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Robert Gillespie’s Story

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My face was bleeding yet again.

Tweezers had failed once more in my feeble attempt to dislodge an ingrown hair that by now had grown a mind of its own, and was making my face look I had gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson.

You see, I suffered from every well-known shaving problem known to man. Shaving was quite simply hell for me…

The ingrown hairs were constant, painful and very unsightly.

Shaving cuts and bleeding…well, when you have ingrown hairs and lots of spots like I did, there quite simply a natural hazard of shaving.

By late afternoon and early evenings the razor burn would kick in and the rashes and itchiness would start to appear.

This daily cycle of problems caused by my morning shave went on for about 11 years!

My 4 years at University between 1992 – 1996 were especially tough, and I don’t just mean the studying and the exams.

I mean the times when you’re turning up to classes knowing your face and neck are covered in a mixture of spots, redness from shaving and ingrown hairs which are unsightly and often hideous.

But inside I was feeling worse…

Shaving, and all of its associated problems didn’t just affect my outer appearance, it had a massive impact on how I felt inside and how I behaved.

Inside I thought that everyone was staring at me, studying each and every one of my ingrown hairs, and the unsightly red patches and ugly spots on my face.

Even in the height of summer I was wearing a shirt to try and cover up as much of my ingrown hair covered neck as much as possible.

My confidence was completely shattered…

I wasn’t acting or behaving in line with what I knew was my true potential. I started to avoid simple 1-2-1 conversations as I couldn’t bear to stand face to face with people in bright light. I made every possible excuse not to go to some of the social events at University in order to avoid any potential embarrassment.

When I should have been having fun and partying as you see in all the ‘University’ movies, I certainly wasn’t.

In 1996, I graduated. My 4 years of University ‘hell’ were finally over…thankfully.

It was now time for job interviews in an attempt to get my first full time job.

Trying to look my best for each interview meant shaving as little as possible in-between interviews.

My skin needed a break from shaving. I wanted to help reduce inflammation and to avoid all the unsightly problems I knew would affect my confidence and how I portrayed myself at the interview.

Gordon Gekko and His Big Phone

Gordon Gekko and the ‘original’ mobile phone from Wall Street

Luckily, within a couple of months of leaving University, I was successful in getting a job in the Financial Services industry.

This was very exciting for me as I was a massive fan of films like Wall Street (Still my favourite film of all time) and finance was what I wanted to do.

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Big Problem…

A job in financial services industry meant I was out and about meeting clients and prospects every day. I was told in no uncertain terms I had to look the part.

This meant shaving every day and dressing smart. I was after all working for one of the largest banking companies in the UK at the time. They had a reputation to uphold and an image to keep.

The result?

My shaving problems got worse, and I was miserable.

My ingrown hairs got worse due to the constant shaving. My face was red all the time as a result of the razor burn and scratching I was doing.

Before going to bed at night I would inspect my face and neck in the mirror to see the final damage caused by my morning shave. It wasn’t uncommon for me to spend 15 – 20 minutes looking in the mirror trying to remove ingrown hairs or picking at cuts and spots. I would then go to bed and lie down…creating a mental picture of how my face was going to look in the morning…

…hoping and praying that maybe one or two of my ingrown hairs would magically disappear and some of my rashes would go away so that the razor would glide over my face with ease the next day. Fat chance!

Because of this, I wasn’t exactly waking up the next morning looking forward to the day ahead. My fears and insecurities were at its peak.

Just as importantly, I wasn’t achieving the goals and ambitions that I knew were possible…

I just knew that I was acting and behaving very differently to the person I knew I could be if I could simply eliminate all of these damn shaving problems. For years I tried every known shaving product and brand known to man.

If the product said it was for sensitive skin I was all over it. I would fall for the expensive advertising on television and inside glossy magazines promoting the latest shaving foam or new razor technology. You know the ones…the television advert’s showing you the male model having the “smoothest, closest and most comfortable shave yet”. I used to ask myself – “How does that guy glide the razor across his face so elegantly and smoothly, and so fast?” It looked so cool and easy.

WHY COULDN’T I DO THAT!!!

What am I doing wrong? Am I using the wrong products? Am I using the wrong shaving technique? Am I using the wrong face wash before shaving? Should I shave before or after a shower?

