Starting a business comes with many challenges and is no easy feat. But as three young entrepreneurs from Palmerston North discovered, when you have a supportive network around you, who believe in your vision, it makes the journey not only easier, but worth the ride.
In 2017, Blake Janes decided the time felt right to start a side-hustle. Blake is a barber by trade and regularly shaved customers using a cut-throat blade and water, resulting in many customers developing rashes.
After recognising this trend it sparked Janes to develop a product to make the blade glide across the skin.
With a mission in mind Blake spent the next three years researching and experimenting with high quality ingredients such as shea butter, hemp oil and coconut oil in his garage.
With no experience in starting his own business, Janes sought advice from two of his loyal customers at the barber shop. Entrepreneurs Mohamad Eltayeb and Chris Teneza had just returned home from Melbourne after COVID-19 quashed their dream of developing an app. Jobless and hungry for a new challenge, they partnered with Blake seeing potential in his dream just before the country went into lockdown.
They admit the switch-up from digital to cosmetics was “pretty big”, but believed the product had enormous potential.
“After many planning discussions, we decided to give it one to two years full-time and see where we could get it,” says Teneza.
Napier-based Chemical Engineer, Aden Fareh saw the potential too, joining the venture and providing funding as well as taking on an advisory role, mainly taking care of compliance. Eltayeb and Teneza focused on the marketing and administration while Janes continued with product development.
The team experienced many ups and downs through the innovation process, however they didn’t let any challenge stop them on their road to success. They had an end goal in mind, and learnt to be adaptable and open to change to achieve their goal.
Teneza recalls a morning when he was feeling disheartened.
“I said to Mohamed, ‘We’re broke. It feels like we’re not getting anywhere. What are we even doing?”
That afternoon Teneza took a call from CEDA Business Growth Advisor, Peter Ellingham. Ellingham had received their application for Callaghan Innovation’s Research and Development Fund and was keen to meet with them.
“That phone call changed the whole journey. CEDA was so supportive and their expert advice has led us to amazing people,” explains Eltayeb.
CEDA linked them into Manawatū’s innovation network. They began working with experts and like-minded people at The Factory, Callaghan Innovation, and Manawatū Young Professionals Network along with other local businesses who supported their vision.
Having a team of experts providing guidance has prevented costly mistakes and led them to diversify and strengthen their product development process.
They dropped their original business name after getting Intellectual Property advice which found it was already taken. Today, they’re known as Cutly Limited.
The Cutly team welcomed advice from CEDA with open arms, widening their market to include females after receiving rave reviews from women who had used the cream to shave their legs.
“Originally, we were in denial about it because we knew it was going to be so much more work,” says Eltayeb.
“Now that everything is up and running, we’re really glad we branded the product as unisex because if we didn’t, we would have missed out on a huge portion of the market”.
The team were also advised to do extra rounds of product testing to perfect the formulation. While it delayed launching, Janes believes they’ve ended up with a much better product than he would have produced on his own.
It has been over four years since Janes began the entrepreneurial journey alone in his garage. Today Cutly Limited is a tight-knit team surrounded by a trusted team of advisors. Cutly is a registered company based in a down-town office in Palmerston North.
The long-term vision is to get Cutly products into supermarkets, but the next step is to launch their e-commerce store and start selling to consumers in July 2021.
Find out more about the business and follow their journey here.
Cutly Hiker’s Retreat Men’s Natural Shave Cream
If you’re looking to grow your business, CEDA can help
CEDA has an expert team of Business Growth Advisors who work across the Manawatū-Whanganui region, helping businesses of all sizes and in different sectors to grow.