19 Dec 2017 | 02.41 pm
Interview: Jude Jarvis, Marram Co
Attention ladies - Marram Co has just what you need for a special man's gift
19 Dec 2017 | 02.41 pm
Jude Jarvis is one of the founders of Marram Co, a Dublin-based startup that aims to become a global luxury brand for men’s shaving. With her partner James Jarvis, Jude relocated to Dublin to develop the venture, and its products are now on sale in Brown Thomas, Dublin, just in time for Christmas.
Who are the Marram Co founders?
There are three co-founders. I’m originally from Edinburgh and have lived all over the world and I now reside in Howth. My background is in brand consultancy and advertising, working for DDB London and most recently Eatbigfish, helping companies such as Pepsi, Eurostar, Boots, Mars, Unilever, Amstel and Nestle to reframe their approach to business.
James Jarvis is originally from London and has also moved around a fair bit. James also now lives in Howth and his background is sales, business development and commercial partnerships, predominately in the tech industry. He also founded a company previously and then sold it.
The third partner is Paul Edwards, originally from the UK and now living near Lake Como. Paul started his design career in Industrial Product Design and then moved into Fashion Design and has since worked at Fitch, Reebok and, for the last 12 years, Hugo Boss. Paul has delivered projects for brands such as Berluti and Bottega Veneta.
When did the idea for Marram Co first develop and what convinced you that it was worth pursuing?
The idea was conceived in 2014 on holiday in France. My father, a big burly Scotsman, was shaving in the mornings using a badger brush and wooden bowl – the traditional method most of us remember our grandfather using. It was partly an indulgence for him, time each morning for some mindfulness. He enjoyed it, which was a complete revelation, given that James always regarded shaving as a complete chore.
My dad was also evangelical about the science behind a brush and bowl shave and how much better it is for the skin. We started looking into it and there were a few lightbulb moments:
• 7 out of 10 men hate shaving or find it a chore but still shave frequently but suffer from razor burn, rash etc.
• Shaving with a brush is quantifiably better for your skin. Most men think a good shave is all about the blade but in fact it’s all in how we prepare the stubble. After all stubble has the strength of copper wire so it needs softening first.
Where does the name Marram Co come from?
Marram grass was planted in the UK on the first line of coastal sand dunes to help prevent erosion. Marram grass is also a little bit spikey, stubble! And we are trying to preserve something too at Marram.
What age demographic are you targeting?
We aren’t really targeting an age but more an attitude. The Marram Way is all about the pleasure that comes as a result of good preparation. We are targeting men who do things right, take their time, go the extra mile, ﬁnd their sweet spot. Marram believes that life is too hectic and too important to lose two minutes each morning to a boring and sometimes painful chore. These two minutes might be the only two minutes men get to themselves all day. This is their time – to breathe, to indulge and to prepare for the day ahead.
Where are the products sourced?
Our products are sourced from Ireland, England, Italy, Estonia and China. We launched with a range of hardware products and clinically approved skincare products. It took us two years to design, formulate, prototype and manufacture this range.
It was the hardest thing we’ve ever done. There were a series of obstacles and hurdles and multiple reasons to give up. But we never did and we’re incredibly proud of what the three of us have achieved. Interestingly the packaging was probably the most challenging process. We have different suppliers, different materials, and finding the right partners, managing the work-streams and bringing it all together on time kept us up for many, many nights.
How did you get into Brown Thomas?
We were lucky enough to catch the attention of KPMG during the early stages of development. Through their network in Ireland they made some introductions and we ended up meeting John Redmond, the BT creative director. He loved Marram Co and sponsored us internally. The big moment was then meeting Shelly Corkery, the BT fashion director. She saw the potential in Marram Co and we were lucky enough to secure a staffed stand in the marvel room for this Christmas.
How do you plan to roll out the brand?
Our strategy is to focus equally on bricks and mortar and online. We are already talking to a number of luxury retailers in London and New York about 2018 and major global luxury online retailers. So far experience has shown us that once a potential customer picks up and holds our hardware and smells our creams they’re hooked. We’re working hard to look at how we create more of an experience online. Our longer term plan is to be a truly global luxury brand. In the UK we are talking to the top three luxury retailers, all based in London. Same again in the US, with specific focus on NYC.
The Marram Co website is slick and well designed. What was the build process like?
The website process was very time consuming and took many twists and turns. We started building the site on a specific platform that we then decided mid way through wasn’t fit for purpose and could not meet our longer term requirements. So we changed and had to effectively start again. That meant finding a new agency, deciding on a new platform and so on. We chose an agency in Dublin called Friday who have been very good. There have been bumps on the road but we’re very happy with the end result.
We always knew that the site would be embryonic and constantly changing. However, we were clear that we didn’t want to feel like a startup online but an established luxury brand. I think we’ve done ok here. In the process we had to assume a lot of accountability for the creative direction and function of the site. Naively we thought we could assume less responsibility but we took time to be meticulously focused on the detail, and we directed the video, photography and most other creative aspects of the site.
How has the venture been financed?
We have had two funding events since that moment in France. James and myself funded the first 20K to get things moving. We then raised 70K from family and friends before launching a larger raise early in 2017. We were lucky and met Emmet O’Neill, who founded Smiles and then became CEO of Topaz before now owning and running a collection of hotels. He and a couple of friends, plus a group of our previous investors, and our local enterprise office committed a significant sum of money. We’ve raised circa 750K to date.
What’s your view of the startup landscape in Ireland?
We have been massively impressed. First there’s plenty of investment money so lots of opportunity to pitch. As a smaller market than say London, it’s easier to get noticed too. There’s a huge amount of competition here in the tech arena, but outside of that there’s less competition and still plenty of money available.
What’s the biggest business challenge?
Our biggest challenge is time. We have launched multiple products and each one has multiple components, both online and in-store. In 2018 we are also looking a new products and new channels and new markets. We are still running the business on a very tight budget. There’s no limit to our ambition but we are resource and cash constrained as any startup is. Prioritising is a huge focus for us.
We have seven staff in-store on shifts, a business development director who just joined us, a finance head and ops director. We also have a part-time operations exec in the warehouse. We do a huge amount of work with our partners who are critical for us. Next year we will look to bring in a few key roles but we’re still defining those.
Any advice for would-be entrepreneurs?
Feedback is a gift! But don’t act on all feedback – choose what you act on carefully.
Photo: Jude Jarvis and James Jarvis