The questions were constant in an attempt to find a solution to my shaving problems. I would visit Boot’s (a local chemist/drugstore) at least once a week trying to unearth the latest shaving product or accessory that would transform my shaving experience and resulting appearance.

I was in constant search for the Holy Shaving Grail…

I would examine every single ingredient on the products packaging to see what was inside this latest shaving foam or gel. Was it any different to the last one I had tried and failed with? By now I knew the standard ingredients inside almost every shaving product on the market that I could probably make one myself.

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The year 2000 was a big deal for everyone…especially for me as it turned out.

Robert Gillespie Men's Shaving

My first trip to New York in 2000

The new millennium had arrived…and I arrived in New York City for the very first time. I had gone to Manhattan for a holiday with my girlfriend Elaine, now my wife and mother of our 2 beautiful daughters.

This was our first trip to New York and we were both really excited. As I was a massive Wall Street fan, I couldn’t get down to Wall Street quick enough to see it in all its glory.

We arrived that first night in New York around 5pm, so it was a little late to start venturing down to Wall Street. Instead, we spent the rest of the night wandering around Times Square amazed by all the lights.

It really was just like the movies. Smoke was actually coming out of the drains on the roads. I thought that was just a ‘movie’ thing.

I instantly fell in love with New York, and still feel the same way about the place now.

The next day arrived. Wall Street here I come.

Little did I know at the time, but this visit to Wall Street would change the course of my life for ever.

Wall Street Sign

A visit to Wall Street changed my life forever

In addition to seeing the Trump buildings, the New York Stock Exchange and of course the nearby World Trade Centre’s, I stumbled across a little piece of heaven…

A small shaving shop on Wall Street itself.

Yes…a shop dedicated to retailing all things to do with shaving and shaving only. This was no Boot’s the chemist.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I walked (very fast) over to the door’s main entrance.

This was my Charlie and the Chocolate Factory moment..

The windows were dressed with ‘pretty’ shaving brushes, after shave balms and some shaving creams all packaged beautifully. They even sold a shaving book! And to top it all off, the items were all sitting proudly displayed on top of a traditional barber’s chair.

Upon entering this little jewel on Wall Street, I was presented with rows upon rows of beautiful shaving products and accessories. Some of which cost several hundred dollars.

The products were sitting on luxurious mahogany shelving and the whole shop had this special grace about it. It looked like an upmarket gentlemen’s club.

The sandalwood smell inside was amazing too.

I was greeted by a very smartly dressed and pleasant lady in her mid to late 40’s.

“Do you need any help” the lady kindly asked…

“Eh, yes please” I replied.

Where do I start is really what I was thinking.

Anyway, I started to talk about my personal shaving problems and experiences to date. I told her what I thought was my skin type, what products I had tried, and what products I was using right now without any improvement and so on.

She then asked me some questions…

These included asking about my shaving technique, what razor did I use, what was my skin preparation, how I applied the shaving products to my skin, what I did after my shave to protect my skin and a few more along the same lines.

She then provided a solution on how to reduce and eliminate my shaving problems once and for all based on our conversation. Not just by using different products, but by changing my shaving technique as well.

I walked out of the shop an hour later with several new products in my bag and feeling confident that I had taken a giant step forward to getting rid of ingrown hairs and eliminating razor burn and rashes once and for all.

For the very first time, I’d divulged all of my shaving problems to an expert in Men’s Shaving. I felt utter relief. I wasn’t guessing anymore.

That evening, I laid out all of my new products in preparation for my first shave as if it was Christmas all over again…

  1. A small bottle of Pre-shave oil for warming up the skin, softening the hair and offering an additional layer of protection to the skin.
  2. An Unscented Shaving Cream that was made with Coconut oil and Glycerin for maximum protection and the richest possible lather. I was advised that Glycerin softens the skin and the hair shaft whilst retaining moisture which was great for my skin type.
  3. A Shaving Brush that would work in conjunction with my new shaving cream to provide a little bit of ‘old school’ experience to my shave. I had been advised that the brush would create a hot and rich lather that would offer me the best possible protection as well as exfoliating my skin. I had no real idea how to use the brush, but I was up for this.
  4. An Unscented After-Shave Balm to soothe, refresh and regenerate my skin after my shave.

Straight off, I really enjoyed the whole shaving ‘experience’. From the application of the pre-shave oil to the warming up of the shaving cream lather using the shaving brush, to finishing off by applying the soothing after shave balm…I felt great.

