Made in Britain: Tangle Teezer

What does your company do? What products services does it provide?
We are the world’s best-selling detangling hairbrush brand. Launched in 2007, we created a new haircare category – detangling which has since become a global success.

Where did the idea for your business come from?
I was a professional hair colourist and had a ‘lightbulb moment’ for Tangle Teezer at the backwash. Wet and fragile hair is incredibly hard to detangle without damaging it and causing discomfort, so I decided there must be away around this based on using conventional tools, like a brush and a comb, in a different way. I thought if I could design teeth that collapsed and flexed upon contact with tangles in one tool it would be a must-have for any salon. I was confident in my idea, but didn’t anticipate the consumer love for the product that followed.

When did you start up and what support were you given?
Tangle Teezer was taken to market in 2007. Prior to that I remortgaged my flat for £25,000 and added it to my savings from working as a colourist. The amount totalled £98,000 which bankrolled my idea for three years. I never had any financial support – I never approached a bank as they intend to invest in businesses rather than ideas. As a business starting out though, funding is only a proportion of the help you need to get an idea off the ground.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?
The fact we have a global brand – going from 2 per cent exports to 80 per cent within four years, which led to the recent achievement of winning a Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade earlier this year, which we are hugely proud of.

What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Handling the growth, but this has been achievable due to all our manufacturing being produced in the UK – something we are very proud of too. We have had to really pull together as a team to keep up with the level of growth and success we have seen, but long may it continue.

How would you say you differentiate yourself from the competition?
We create innovative products with expertise at the core. We dare to be different in our colours, patterns and marketing strategy, and we are consumer driven. As they say in the USA, ‘there’s a lot of heart for Tangle Teezer.’

What has been the best decision you have made to date?
It would have to be using UK manufacturing from the word go. There’s been no distance or language barriers, that has helped immensely, especially for such an innovative product with no blueprint. We feel proud that we have supported the UK manufacturing industry and grew our business at a time where the economy was suffering and needed the backing from others.

Where do you see your business in 12 months’ time?
The launch of more innovative products and continuing our global growth in emerging markets such as Brazil, Mexico and China – an exciting year ahead.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Start at the British Library – it’s great to have blind faith, but good research is key and be true to yourself. Look to others to inspire, but don’t use them as a blueprint. What about their business makes it work? And remember entrepreneurs need people too, don’t be afraid to get help.

In our early days, we had a lot of support from the Passport to Export scheme run by the Government to support businesses in breaking into new overseas markets – it is this kind of advice that can help guide you and make your dreams a reality. I’m now working to support other small businesses as an ambassador for the Business is GREAT campaign.

Lastly, be positive and have fun with it – I’ve enjoyed every single moment and never look at things as a problem, only a problem to be solved.

What do you find most satisfying about running a business
The staff and the people I work with everyday. As a former colourist I’ve always been a people person, so still having contact with the consumer has been amazing, plus working with other creative people to build my brand has been a joy. I like nothing more than a good old brainstorm to get the best ideas flowing!

Why do you think British brands/products like yours appeal so much to overseas consumers? What makes them unique?
Firstly, as a product we have no cultural boundaries – tangles are a global problem and we suit all hair types. Made in the UK appeals as global markets like ‘Brand Britain’. My appearance on Dragons’ Den has been a great global commercial due to the translation in other languages – the no investment has turned me into a great figurehead for the brand as everybody likes the underdog!