Five tips for turning public failure into global success

After a very public failure on Dragon’s Den Shaun Pulfrey was determined to not let the experience define him. During his recent VOOM Podcast appearance the Tangle Teezer founder explained how instead he used it as a springboard for his quite phenomenal success...

"I loved working with hair. I loved my job," explains Shaun - it's not exactly how you expect the origin story of a business to begin.

Shaun was a very successful hair colourist before he founded Tangle Teezer. And in fact, it was only because he was once privy to a shampooing that could have gone very wrong that the idea for Tangle Teezer was even born. The lesson here? You don’t have to hate your job to become an entrepreneur. Even if you love your job, it’s ok to want more. Below we take a look at some of the other nuggets of advice that Shaun was keen to share.

What you can learn by reading this article:

  • How to ensure there's always another route to market
  • It’s up to you to eliminate as many risks as possible when starting up
  • Executing your idea is more important than worrying about someone else stealing it

If you'd like to subscribe to the VOOM Podcast then you can do so by heading over to iTunes.

"For six months, I did a lot of R & D at the British Library, at no cost to myself other than reading lots of books. I self-financed over three years, worked four days in the salon, and did lots of research other times."

Are you prepared to do research for six months? Are you willing to finance your business while working a day job for three years? And remember: Shaun did this even though he loved his job. That’s how excited he was about this.

The lesson here? It’s going to take time. Years, probably. Are you prepared to work - and wait - for years?

Read: Be resilient and build robots: four growth tactics from Graze

"Eliminate everything that is a risk of you failing."

Becoming a fully-fledged entrepreneur is always somewhat of a risk, but how often do you get the advice that you should eliminate as much risk as possible? Usually it’s all about taking risks no matter what. But with Shaun, as well as doing R & D for six months and self-financing for three years, did two other things:

1. Spent the first three months after he’d quit his job preparing for a trade show where he’d be able to sell Tangle Teezers.

2. Became the supplier for Boots whilst still living in his flat in Brixton (and not waiting until he had some fancy office space).

The lesson here? There are always risks. But there can always be fewer risks.

"Look at what you're saying, strip it back, ask if it’s relevant, don’t be afraid that you're being judged."

Some excellent advice from Shaun here on pitching. He’s been on Dragon’s Den, which you can hear more about on the podcast, so he’s got some of the best experience you could have. Our VOOM Podcast host, Nikki Bedi, adds that when she met John Cleese, he said "there’s nothing quite as gorgeous as an enthusiast in the room."

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"Patents are not a force field."

Lots of new entrepreneurs ask questions about patenting their idea. Should they patent their idea? If they don’t, will somebody steal it? What happens if someone steals their idea because it’s so damn good?

Shaun believes this is the wrong way to think about things. He says nothing protects your idea - and, more importantly, your actual product - like going straight to market and being number one in the market because your product is that good.

The lesson here? Focus on executing your idea, not on whether or not someone will steal it.

"Dragon’s Den was interesting for me because it was never my route to market."

You’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear more of this story, but Shaun had a business plan that he was going to follow regardless of whether or not the Dragons invested. Some people go into the Den and are utterly dependent on the Dragons investing. Not Shaun.

The lesson here? Always have another route to market.

What else you can hear on the podcast:

  • Why Shaun thinks people shouldn’t worry if they're not an entrepreneur
  • Venetia Archer, whose new app Ruuby is the beauty industry’s answer to Uber
  • Sarah Hancock, whose own health battles inspired her to launch Skin and Tonic

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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