussions and idea generation. Good ideas can come from anyone and we believe this open approach improves our innovation.

How are you managing the challenges associated with fast growth?
We are growing really fast at the moment both in UK and overseas, and yes, this can present challenges.

Our approach is to closely collaborate with our retailer partners to make sure we are doing a good job at forecasting sales growth. We have been really pleased with the momentum that we are currently generating and there is a lot of potential over the next three years to really kick on from our current position.