The Menswear Style Podcast

Freddy Furber, Founder of Percy Nobleman

February 11, 2021 Menswear Style Episode 115
The Menswear Style Podcast
Freddy Furber, Founder of Percy Nobleman
Chapters
The Menswear Style Podcast
Freddy Furber, Founder of Percy Nobleman
Feb 11, 2021 Episode 115
Menswear Style

Frustrated by the ordinary world and the endless ‘faceless’ products available on the high-street, Freddy Furber in early 2012, sought to reinvent the wheel of what it meant to be a well-groomed 21st-century modern gentleman. Percy Nobleman (Percy’s surname “Nobleman” is an example of nominative determinism) captures these feelings through the comic books series, The Adventures of Percy Nobleman, originally published in 2015 as the world’s first Instagram comic book series. Percy has developed an extensive line of premium men’s grooming products alongside writing a series of comic books to enhance the consumer experience when purchasing each product. The comics were distributed inside the product packaging. By 2014 the brand had a nationwide listing in Boots. Now in 2021, Percy Nobleman is available in 2,000 stores globally, with recent expansion into the US and a collaboration with Philips. 

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Freddy Furber, Founder of Percy Nobleman about his career in eCommerce and the founding story of his grooming brand which was focussed on beard care products for men. He bootstrapped the company and focussed on guerrilla marketing techniques to raise awareness of his products which are today stocked in Boots. Our host Peter Brooker and Freddy also talk about standing out in a saturated market, branding through an original comic book strip, influencer campaigns, the impact of Brexit on trade, and their new bespoke fragrance line.

Whilst we have your attention, be sure to sign up to our daily MenswearStyle newsletter here. We promise to only send you the good stuff.

Show Notes Transcript

Frustrated by the ordinary world and the endless ‘faceless’ products available on the high-street, Freddy Furber in early 2012, sought to reinvent the wheel of what it meant to be a well-groomed 21st-century modern gentleman. Percy Nobleman (Percy’s surname “Nobleman” is an example of nominative determinism) captures these feelings through the comic books series, The Adventures of Percy Nobleman, originally published in 2015 as the world’s first Instagram comic book series. Percy has developed an extensive line of premium men’s grooming products alongside writing a series of comic books to enhance the consumer experience when purchasing each product. The comics were distributed inside the product packaging. By 2014 the brand had a nationwide listing in Boots. Now in 2021, Percy Nobleman is available in 2,000 stores globally, with recent expansion into the US and a collaboration with Philips. 

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Freddy Furber, Founder of Percy Nobleman about his career in eCommerce and the founding story of his grooming brand which was focussed on beard care products for men. He bootstrapped the company and focussed on guerrilla marketing techniques to raise awareness of his products which are today stocked in Boots. Our host Peter Brooker and Freddy also talk about standing out in a saturated market, branding through an original comic book strip, influencer campaigns, the impact of Brexit on trade, and their new bespoke fragrance line.

Whilst we have your attention, be sure to sign up to our daily MenswearStyle newsletter here. We promise to only send you the good stuff.

Unknown:

