February 15, 2014 by Ville Raivio
VR: Your age and occupation?
BM: 56, sales director and co-owner of The Executive Shaving Company.
VR: Your educational background?
BM: I left school at 16 to be a precision engineer with Timex. My school years were wasted. The school I attended was famous for churning out professional football (soccer) players and not much else. People who worked for me and with me automatically assumed I was university-educated. You could say I educated myself by reading while at the university of life.
BM: Lucy, who is a lawyer, age 24, and Holly, 22, who is studying business and Spanish at university. Both have worked part time at Executive Shaving packing orders and working at our retail shop. They think I’m an obsessed old man when it comes to shaving and grooming. I’m married to Shona and she is the Finance Manager at Executive Shaving.
VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides shaving well?
BM: I have an apartment near Marbella, Spain which is good for chilling out. I have a season ticket at CelticPark and I love eating out and listening to mainly black music, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and so on. Bands like Radiohead and artists like Bowie and Springsteen are also great favourites of mine.
The warehouse that ships a thousand parcels
VR: How did you first become interested in traditional wet shaving, and when did you decide to make a trade of it?
BM: Shona bought me a Merkur Shaving Set over 20 years ago and that sparked my interest. I then began to buy different shaving creams and took a real interest in getting the perfect shave. I soon graduated from the Merkur Mach3 Gillette razor to a Merkur Safety Razor and that really hooked me into the weird world of proper wet shaving.
By 2008, I was running my own Health Insurance Broker business employing 10 people. Out of the blue, AXA Insurance approached me and offered to buy the business. The funds from the sale of my business allowed me to make an offer to the owner of Executive Shaving. Three months later, the business was mine.
Executive Shaving is hugely different today to what is was when I bought it; for example, we have quadrupled turnover and staff numbers are up from 2.5 to 10. We have relocated the business from England to Glasgow, Scotland, and opened a retail shop.
VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of this area — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?
BM: I had learned a lot about wet shaving in the 20 years I had been using my Merkur brush and safety razor; additionally, I have been online since the Internet became popular. During this time I have spent many, many hours over the years reading blogs and tips on razors, brushes, how to shave etc., and almost as many hours on male grooming. It’s no use being well-shaved if you don’t pay attention to other facets, such as dressing appropriately for the occasion.
VR: How would you describe your dress? Which RTW makers or tailors do you favour?
BM: You could say ‘smart casual’. Since I was around 14, I have been a devotee of mod clothes, including Ben Sherman, Fred Perry, Merc, Sta Prest Trousers, Harrington jackets and classic tailoring. My all-time favourite suit is a classic navy Yves Saint-Laurent single-breasted, three button suit I bought maybe 15 years ago, it still looks the part today.
Sets by Mühle
VR: Why did you first setup Executive-Shaving, and what goals did you set for yourself in the beginning? How has the store been received so far?
BM: Health Insurance Broking was highly lucrative but not exactly exciting, I wanted to do something I really had a passion for and thankfully the opportunity arose to buy the business. I knew I could improve on the look of the website and its functionality, I knew too that the key to success is to exceed your customers’ expectations to secure repeat business. The previous owners didn’t even provide a contact telephone number on the website! Our goals were to offer an online and telephone based advice service, expand the product range and focus on growing the business. With 400% growth in turnover and happy, repeat buyers throughout the world, I would say we have succeeded in what we set out to achieve.
VR: There are thousands of shaving web stores in Europe alone — why should my readers visit yours?
BM: I reckon we have the largest range of shaving and grooming stock available online anywhere. For example, no other online store offers the huge range of safety razors we do. Good service is key to what we do; if someone needs help, we help, if someone needs an order out quickly we will do it if it is possible. If there’s a problem, we sort it quickly and without fuss. Non-European residents are lucky, we refund the 20% VAT (sales tax) to them!
VR: Should we look forward to new ventures from E-S in the future?
BM: Absolutely, I have on my desk some exciting products:
1) Our own brand safety razor, the heads are from a well know manufacture of top quality shaving products and the handles are lathe-turned and polished by a guy in England to our exact specifications. The handles are made from high grade stainless steel which gives a nice weight and balance to the razor.
2) We are well down the road to launching our own brand Shaving Cream, After Shave Balm and a Moisturiser. These products have been developed by us and a leading cosmetic chemist. We demanded products that are better than brands we stock, such as Taylor of Old Bond Street, Trumper and Truefitt&Hill. Early feedback has been very good indeed. Our products are handmade here in Scotland using water taken from Loch Esk in the Scottish Highlands. The purity of the water used, the ingredients and the skill of the manufacturers is what makes our products so good.
3) Our new website is due to launch in early summer 2014; the site will have lots of new features including automatic VAT refunds and a points system whereby buyers accumulate points for each purchase which they can redeem for goods or a discount at a later date. Additionally, navigation and buying online will be much easier, repeat buyers will find that all they have to do is login and input their card number and choose their purchase; the rest will be done automatically.
VR: Please describe ES’s own shaving line and the philosophy behind the products.
BM: Natural ingredients and well-made tools that deliver the perfect shave. The philosophy is to match the quality buyers expect when they buy high quality Scottish goods, such as whisky, venison and Harris Tweed. The scent of the shaving cream, after shave balm and moisturiser is clean and fresh with hints of Scottish moorland and eucalyptus. We also want to add value for money; too many new shaving products are based on hype rather than quality, super-cool branding rather than effectiveness. Our range works, we have tested it 100s of times and changed the formula until the products were good enough to be sent off for EU laboratory-testing where the shaving cream and after shave balm test samples are right now. The moisturiser is ready to go; all we are waiting for is the design of the labels.
Creams of the trade
VR: Who or what inspires you?
BM: Some political figures inspire me; Nelson Mandela, Gandhi and Martin Luther King. I spent a day a few years back at the MartinLutherKingMuseum and chapel in Atlanta, USA, and it was both deeply moving and inspiring. Effortless style as demonstrated by guys such as George Cluny, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry and Paul Weller. These guys make it look easy; in reality they carefully choose according to the situation they will find themselves in. Black tie, smart casual, winter, summer, daytime, evening wear – whatever. These guys get it right.
VR: What is your definition of style?
BM: The AmericanIvyCollege look of the 1950s. Penny Loafer shoes, shirts with button-down collars, chino trousers, sleek blazers and how they mix colours is my definition of style.
VR: Is there something you wish more men would know about shaving well? All tips and thoughts are welcome.
BM: Men will get a perfect shave from a safety razor and a sharp blade, a shaving brush, a decent shaving cream and to remember to finish off by applying an after shave balm to soothe, cool and moisturise the skin after shaving. Remember to shave in the direction the hair grows (with the grain) and take your time, using a light touch. Don’t apply after shave or cologne onto newly shaved skin; if you want to smell nice, apply to your hair, the back of your neck and your chest area but not your face — the alcohol damages the skin.