What inspired you to start Waken?
I’ve felt that the oral care category has needed freshening up for years (pun not intended)!
When you look at the beauty category there is just so much exciting innovation and so many innovative brands. However, when it comes to dental care, it’s just been the same old traditional brands dominating for as long as I can remember. The lack of innovation and progressive modern thinking in the dental category feels unusual to me.
The designs of conventional mouthwashes are also so ugly that most people tend to want to hide them away.
I noticed this for myself when moving house a few years ago. As I unpacked my bathroom products into my new space, I found a grimy dusty old mouthwash bottle. It was half full of a lurid bright neon purple liquid and was probably more than three years old. It must have been at the back of my cabinet for ages and was something I had forgotten about. It seemed like such an unsatisfactory and terrible product experience for something that I believe should be a more pleasant and enjoyable self-care moment.
Can you tell us a little more about your products and what makes them so different from everything else out there?
We’re trying to do something different to what Listerine and Colgate do. When you look at most regular mouthwashes they use ingredients like alcohol that can leave your mouth dry and irritated. None of these big traditional brands are using real mint or natural flavour extracts and typically their packaging choices are not at all sympathetic to the environment.
To challenge this, Waken is creating beautiful and sustainable mouth care products. Our mouthwashes are all CarbonNeutral® certified and our toothpaste are packaged in recyclable aluminium tubes.
It’s not just about packaging with us too. It’s also important to emphasise that at Waken we are also highly focused on creating safe and highly effective dental products that deliver great performance for consumers. Our user trials show that our toothpaste freshens breath, help reduce plaque and tartar and they all contain fluoride to help prevent cavities.
Today’s it’s really pleasing that we get many of our consumers are happy to Instagram us to show off their Waken products! As most of us wouldn’t think to Instagram mouthwash or toothpaste, we are delighted that Waken is definitely starting to create some new excitement in the world of oral care which is traditionally seen to be mundane.
Do you have a favourite Waken product?
This is difficult as I truly love them all. If I had to choose one from each of our product categories it would be the Peppermint Toothpaste and Peppermint Mouthwash. Both contain natural peppermint extract for a fresh and cool experience which I really enjoy! Our Peppermint Mouthwash actually sells every 2.5minutes in the UK and has won beauty industry awards so it’s not just me that loves it! It’s slowly becoming a cult favourite and the pastel blue packaging for me makes it even better as it looks really good in my bathroom too.
What are your business' core values?
Beauty – Our packaging is the most desirable in the dental category and can be a source of pride in people’s bathrooms.
Sustainability – We are dedicated to reducing our impact on the environment by challenging packaging, processes and formulas we use.
Naturalness – We’re inspired by nature to create more caring solutions to mouthcare. Our flavours are natural and it’s at the heart of what we do.
Equality – We are committed to eliminating discrimination based on race, sex, pregnancy and maternity, marital or civil partnership status, gender and gender reassignment, disability, religion or beliefs, age or sexual orientation. As a team we believe in equity, diversity and inclusion in all areas of our business. We embed these values into everyday practices, policies and procedures so that they may become the norm for our organisation, our partners and hopefully in the wider world. We are passionate about being an actively antiracist organisation.
Efficacy – all our products are formulated to really work. Everything is carefully tested and we are obsessive about delivering amazing results.
What challenges have you faced since starting Waken, if any?
So many. Like many small businesses and start-ups, Covid-19 impacted our efforts to get our products listed with new retailers and to find new suppliers.
However, Covid-19 also accelerated the demand for elevated basic hygiene products such as shower gels, hand sanitisers and dental care. Since we all started spending more time at home, we started investing in better, natural and gentle body care products. So in some ways, these trends have worked in our favour at Waken.
You have obviously had a very successful first business with Bulldog, but did you receive any good advice before starting your second entrepreneurial journey and do you have any advice for anyone thinking of starting their own business?
As I’m sure is the case with a lot of other entrepreneurs, I relish in the opportunity to work with some brilliant people to build a great team together. One of the key takeaways from Bulldog was to build a team of experts as soon as possible. When I first started Bulldog Skincare, I had no experience of the skincare market and I was eager to learn more about this category. Upon reflection, I feel that I was slow to build out our team because of this eagerness to learn about every aspect. Of course, as a start-up, we had small budgets which can also make hiring more of a challenge. In retrospect, this probably slowed down our progress. You may find you can flourish quicker if you identify relevant experts and involve them in your team at an early stage. We’re already a team of 9 at Waken and all of us are loving the challenges of building a new concept into a real company with the potential to take on some massive incumbent global brands.
Another piece of advice is to not be afraid to ask for help. The start-up community is more supportive than you might think. In many cases, we have found that people will carve out some of their time to share advice or experience with other entrepreneurs. We certainly benefited from asking more established entrepreneurs for their advice at key decision points in our own journey. Social media platforms like LinkedIn and even Twitter can allow you to find relevant business owners to bounce ideas with. You may also benefit from joining a co-working space to connect with fellow entrepreneurs and don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for access to their contacts too.
What future plans do you have for Waken?
A great deal! We will be launching three beautiful Christmas gift sets in November starting at just £12.00. They will be available to buy from Amazon and Look Fantastic and are the perfect gifts for eco-conscious and house-proud recipients. We have new products coming out next year that are more targeted for specific dental concerns and hope to expand in even more international markets. Watch this space!
How do you switch off and relax to recharge your batteries? Any tips?
Hanging out with my three kids and wife is so important to me! We often like to visit local restaurants in Queen’s Park which is where we live. I try to limit my screen time over the weekends so that I can spend as much quality time with family as possible.
I love to go to the gym 4-5 times a week. I go to a great space called W10 which has a great sense of community and if I don’t have time for the gym, I would try and squeeze in a Peloton session at home as keeping fit keeps me mentally strong too.
Do you use Tincture products? If yes, do you have a favourite?
I’m using all the products at the moment. I’m loving the ALL PURPOSE cleaner and also the WASHING UP liquid. I love the way the packaging looks and I’m a fan of the refill model. I also think Tincture products smell amazing.