From aerospace to aftershave: the Kings story

Former aerospace engineer turns his talents to creating ethical grooming products for men.

Bristolian entrepreneur and former aerospace engineer, Blue O’Connor, has spent the last few years helping local businesses flourish as an international trade advisor for Business West. Now, he’s launching his own business and social enterprise: Kings, an ethical aftershave and grooming brand for men.

For Blue, it’s important that every Kings product will be ethically produced and made in the UK. The whole product range will also be paraben free, palm oil free, registered cruelty free, and vegan. On top of this, 20% of the profits will go to male youth mentoring and mental health projects.

Kings, which was incorporated 7th June 2017 and will officially start trading during a crowd funder campaign in April and May 2018, has already partnered with two high-impact charities – Mentoring Plus and Bristol Mind – as well as running its own flagship project building outdoor gyms and coaching young men in calisthenics, a form of urban gymnastics.

Blue had the idea for Kings after returning from travelling in 2016:

“At the time I was struggling to find grooming products that were a good fit for my values and lifestyle. There seemed to be no quality aftershaves that were ethically produced and cruelty free. And there were definitely no aftershaves that ‘gave back’ to the causes close to my heart.

Out of this frustration, Kings – a grooming business with a mission – was born. I decided to create a ‘social enterprise’ that would use 20% of all profits to empower men to live their best lives.”

Armed with a business idea but not sure how to start, Blue signed up to the Start & Grow programme to receive expert advice and guidance on making his business dream a reality.

“After a one-to-one session with a start-up adviser I attended the ‘Business Planning and Finance’ workshop and was encouraged to apply for the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) start up programme and grant. After a three-stage application, I was successful and given £3,000 to start my socially driven business.

I also attended a workshop on social media marketing run by Fiona Parnell, as well as other events which have all been very insightful and useful as I start my business. As well as face-to-face support, I have read many of the online resources and found inspiration through the Start & Grow e-newsletter and I am benefitting from the 3 years Chamber of Commerce membership that comes with the programme.

Without my interaction with the Start & Grow team, I honestly do not think my idea would have come to fruition. Their advice, guidance and support has been instrumental in me now being able to sell my first aftershave product via the crowd funder kicking off in April.”

Blue’s ambition for the future is to create a multi-product brand that uses its profit for purpose. He also want to raise awareness of Social Enterprises and see them become a more common in the mainstream market, saying: “I want people to understand that, ultimately, what we buy and who we buy from creates the world we live in.”

Find out more about Kings on their website and on their crowd funding platform.

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