This shave was definitely a lot less painful than my previous efforts.

Needless to say, I didn’t need another excuse to visit Wall Street before I left New York. Now that I’d found this little shaving goldmine, I went back one last time before I left to go home. I stocked up on enough products to last me the next few months.

I couldn’t get these products back in the UK, and I wasn’t prepared to go without. It cost me a small fortune, but it was worth it.

Clearly, my skin and appearance didn’t transform overnight, but after a week or so, I started to notice a massive difference in my appearance…and confidence.

I was no longer dreading my morning shave…

In fact I was now looking forward to it. I loved the routine. I loved lathering up the shaving cream using the shaving brush…

The razor burn and rashes were slowly disappearing. My skin felt less irritated at the end of the day. Each shave was becoming more and more comfortable than the one before.

Ingrown hairs were still a big issue, but over time I realised this was more to do with my shaving technique than the products I was using.

Over the next few years, I continued to re-stock my bathroom cupboards with pre-shave oil, shaving cream and after-shave balm. I was able to order all my stock from the company’s website, and get it shipped direct to my door from New York.

I even upgraded my shaving brush and bought a ‘fancy’ razor as it weighed a lot more than the basic model you get from the local supermarket.

In 2004 whilst playing football (soccer), I suffered a cruciate ligament injury to my knee. It’s a very serious knee injury which puts you out of playing sport for a minimum of 6 months, but usually a year.

(I was going to add an image of my knee post operation here, but I wanted you to keep reading so I left it out!)

I couldn’t drive for several weeks so I decided to take two weeks of work and rest up.

Richard Branson

One of my hero’s Richard Branson

During my two weeks of rest, I took some time to reflect on life and where I was heading. Like many people, I had a dream of one day running my own business. I loved reading books on people like Richard Branson and Donald Trump.

However, I always hit a bottleneck when it came to the ‘Big Idea’. What was I going to start a business in?

My first idea was a coffee shop. After a couple more trips to New York in 2002 and 2003, I had been exposed heavily to the coffee shop culture. I loved a small coffee shop in Manhattan called ‘Get Cosi’ and frequented there many times during my trips to New York. I eventually got put of this idea by the rather large set up costs.

I also considered selling games and game consoles such as Playstation’s and Xbox’s as I was really into that kind of thing at the time.

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Then my Big Idea came to me…

My ‘Big Idea’ eventually came to me whilst lying in my bed watching TV. Why didn’t I sell the same shaving products I was importing from the USA to customers here in the UK? That was it!

I was going to open up my own shaving business in Glasgow, exactly like the one I visited in New York…

Simple. It all made sense the more I thought about it…

I was extremely passionate about these shaving products because of the transformation they had made in my life…

I thought there must be thousands of men out there currently in the same painful position that I was, in search of a way to eliminate all of their shaving problems and resulting confidence issues. I was going to provide that solution to them.

My first step was to write to the owner of the products in the United States, asking if I could import them to be sold in the UK.

After some toing and froing, I was granted permission to sell the full range of products in the UK. Once this happened, I went into turbo drive and spoke to a few other potential suppliers from places like London and Germany. I pitched them my dream of having my own small shaving shop dedicated to sourcing and stocking the world’s finest shaving products and accessories.

Combining their products, my experience and personal transformation, I was confident that I had something of great value to offer my future customers.

All of the suppliers I approached agreed to my vision and said yes to supplying me. Things were moving nicely. There were a few minor hiccups along the way as you would expect.

Banks were not keen on funding my concept as they felt it was to ‘niche’ or ‘specialised’. They weren’t confident the demand for a ‘shaving’ only shop was there to justify my sales projections. Gent’s grooming products in 2004/5 were still not popular or readily available. I was taking a risk the banks told me.

However, I felt that shaving was a ‘manly’ thing, and my concept would appeal to men without any embarrassment factor. With the lack of funding made available to me, I had to downgrade my plans a little. I couldn’t afford the ‘big’ fancy shop with glass fronted windows that I wanted. I had chosen my ideal shop location however and I knew this was essential in order to attract my target customer.

I was going to sell my upmarket shaving products in Glasgow’s most luxurious shopping mall. I was rubbing shoulders with the likes of Hugo Boss, Calvin Klein and Jo Malone.