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the men's wear style podcast. I'm your host, Peter Drucker. On this episode I'm going to talk to Freddy Ferber, founder of Percy nobleman. And here's a little bit of information on Percy nobleman. Frustrated by the ordinary world and the endless faceless products available on the high street, Freddy Ferber in early 2012 sought to reinvent the wheel of what it meant to be a well groomed. 21st century modern gentlemen. Percy is British, influenced by times gone by, as he embraces our ever changing horizons aiming to develop products to suit all men's needs. His grooming products have found their way into the homes of 1000s of men across the globe have been impressed by their style, presentation and performance. And you can find out more about the brand and also shop some of the gifts, the grooming products, the fragrances through the website Percy nobleman.com. And here is Freddy to tell the story of Percy nobleman. I am an entrepreneur I'm Brandon thieves he asked someone who has a lot of loves for aesthetic cosmetic formulation. And when it comes to purse, you know them and all things men's grooming, that brands, Percy is is all about. The modern gentlemen, marrying old with new and trying to bring a new aesthetic to sort of traditional grooming habits. And it was very much focused around the beard and everything to do with the beard. So obviously it's evolved over over the years. But yes, that's that's it in a nutshell. So what kind of experience Did you have leading up to launching Percy nobleman? What? What skills Did you implement in the business from your end? And so at the start, so Percy has been a brand for seven and a half years, and going on eight. And there was two years before that, in sort of developing the business and coming up with the concept. A very much started my career in online marketing, and particularly e commerce. And I spent that time selling lots of other people's products. And then I've always been so brand enthusiasts, as I said, Love brands, lover of brands, I thought well, why don't I do my own brand. And I guess I was young enough to, to give it a go at that stage and pertino When was the first brand and the whole beard grooming concepts was picked cosmetics is the industry I wanted to move into. And I wanted to sort of master a niche that was so small that no one had even heard of it. Can sorry. Now I was gonna ask how did you raise the capital to get the brand off the ground. I'm very much bootstrapped. I'm very, very, very much bootstrapped. So I had a small, very small personal savings, which I put aside from selling off stock and bits and pieces from my old eBay and Amazon business. And, you know, friends and family sort of step forward and put in a little bit more money, but you know, we're talking small sums. And it was because of the e commerce the nature of e commerce is obviously you get paid straightaway. So really, you can bootstrap something and the whole brand has obviously evolved over the air but the whole is pretty much guerilla marketing at the start. So it was all based around just trying to get people to love the brand and talk about it. So you know, word of mouth is still your most effective form of marketing and all that so so yeah, it was it was definitely very much pay straps, but we will well on on the commerce and particularly Amazon as a marketplace to launch the brand. Right. And so men's grooming seven years ago when you're dipping your head into this and or even two years before that when you're bringing like Brandon samples, etc. and kind of formulating the brand in your mind. What was the landscape like then? I mean, it's the monolith today, but what was it like then, when you were first starting out, can you Remember? That's a good question. I remember that the first mock ups of the person open and brands, most people laughed at it rather than wanted you on or really understood what it was. And it was, it was definitely something, you know, totally unusual. And I remember, when we're developing the first sort of men's grooming range, I was thinking, well, how many different things can we put together for someone's beard? You know, obviously, beard oil beard, or they've been around for, you know, decades. Definitely the American subculture of guys with axes and, you know, bending butters, together and, you know, rubbing in their beards, but had it been done for the modern gentlemen, that was really the the unique concepts which I was trying to grasp on. It's like, let's do something that's very traditional, very modern, but do something in the concept of the product itself. that had never been done before. But give it that traditional look. So then when guys and people engaged with the brand, they thought, Hey, I recognise this, surely, this is what guys have been doing forever. But certainly at the beginning, we were very much right place right time. And I don't think I would have been able to develop my business to what it is today, if I, if I'd started now, that's for sure. But the landscape of the concept of competition is totally changed. And I think all of the big players, the L'Oreal's and Unilever's of this world saw sort of men's grooming to be this next big, enormous thing. And ultimately, I don't think that transpired. Right. So the marketplace is now very much flooded with huge conglomerates that don't really understand the intricacies of men's grooming, and how do you get your head above the parapet? As a brand? You know, you say it's saturated? There's a lot of other brands out there, how do you kind of distinguish yourself nowadays? I'm very much with the brand DNA and what the brand is and how much personality you can pour into that brand. And that that was very much stems from the guerilla marketing techniques of our comic books, which is how I saw that. That looks great. Part one of four. Yeah, yeah. It started, obviously, with the brand launch with one product, a beard conditioning oil. You know, most people know him as beard oils these days, but ours is still named beard conditioning oil. And build a character