You will remember last month that we caught up with Conor Delaney and Adam Cornish of Global Dream Travel. This month we spoke with Daren Elsley, founder of menswear company, Bollox.
Daren and his company have experienced phenomenal growth since its incorporation only a few years ago. The brand continues to expand fast with new ranges and designs, despite the COVID pandemic severely impacting the company’s supply chain and EU Exit resulting in inflated shipping costs to EU consumers. Here, Daren shares with us a little about his journey to date …
Q. Daren, Bollox is certainly an interesting brand name! Can you tell us a little about the company and the story behind its name?
A. Yes, it attracts attention, doesn’t it? To be honest, that’s part of our mission. Bollox started as an underwear brand which has a fundamental aim of raising men’s cancer awareness. We donate 10% of profits to men’s cancer charities.
We believe that through affordable, luxury underwear with an impactful logo, and an information leaflet inside a well branded package; bollox is delivering not just a perfect own purchase or gift, but it is also serving to keep men’s health in the forefront of their minds and stressing the importance of regular self-checks.
Q. Fantastic. And what actually inspired you to start the business?
A. Actually a very sad event led to where we are today. Following the early passing of my best friend I wanted to launch a product that would really have an impact. We wanted to create a brand that could deliver an important message about men checking themselves regularly and being aware of their health.
Q. Wow, what a back story and such a tribute to your friend, that’s amazing. Do you recall the biggest challenges you faced when starting out?
A. Wow, the list is long … but the one which caused the most pain in the first few months was trademarking the logo. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) would not allow the logo to be trademarked as bollox was deemed to be an offensive word.
However, I’m pleased to say that with support from IP Asset and a sheer determination on our part not to fail we were successful in reversing the IPO’s decision.
I have to say that from that experience, I learned a lot about resilience, and I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
Q. Given that you are still a very young company, you’ve achieved a great deal and your growth has been really impressive. What would you say are your longer-term growth aspirations?
A. Ah, on this we are very clear. We want to be an internationally recognised men’s brand, known for its quality and for its championing of men’s health awareness. Whilst our domestic market is an incredibly important focus for us, we also recognise the huge opportunities for us in overseas markets and do already ship product outside of the UK.
Q. You’ve been part of the eScalate programme for some time now. Can you describe how the programme has supported the business?
A. OxLEP as a whole has supported and helped the business in many ways.
Access to advisors and support groups has helped me overcome many business hurdles.
As a recipient of the eScalate grant, I was able to obtain vital funding to help increase and improve my marketing objectives and activity, something that is key to the success of the business given the sector we are in. I have also obtained really valuable advice from the programme’s specialist advisors via the ‘Power Hours’.
In fact, OxLEP and eScalate continue to be sources of advice and support as the bollox brand develops.
Q. That’s great Daren. I’m really glad you’ve been able to get such value from the eScalate programme and indeed the wider OxLEP support, it’s great to hear. And finally, reflecting on your journey so far, what recommendations would you make to other entrepreneurs/business owners starting out?
A. I would first and foremost say that it’s a tough game so loving and enjoying what you do is imperative. Be prepared for many ups and downs, as you will encounter them, and you just have to battle on through even when you feel the entire world is against you.
Establish your vision and just go for it! You will make mistakes, just make sure you learn from them, and go make some more! It’s perhaps easier to say but be dogged and just keep going forward.
I think it’s really important that owners don’t over burden their businesses with debt, but instead aim to achieve strong and steady growth.
You’ve basically got to really 100% believe in yourself and your dream; true failure is giving up, so don’t give up!
And finally access as much support and tap into as many resources as you can to help you learn and grow. For me, OxLEP has definitely been and continues to be one of those resources!
That is amazing advice Daren. I am certain that it will resonate with so many OxLEP clients as well as the wider Oxfordshire business community. Thank you so very much for your time.
To readers wanting to find out more about the bollox brand and its products (and with Christmas around the corner, why wouldn’t you take a peek!), just head over to www.mybollox.co.uk.