This was serious. Outside of London, Glasgow has the largest shopping area of any city in the UK. Luckily for me, and maybe it was fate, a small ‘kiosk’ within my chosen mall became available within my budget. It wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for or envisioned…but, it ticked so many boxes and because it was small, it didn’t involve as much financial risk as the ‘big’ shop did. I proceeded to sign a 5 year lease.

The Perfect Shave

My first shaving business – The Perfect Shave

With only 3 months to go before I opened for business, I went to New York once more to get officially trained on all things to do with men’s shaving.

I learnt everything you needed to know about shaving. This included understanding the key ingredients required for shaving products, what works best for one skin type versus another, answers to the top frequently asked and most common questions, in addition to training on how to shave using a traditional cut throat razor.

Over the past 15 years or so since I started shaving, I felt as if I had learned everything I needed to know about shaving. My training in New York took proved me wrong. What I had learned in New York took my knowledge to the next level. I was now ready to go…

In September 2005, ‘The Perfect Shave’ opened for business.

The Perfect Shave Kiosk in Glasgow

Fully stocked and ready to go. The Perfect Shave was now ready to solve shaving problems across Glasgow.

 

The kiosk was located right in the middle of the walking aisles of the mall. Customers had to pass by my kiosk in order to get anywhere. In hindsight, it was the best thing possible for launching a new business. 

My shiny kiosk with bright lights and shiny razors attracted a lot of attention from men and women.

This was something that was very new to the Glasgow public. It was the perfect time of year to open a business in hindsight. Christmas was approaching and traffic flow in the shopping mall was starting to pick up. Men were keen to try out my new products or take sample’s and women were looking to buy Christmas gifts for their men. It was a great start. The business also generated some very positive PR coverage.

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The products I had imported from the USA were used by many famous celebrities and because of this, my business got some good press coverage locally as I was the only stockist of this brand in the UK.

If you wanted to get the same shaving cream as used by Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise, and you lived in Glasgow…you had to visit The Perfect Shave.

Sales were good.

In the first few months, my business sold in excess of £60,000 worth of shaving products and accessories. I now knew that I wasn’t alone in suffering from shaving and its associated problems.

There were thousands of men out there suffering with the same kind of problems that I had, and they were in search of a solution just like I had been.

I just had to reach them with my message in the best way I could.

Over the course of the next few years I personally spoke to and advised in excess of 5500 customers who had problems with shaving…

From simple nicks and cuts, to eczema skin aggravated by shaving, and ingrown hairs that would put my own to shame…I seen and heard it all.

What pleased me more than anything was seeing customers returning to The Perfect Shave.

Some of my customers admitted they were a little sceptical when they first arrived at my kiosk.

Many told me it was almost like going to the doctor for a diagnosis. They were telling me things about themselves that they would not dream of discussing with their own partners or friends out of embarrassment.

I told them that it didn’t have to be this way. I was living proof of that.

Customers would come back much happier than they were when I had first met them. You could actually see the difference in their skin and resulting confidence.

They would tell me how much better they felt. They would thank me for my time and advice. They would tell me how much they looked forward to shaving now. They were recommending me and my business to their friends.

Witnessing first hand that my advice and experience was really making a difference in people’s lives was truly amazing for me.

Like me, they had probably tried lots of different shaving products and accessories and spent a small fortune without any success. They were probably thinking that what they had heard about me and my business was too good to be true.

With the right advice and guidance my customers could make a massive transformation in their appearance and confidence.

I now truly believed I could call myself an expert in the area of Men’s Shaving. I was now confident that I could help transform men’s lives in a very positive way through the power of my advice and products.

Within one year of The Perfect Shave launching I got a VERY big, but pleasant surprise…

Arena Magazine

The Perfect Shave Featured in Arena Magazine

I had been nominated as a ‘UK Entrepreneur of The Year’ finalist for my business The Perfect Shave.

ARENA magazine featured me, as did several local newspapers and publications. This offered me and my business a lot of credibility. It was further evidence that what I was offering was something unique and of great value to men just like me.

What I did find amusing about the ARENA magazine profile was that inside a magazine with Tom Cruise on the front cover, was me and my small business! Surreal but truly amazing.

Unfortunately I didn’t win the big prize, but this was a massive endorsement for all the hard work and effort I had put in up until that point.

Men's Shaving Experts

Photographs before the big award ceremony… I’m the pretty one on the left…

I did get to go to London for the awards ceremony however. Little old me, mixing it up with A LOT of celebrities in a nightclub in London’s Mayfair was not exactly my normal weekend.

