Will King, Founder of King of Shaves, on the entrepreneurial lessons he would pass to his younger self!

First thing would be to tell my younger me “Don’t Be So Sensitive!!!”  When I was young, I took to heart what people said, thought, did and dwelled on it way to long, often to my detriment.  I went to school at a tough Comprehensive school in Lowestoft, where my Dad taught.  Got bullied, didn’t do as well as I could have, kind of internalised it.  On the day of my last A Level, at 4pm I cycled overnight to Cowes, around 170 miles via Oxford with just some glucose bars.  Soon as I’d escaped the bad un’s and naysayers, teaching sailing at the NSC in Cowes, with amazing talent and friends, I started to believe in myself, to be the best I could be in life.

I was an ‘accidental entrepreneur’, being made redundant from my very cool marketing job in the early 1990’s.  Felt let down (by the company) and decided to be my own boss, make a product, solve a problem, scale a business.  As I write this, once again making a product (King of Shades Shugs sunglasses – change a letter – create a new brand) I’m super happy, there’s a great satisfaction in making things.

Being the eldest son of parents who were teachers, I’ve always taken great delight and enjoyment in helping people succeed, but I’d tell my younger me, you can’t make silk purses out of sow’s ears.  Often, I tried to get people to do what I knew I was capable of, but for sure they weren’t – so it didn’t work out for them, which disappointed me.  The value of knowledge is huge, but it is easy to ‘give it away for free’ then get annoyed it isn’t acted on.  You must ascribe yourself a value, and ensure people understand they have a responsibility to themselves to act on advice given, I have experienced myriad disappointments in people here, who could have done what they were capable of, but by not going at it 100% year after year, didn’t.  So, I’m a little more circumspect who I try to help now, I’d tell my youngers self ‘concentrate more on you, young Will, the time to help others will come when you’ve helped yourself’.

One thing I wouldn’t tell my younger self is to change a lot of stuff.  I have read quite a few ‘what I’d tell my younger me’ and what is often clear is how much they wished they’d done, but didn’t.  Not so with me, King of Shaves became the product poster brand in the UK in the late 90’s, 2000’s – we were always innovating; my business partner and I signed a license deal with Ray Kelvin, founder of Ted Baker in 1997 when Ted’s sales were £15m, now they’re £600m and the company I founded still make all their fragrances & toiletries…  I bought an acre of beachfront land in Grenada, sight unseen in 1996, 3 years later built a villa there, whilst buying a yacht (sight unseen too), and in December 1999 became father to my son, Cam.

I’m writing this sat at the villa now, looking out over the Atlantic ocean, with him and 12 of his friends, all of whom have just got their A Level results, and got into all their university choices.  How incredible is that!

One thing I would tell my younger self is to not be ‘so impulsive’.  I often try to nett out when being impulsive has worked, and when it hasn’t. It’s a difficult circle to square.  Nowadays I write emails, then leave them unsent to think about them overnight, before sending, or take opinion from my wife, Tiger.  When I was younger, as a hard charging entrepreneurial CEO, I didn’t have many people to confide in, and for sure most didn’t understand the mission I was on.  I have had massive wins through doing something ‘on the spur’ and big fails too.  Am still working that out.  Have a ‘big’ email to write when I get back, which may or may not have the desired effect.  Mmmm.

Overall, I can’t believe the life I’ve enjoyed, and my younger me and what he did has had a huge part in delivering that. As I get older, with many of my peers having sold their companies, I’m quite unusual in remaining the largest shareholder in mine, still trying to work out how to keep a shaving brand relevant in a world of beardy stubbles.

Finally, I’d tell my younger me to try the best you can to be sure about the huge decisions you make in life, especially ones involving love and money. My first marriage didn’t work out, I have a great 18 year old son, but I found love in 2012, marrying Tiger Savage, who I wish I’d met when I was 18.  Irony is, she wouldn’t have had much interest in the younger me, it was the older one that appealed!

Overall, I wouldn’t change a thing.  Life is what you make it, and I have embraced that ever since “getting on my bike” aged 17.

Life.  It’s important. Enjoy it, don’t endure it.

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