Glaswegian barber-turned-entrepreneur Iain Kane shares his story of launching his own range of men’s shaving products and finding success in the US.
Can you tell me about Village Barber in the time it takes to apply shaving oil to my face?
Village Barber is a range of 100% natural and paraben-free shaving oils and balms designed to give the most comfortable shave possible - particularly to men with sensitive skin. One of our most popular products is our shaving oil. Clients love the smoothness of the shave as well as the scent and we’ve had a real upturn in orders recently.
We’ve been lucky to have won acclaim from male grooming experts, beauty editors, and bloggers too which has really helped raise awareness of our brand.
What prompted you to make the move into entrepreneurship?
I had been barbering for 35 years before moving to County Durham and launching my barber shop, Village Barber. As a traditional barber for many years, I was continually asked for advice on the best shaving products.
I set out to find a completely natural, non-chemical, and paraben-free product that would not only give the best shave but would also leave the face feeling great and irritation-free. I found that most, if not all, commercially available shaving products were loaded with chemicals so decided to produce my own range to fill this gap in the market.
I launched the Village Barber range of men’s shaving oils and balms and began selling them from the shop before branching out and selling them online. So far, we’ve had success selling to customers across America and are also gaining popularity across Europe in Russia, Spain, and Scandinavia.
Why do you think your products are finding success across the pond?
We have been selling well across Europe but we’ve noticed a really big number of orders coming in from men in America. I believe this rise in orders comes from the current trend for wet shaving which is sweeping North America.
Unlike Britain where beards have been big business for the last four years, in America men still prefer to be clean shaven and are now spending more time and money looking after their face and skin.
Over the last couple of years men have become more aware of how to get a good shave, but shaving oil, as a stand-alone product, without the added use of foams and gels, is something which is still quite a new concept to America and harder to source.
As your business has grown, what is the biggest challenge you’ve found and how did you overcome it?
The single biggest challenge I’ve found is getting the products passed US Customs, or to be more specific, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA). As Village Barber products contain oils, albeit natural oils, they have to pass the US’s strict criteria on the import of such substances.
This initially caused problems by way of seemingly endless delays in retailers receiving their consignments because the US FDA would routinely hold the consignment for around 10 days before asking us what they wanted to know. This proved to be a huge frustration for us.
In order to circumnavigate these delays, I decided to voluntarily register Village Barber products on the FDA’s own national database. This entails inputting each separate ingredient of each product onto their rather comprehensive database. Unsurprisingly, this took a while to complete as the full Latin names of each oil had to be entered individually.
However, after registering each ingredient in our products and prominently highlighting the fact that our products were registered on their database, we soon noticed that the delay times dramatically reduced.
What advice would you give to other expiring exporters?
If anyone reading this is thinking about exporting, I would definitely tell you to do your homework!
Depending on the quantities that you’re exporting, you can really save yourself a lot of time if you know how to go about things properly. It will certainly be worthwhile to attend a fully subsidised course on exporting where you can learn the basics of what to do and what not to do.
Whilst at times challenging, exporting is definitely worth doing if you can as it can seriously improve your sales figures, particularly if you’re dealing with a huge market like the US. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that, if you’re not exporting when you’re in a position to do so, you’re doing your business a great disservice. If you have a product that you honestly believe in, then why not make them available worldwide so that as many as possible can benefit from them.