This recognition drove me on further. I wanted to transform more men’s lives and reach more people. I knew I was making a difference in people’s lives and that was very important to me and is very much the case today.

If I was only helping transform one person’s life each day I was making my difference.

The next step in my master plan was to launch The Perfect Shave website in late 2006. This way I could reach a lot more customers than just those living in and around the Glasgow area.

The site had all of my products on it and had many ‘teaching’ areas where customers could go to get advice on common shaving problems and help with choosing their next product.

The Perfect Shave soon started to get orders in from all over the world. Canada, USA, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Australia, Thailand, Croatia and Russia…the list went on. My business was now global.

Over the next few years The Perfect Shave continued to grow. By 2009, my ‘small kiosk’ was turning over £246,118 per annum.

In 2010 however, The Perfect Shave hit at a defining crossroads. A crossroads that would change the business forever…

My 5 year lease that I had signed in 2005 was now up for renewal, or so I thought!

The Perfect Shave

The Perfect Shave hit a big crossroads in 2010

Late in 2008, the shopping mall where I was located was bought over by new Landlords, who had grand plans on how they wanted to develop the mall over the coming years.

Unfortunately for me, kiosks were not part of their plans.

I was advised that if I wanted to renew my lease for another 5 years, I had to pay DOUBLE what I was paying right now for rent.

This was clearly the landlord’s way of saying that it was nice having you here, but it’s time for you to move on now!

I was given 6 month’s notice to move out of my ‘kiosk’, and on the 28th February 2011 I sadly departed.

The Perfect Shave continued however to offer shaving products and accessories through my existing website, which by now had built up a mailing list of well over 8000 customers. I also continued to sell on eBay and Amazon.

However, selling shaving products and accessories online was becoming very boring.

Why?

I was missing the interaction with my customers. I wasn’t helping anyone first hand or using my experience and advice to transform people’s lives for the better.

My business had turned into just another website where people came to buy stock.

I was simply watching orders come in online, which then had to be packed up and taken to the post office for delivery. I did this day after day for about 18 months.

I started to hate what I was doing. This was most certainly not my goal for The Perfect Shave or me.

In March 2012 I made the tough decision to close down my website and stop trading using eBay and Amazon…

Not for financial reasons. Business was great. However, if I didn’t stop now, I could see myself still doing the same thing in 10 year’s time and I would resent it even more.

To get back on track I had to make that tough decision…to close it down. I knew I would disappoint thousands of customers, but I had to do it. And I wrote to all of my customers to explain my decision and reasons why.

I simply wanted to get back to helping real people solve real shaving problems which in turn transformed lives…

And this brings me to the reason why I have created Men’s Shaving…

I want to build an online community where people who have problems with shaving can come to get help. Where people who are passionate about shaving can share their stories and offer their own advice in addition to my own. Where people can talk openly about anything shaving related.

And, with the power of the internet, and using the latest technology…

“I want to help one million men transform their shaving experience so they look and feel better, and achieve more happiness and success in their lives”.

It’s an ambitious statement to help one million men, but it’s one that drives me.

And it’s one I’ll need YOUR help with in order to achieve it…

So this is my question to YOU…Do you want to become part of the community and club at Men’s Shaving?

I hope you’ll join me and get involved in growing the internet’s number one site dedicated to all things shaving…

All you need to do to get started is enter your best email address on the right hand side of this page to keep up to date with everything we are doing at Men’s Shaving. (Insert an arrow)

If you like Social Media, then I’ll be using Facebook to communicate and interact through our weekly Question and Answer sessions. Hit the ‘Like’ button on the right hand side of this page to keep up to date. You can also follow me on Twitter @mensshaving.

Finally, if you have any questions or comments about ‘My Story’ then please post them below. I will respond personally.

It was hard writing ‘my story’ for the first time so I’d love to know what you thought. I hope it’s only the start of an incredible journey that I now want you to be a part of.

Let me know what you want to see in Men’s Shaving. What would you like me to write about?

Without you, Men’s Shaving won’t work. I won’t be able to reach one million men and help them.

So…please join me…Click here to subscribe and get exclusive Mens Shaving content that you cannot find here on the blog…(it’s 100% FREE)

I look forward to speaking with you soon.

Robert Gillespie

Shave Good. Feel Great.

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