Since selling Interbrand the third major branded products business John Murphy became involved in is Ruffians – an upmarket male grooming business.

Barbers came first and have established a powerful reputation for Ruffians, a branded products business is being constructed on those male grooming foundations.   

Ruffians kicked off with an Edinburgh barber shop in 2012. Thereafter four busy central London barbers were added. The next shop will be in New York.

In 2010 John could see a gap for premium, authentic grooming products sprung from strongly branded barbering credentials. What better way could there be to provide insights and credibility?   

The crafted beard look was soon to go mainstream. It seemed to John that most male grooming products from the industry giants were essentially female products modified in a token way. Indeed some still retained their “feminine” house brands.

He discussed his idea with Andy Cannon, the son of friends who wished to establish his own branded good business.

Andy went off on an extended honeymoon travelling around the world while he considered their proposition. He came back bursting with enthusiasm.

John was in his mid-sixties by then and considered his entrepreneurial days were over. He merely offered his friend an idea. But he could not resist a challenge and quickly agreed to invest in the concept and help develop the brand and business plan. 

A fair amount of work went into the protection of the name, logo and general “get up” because from the start the aim was to create an international brand with the ability to embrace other upscale products such as clothing, should such brand extensions become attractive. 

Andy spent months setting up the first shop in Edinburgh and meeting suppliers. These later efforts resulted in the development of twelve branded products. All were off the shelf formulations but with a powerful brand projection based upon masculine and distinctive features and a porcupine logo. 

As non-exec Chairman, John came up with two investors – Paul Stobat, a former Interbrand colleague and Fred van Woekiom, one of his fellow investors in Plymouth Gin. 

Andy was appointed CEO and the Edinburgh location was chosen for the prototype store because this cultured and sophisticated city was considered a good trial base. It was similar to London and any mistakes could be made out of the spotlight. 

The store was booming and within its first year it won the Best Independent Newcomer award at the British hairdressing business awards – high praise indeed. 

The following year Ruffians opened in Covent Garden where seven in ten customers were soon repeat customers. Ruffians now started to win more awards and eyebrows were raised throughout the industry by this cheeky newcomer. One day fifty delegates turn up from a toiletries conference held in London by one of the industry giants. They walked in and looked around Ruffians, for two hours what they saw dominated their discussions the next day.

The initial plan was to establish a chain of up to 8-10 barber shops in Central London. Today business is strong at barber shops in Marylebone, Shoreditch, in the Liberty of London department store in London as well as in Covent Garden.

It was also planned that the company’s branded product range would be sold through those stores and on-line. PR was the main route to reach customers – a strategy which has paid off, while barbers and their learning experience provided by the initial product range was to provide the launch pad for the new up market product range.

The three investors put in one million pounds of seed money and Andy put in a great deal of time and effort. The timing was good because the launch of the brand coincided with beards going mainstream while shaping hair to accentuate men’s features was something the average barber shop did not specialise in.

The aim in 2010 to establish a broadly based, premium, international male grooming brand was ambitious but today strong foundations have been laid. The male toiletries market in which Ruffians is located is now estimated to be worth $60 Billion but few of the existing brands have the appeal of Ruffians.

Ruffians is trendy, cheeky, masculine, authentic and up-market. The cash flow provided by the shops has been invested in NPD for a new range of five products. The launch of this range is now in hand and expectations are high

There has been strong growth, but all the signs are that the potential in this brand magnifies current demand many times over.