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Business Showcase with Ulster Bank: The DNA of the entrepreneurial spirit

In the latest in our series with Ulster Bank, we speak to Blayne Shaw. He set up his firm Lane 44 when he saw a gap in the market for a plastic-free, and eco-friendly razor. And he’s been helped along in his journey thanks to Ulster Bank’s own Entrepreneur Accelerator

The idea of setting up and running your own business was very much in Blayne Shaw’s blood and DNA.

The Bangor man spent his formative years working in his parents’ own fashion business, and through that experience, learned on the job what’s required to go it alone.

“My parents run a business and I always had my own ambition to do my own thing,” he said. “I started my business about a year and half ago.

“I’d always wanted to do it. They have been going for 20-25 years and after seeing that business start from our front living room, to now having a warehouse in the US – that was quite inspiring and something I wanted to do.”

Blayne set up Lane 44 after seeing razor products in the marketplace, and a move away from disposable products and those containing a lot of plastic.

The company produces eco-friendly safety razors across a range of colours. And Blayne has plans to further extend that product range to include additional items, such as shaving cream and an exfoliator.

“I learned about the product and the opportunities out there. It was completely plastic free, and that’s the direction we went down.

“We started to go down to markets in London and selling face-to-face. It started out as a men’s razor, but we then realised more women were buying it at the market.”

Blayne says the greener credentials of the razor came about upon learning of the hundreds of millions of the plastic and disposable kind which are sent to landfill each year.

“I wanted something to help change that,” he says.

“That’s (one of) our main reasons. It’s also a much closer shave. When you are talking about plastic razors, encased in plastic, it’s hard to get it close to your skin.

“It’s significantly cheaper, blade wise. We are selling a year of blades for £15.95. That’s compared to some subscription services of around £10-15 a month.”

Blayne has also benefited from being part of Ulster Bank’s own Entrepreneur Accelerator programme, assisting in his journey and bringing the business online.

“It has been great. We have regular catch-ups with Ulster Bank and the biggest benefits for me have been opening doors, speaking to different people – getting great advice around insurance and accounts.”

It’s also helped him push his business online – something most retailers have pivoted to in the last few months, even those once dependent solely on bricks and mortar trade.

“The next thing will be more cosmetic based products, good quality shaving cream and pre-shave exfoliator – helping with the whole shaving experience.”

 

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Gabi Burnside

Gabi Burnside

Gabi Burnside

 

Helping to accelerate the business journey

By Gabi Burnside, Entrepreneur Acceleration manager, Ulster Bank

Throughout 2020 and the onset of the pandemic, my prediction was always that more businesses would emerge, and we would see a flurry of new ideas and products come to market.

Given that many people experienced a huge shift in their traditional working patterns and had their daily routine upended, I thought those would-be entrepreneurs who have carried a great idea in the back of their minds but just never had the time to get it off the ground, would decide to make a move.

Of course the reality of the last 12 months and all of the uncertainty which has gone along with it, has also been a deterrent for some. While the shift in working patterns and more time at home may have illustrated a ‘better way’, the economic picture outside may have instead encouraged people to shy away from any kind of entrepreneurial activity.

Initial data from the Centre for Entrepreneurs’ annual analysis of Companies House data illustrates the different school of thoughts and highlights the mixed bag approach taken across the UK.

Data in Northern Ireland would appear to show that fewer businesses were launched in 2020 than was the case in 2019. In fact, by comparing April 2020 directly with April 2019 we see a 45% drop in the number of new businesses.

While this can be slightly downplayed by the fact that we were experiencing some of the strictest lockdown measures in April, there is still due cause for concern. The other regions of the UK, once we moved further into the spring and summer, seem to have recovered at a quicker pace.

With varying degrees of restrictions at different times across the four regions, it’s unsurprising to see higher amounts of activity in some areas than others but the figures show that more must be done to level the playing field for entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland.

New businesses will be at the forefront of economic recovery here and at the Ulster Bank Accelerator, we are committed to doing all we can to help entrepreneurs start or scale a business.

The ‘Covid economy’ naturally presents opportunities in areas such as technology, PPE manufacturing and cleaning services but we want to help other businesses who may be struggling to adapt.

This year we have already made additional funding available to female-led firms to try and address the gender imbalance and we are committed to supporting the creation of 35,000 new businesses across the UK by the end of 2021.

If you are sitting on a great idea for a business or are like Blayne from Lane 44 and want to make an everyday product better or smarter or even greener then get in touch with a member of our team and find out more about what we can offer through our networks and programmes.

Drop us an email to begin the conversation at belfastaccelerator@ulsterbank.com

Throughout the last year, entrepreneurs have continued to innovate, often coming up against the most difficult and challenging of circumstances. For me, they have offered a glimmer of hope amid all of the uncertainty and taken the wheel to steer us all on the road to a more sustainable recovery.

Ulster Business


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