Founder Focus: Ed Currie and Andy Coxon Co-Founders of Akt
In 2015 Ed Currie and Andy Coxon met performing in a show in London’s West End. Their gruelling schedule was intensely physical; eight shows a week, dancing under hot lights, a dressing room five flights away from the stage — and no lift. That’s not to mention the rehearsals, classes, and training during the day.
Mainstream deodorants just weren’t cutting it.
What was your eureka moment?
In 2015, we met whilst performing in London’s West End. We had gruelling schedules and endless physical exercise under hot lights on stage, and to put it bluntly – we smelt. Badly! We searched for a deodorant which would work and nothing covered our sweat patches, or the inevitable smell of sweat when we were performing. Our journey began when we decided to make something ourselves which really worked – and three years later we have Akt.
What is your elevator pitch?
Akt is an intelligent, natural deodorant formulation, focused on efficacy, premium fragrance, and strong environmental ethics. With its story beginning in London’s theatreland, The Deodorant Balm is made completely in the UK and tested only on professional dancers (not animals!) for its functionality. The deodorant itself is an all-natural, moisturising balm that lasts all day, and can be applied anywhere on the body. Accompanying it is a premium brass applicator that encourages lymphatic drainage and micro-circulation around your underarms, chest and neck, helping to relieve tension, boost immunity and energise the body.
The Deodorant Balm is made completely in the UK and tested only on professional dancers (not animals!) for its functionality.
How did you test your idea?
This was a fun one – we were performers in the West End when we started making the products, so we tried and tested the balms on some of the hardest working individuals we know on the scene. We personally gave every single West End cast member in London (over 1000 people) a sample of The Deodorant Balm to test for its efficacy and comfort, and over 90% of them said that when using Akt they felt they either sweat the same or less as when using a traditional antiperspirant. This was enough for us to know we had something special!
What advice would you give someone who wants to start a business on their own?
You have to believe in your product – even when others don’t. At the beginning EVERYONE will want to tell you “what you should do…” which can be exhausting. But, making something to begin with, no matter how small it is, is your best way to get going. We often say, “just lean forward” as you can get caught up taking too long to make “something perfect” – you can keep perfecting it as you go.
We also love the mantra “you’re no better than anyone else, and no one is better than you”, as it reminds us that not only can we always learn something from everyone we meet, but to also not be “swooned” by people “who know best”. It’s your brand, your gut will tell you when something is right or not.
Do you have a mentor or are you one?
At the very beginning we did and it was invaluable. We now have an “advisory board” who are our sounding board when we need advice.
What’s your plan B?
We got asked this all the time when we were performers by extended family members. If there’s one thing we learned as performers, it’s if you have a Plan B, you’re not fully committed to Plan A. So no plan B here!
What is the most worthwhile investment (time, energy, money) that you have made?
At the beginning of our journey we had a different brand entirely. It has a rubbish name, the branding wasn’t “us” at all. We were trying to be something we aren’t. On the day we were going to trademark our brand name we received a lawyer’s letter telling us that we were breaching trademark law as another brand had the same name. We were devastated and felt like it was over. Fortunately we hadn’t yet started trading and so used the money we could have spent fighting it, on rebranding. We decided not to go “cheap” and wanted to work with a design agency we really admired. We were over the moon when they accepted to work with us (as often you can be rejected). After months of back and forth (we are creatives too after-all) the final result was a brand that resonated with who we are as founders and our beginnings in theatre. Akt was officially Born… to perform.
What one failure are you glad you experienced?
We are so passionate about being a sustainable brand. From the offset we vowed not to use any plastic in our packaging, which, little did we know, was going to be a huge challenge. We went through years of trialling different materials and combinations never before seen in the packaging world (for a reason). It was a huge learning curve with so many knock-backs, but we were determined to find a solution. Eventually after many iterations, we settled on aluminium tubes with our bespoke aluminium caps, which can forever be recycled without losing any quality. In fact, 80% of all aluminium ever made is still in circulation, which is just amazing! We’re so happy we put in the time and effort to ensure we stuck to our morals, it was so worth it in the end.
What is coming up for your brand?
SO much. We may have new products in the pipeline, including new scents and soap bars. We’re also looking to expand internationally – starting with Germany (Ed’s new home) very soon.
What book would you recommend that everyone reads and why? ○ You are a badass and You are a badass at making money by Jen Sincero. It really helped me (Ed) at a very difficult time when I had retired from performing and felt I had no skills or knowledge to go into a “normal” working life. It transformed the way I think and my relationship with money. I honestly don’t think Akt would be the success it is without having read it.
How do you find balance in your daily life?
We’ll be honest, it’s not been easy, especially during a pandemic! Fortunately, we have each other for support to make sure we are keeping well and aren’t over-working. Before the pandemic began, we were both very active individuals, and although it’s been amazing to have Akt as a focus, we both lost our motivation to work-out. But recently we both started exercising again: long walks, HIIT classes online and resistance training. It’s amazing how much it makes a difference to your wellness.
We do miss having a dance on a night out though… we are performers after all!
If you fancy trying out the gorgeous Akt products you can find them here.