around Percy who's loosely inspired by my great grandfather, Percy. Obviously, I wasn't going to slap my own surname on products, because who was I? So I came up with this fictional character Percy nobleman, and put a lot of, you know, my family and my personality into it. And then, you know, came up with a rather amusing comic book strip and printed it, folded it and stuck it in each in each in each in each product, basically, brilliant. And that was sort of the key to unlocking the brands, because we really discovered, you know, Instagram and all those hadn't actually been around that, that long. And at that stage, and the whole concept of influencer marketing and all these new modern ways of marketing of brands, you know, that wasn't there. We were at that unique point in time where people were taking photos of things and just freely sharing it on the internet. So I think it was within the first sort of three weeks, I had a picture of the purse, you know, woman comic book that had been framed and hung up on someone's wall. So it's really a photo of it. And then it just sort of encouraged people to sort of share and talk and get involved with the character, Percy, and engage with the next comic and the next product. And it just sort of became this whole brand narrative that people could really sort of buy into and get involved in. Obviously, it was a huge amount of fun doing it. So it was great. But it's these little details matter that really do when you get them. And when you open stuff up. I mean, I'm lucky enough to be in a position where I get gifted a few things. And when you do open up the boxes, and you'll notice that there is even like a handwritten note, or they've put in something that is a little quirky, you almost want to be taking a picture of that rather than the product itself because it's something that you didn't expect. I'll give you an example when I'm subscribed to this magazine. Okay, when you get this magazine in the post, you get a little what's called a compliment slip. But it's a picture of a man, an old dude with a speech bubble saying I like your hair, and your shoes. Please, complimenting you on a little. Anyway, it cracks me up every time I get it. And I just love it, I think it's the sort of things that you can put that add a personality to what you're already getting on top. So kind of adds more flavour to the brand itself, doesn't it? Absolutely, absolutely. And, and ultimately, that's what makes a brand new brand, isn't it? Yeah. And that's why, you know, people buy into brands, because they like these little things, and it makes you feel good. You know, it's, it's an extension of yourself, you know? Why else would people spend the extra money on a brand because, you know, if you're just looking at commoditized goods commoditized goods or commodities a brand is is something that one person or a group of people have put a lot of attention and thought and care and love. And looking at every single aspect of that brand. You can't do that with a commodity. Good. Because Because there isn't a there isn't the margin and be it's a commodity. So why so why why would anyone do that? That's what makes brands so magnificent and so interesting. So you touched upon social influencing and social marketing Do you possess? Do you give products to say influencers? Now, to try and be an ambassador for the brand? And do you like them, pick them out and going well, you? You look pretty good with my brand, you kind of get what I get in life? You know, here's a couple of things for you to try out. Or do you not bother at all with influencer marketing? Um, good question. So when we launched the brand, we actually when we launched the brand into boots, so our first major listing, and Percy in 2014, we did an influencer campaign, which was I think, obviously, I'm slightly biassed, but I think it was, it was very successful. And we rather than going for the typical influences, we went for the sort of Percy's noble men. And so people that do interesting, weird and wonderful things. So we went after, you know, the x cricket captain, and then a playwrights and then an adventurer. And then, you know, the I even got an exchange with the guy who developed and founded the football manager, computer game. And then just all these sorts of interesting men, who, you know, probably very surprised to have received an email from us saying, hey, do you want to try out brands? So, you know, we didn't go for the quote unquote, typical influences, and obviously, the market and how influencers are these days has totally changed. And we do still try and do some of that. But I have to say that the magic has worn off a little bit in that regard. So yeah, you know, it's, it's, it's now seen as the way to launch a brand. And obviously, all of the, the the big agencies, the PR agencies, the big the bigger brands, with all the major, you know, multinationals are no longer spending their money on print advertising, so they've got to spend it somewhere. So, you know, the whole dynamic has changed. But I think, you know, that, that was a very special moment, and lots of those people I'd like to think would still be engaging with our brand in some way. And we've been lucky enough to have a lot of celebrity customers on our website and things like that. So, we've we have, we've had a lot of interesting fan mail, you know, we had one guy who sent me a very, very long email saying that it's just so you know, your, your beard oil is used to condition the beards and the Game of Thrones set. Take a glisten in the beard of you know, one of the White Walkers or something I feel very happy But see, we can't we can't promote these things on our websites or anything like that. But it was just amazing to receive this. This correspondence to say that our product has sort of made its way in such weird and wonderful places. So yeah, that is I really like that and that's really cool. So how many people are working for you today? Friday? I mean, are you quite hands on now with every facet even like the online marketing the campaigns etc? How is it Yeah, I'm I'm managing director of the business I'm still very much hands on, does make my workload and also it feels like it's never ending. I've still sort of try and sign off and approve every every new product idea I came up with all the all the concepts for the new product development we do. Write all the copy right a large amount The marketing still and all the bits and pieces. But no the business has expanded. My company is called ellipses brands. And we've also developed a few other brands. And that has allowed us to expand the business. There's 36 of us now employed in Norfolk. And we also now run a factory and do you know, brand, product development, we have a development lab. So all the formulations are done in house, you know, from literally from concept to product on the shelf, we do everything. And with a lot of love and a lot of care and a lot of attention to detail. So it's been a lot of fun. And but not without all the stresses, as you can imagine running a company. Yeah. So also, I mean, you've got it all in house, it's all being made in the UK. I mean, just before Brexit, right? so no worries about getting importation or anything else from outside. How does that kind of hit you at all, as it fluctuated? What you think about? Yeah, the Brexit situation, so far is is far from ideal from us just from moving goods. So as of the third of February, we still haven't managed to move any goods in or out of Europe, which is a massive concern for us. And it is a major management distraction. Obviously, my personal political views I will keep to myself of this discussion, but it is, you know, it is not brilliant right now. I am an eternal optimist, and I like to think that things will improve. And but just the paperwork is just extraordinary. We have a very reliable contact at kuna Naugle, which is one of the largest freight forwarders in the world. And they are also advising UK governments on import and export and the whole Brexit thing. And even with their advice, and they said quotes and quotes there are, you're one of the best small, you're one of the most well prepared small businesses that I've spoken to. And despite that, the paperwork particularly on the exports is is causing issues, because they would say one thing, and then when it gets to the guys that the EU who are checking the import paperwork, and you know, managing that transition of the goods, they're sort of saying, Oh, no, you haven't crossed this to this island. Have you thought about this? And then, you know, there was a lot of nitpicking going on at the minutes, which is far from ideal when you're just trying to run your business. So yeah, well, I hope you make it through me That sounds like absolutely well, onto onto sunnier things. And my editor Craig way to ask you about the fragrance line of bleeds as a new fragrance fragrance line being released? Yes, yes. So fragrances have always been a huge passion of mine. And one thing I did from day one, which was exceptionally hard was to convince a very good fragrance house to make our fragrances and a lot of brands and products will just buy off the shelf fragrances rather than writing bespoke briefs for fragrance house and a perfume or to make something from scratch. So we are I'd say for you know, relatively small brands, very lucky to have our own bespoke fragrances from a very well established and highly regarded fragrance house. So I'm, it's something that I've very much enjoyed doing. And the fragrances are of very high quality for the price. And we've also developed the the range of fragrances which is our signature fragrance, the 1806 and the 1881. Two basically complement one another so you can layer them. So if you have the collection, you can sort of where the the signature and then the eighth 91 and then that will combine and create a new fragrance and sort of explore and be a bit creative with how you apply and where the fragrances. Nice. Thanks for jumping on the podcast ready? Great speaks you know, it's been a pleasure. Thank you for having me. Got a tenuous question. And you mentioned ellipsis earlier on that kind of umbrella brand or did you get the name printed cedar oil? funny that you say that? Because no I didn't. But my cousin pointed that out to me. And I've just got this screenshot of it. Is it on the mobile phone? Yeah. ellipsis Yeah, it's the codename that you get from the guy that makes the bonds and then yeah, him through the airport. And that's the that's the codename is that that would have been one hell of a link considering 30 characters. It's a bit of a sort of, you know, Bond esque sort of guy in certain circumstances in the stories but No, unfortunately, that wasn't the inspiration. I just really like the word ellipsis I have a bit of English language English Lit geek who, you know, enjoys these things. And you know, the ellipsis is where the you know, the words speak for themselves, you don't need to write anything because the meaning is implied So, and that whole that built that, that whole concept built into the brand. So, you know, you can What you see is what you get and the brand speak for themselves and the narrative is there and they don't need to be explained to the nth degree. So nice. I actually never knew the etymology of the word ellipsis. I've seen Casino Royale 1000 times but never, never actually bothered to look what the word meant. So I'm glad I asked that. Anyway, Freddy, great talking to you enjoy the rest of your night. That was Freddy Ferber from Percy nobleman. Thank you, Freddy. And wow, how about that you'll never look at the Game of Thrones again without thinking of Percy nobleman. So thank you for tuning into this episode of The menswear style podcast. If you like what you hear, why not leave a review it does help our egos. Don't forget to check out the show notes for this episode and all content pertaining to fashion watches, grooming and lifestyle over at WWW dot menswear. style.co.uk and we're on the social at menswear style. And if you want to be a guest on the show, tell us about your brand. Tell us about your journey. You can email us here at info at menswear style.co.uk until next time,