20 QUESTIONS: Shaun Pulfrey, Tangle Teezer

The Dragons called Tangle Teezer a "hair-brained idea". Now it turns over £8.5m. Founder Shaun Pulfrey talks apps, idols and sleepathons.

by Kate Bassett
Last Updated: 10 Jan 2014

1. If you had done something else what would it have been?

My father always wanted me to be a fisherman (I come from Grimsby), but I would have loved to have been an architect. Failing that, a flight attendant! In the end I worked as a junior in a local salon.

2. What else would you name your business?

I honestly can’t see it as being named anything else. It was the first name that came into my head and it has served the brand well. It’s a name that starts conversations.

3. If you could be based in another city where would it be?

Boston. I worked there for six years. It’s not as hardcore as NYC, but financially just as rewarding. It’s also near my ‘happy’ places, Provincetown and Cape Cod.

4. When you started, how did you raise money?

Three years of research and development was paid monthly by me. Launching the product to market, I remortgaged my two-bedroom flat in Brixton at £98,000. This enabled me to go from being a sole trader to a limited company. During this time I lived like a hermit. I never went out or brought anything. Tangle Teezer was replacing all of this and it was a very exciting time.

5. What has been your most important decision so far?

The decision to stop hairdressing completely and give Tangle Teezer my full attention. Before that, I was working full time as a colourist (which paid for the R&D) and doing TT on my one day off a week and at the weekends.

6. What has been your biggest mistake?

I’m such as optimist; I’ve yet to make it. Before my Vidal Sassoon training, a friend insisted I bleached her hair white like a New Romantic. It all snapped off!

7. What idea do you wish you had come up with?

I don’t have idea envy. I’m always too busy thinking of my own.

8. How do you handle stress?

Very well. Once in a while I’ll go quiet for a couple days and have a bit of a sleepathon – 24 hours with no toilet breaks! I wake up brighter and breezier.

9. What was your first job?

A fisherman for six weeks covering two three-week trips in the North Sea. That was the end of my fishing career. The repetitive process was too much for me, but I can professionally gut a fish.

10. What was your worst job?

It was when I was a junior in a salon and I had to pick out the hair that had collected in the wheels on the chairs. That was a low point.

11. What was your best job?

Apart from the one I’m in now, it would have to be a hair colourist at Vidal Sassoon. It was intensive training that no one else could offer you. That’s what gave me my attention to detail and the courage to start Tangle Teezer. Plus I never broke anyone’s hair off!

12. If you were on The Apprentice would your team be named?

I wouldn’t be on The Apprentice. They never work as a team, they all work for themselves.

13. What company would you invest in right now?

I would do some research and look into airships in transportation. I see them as the future for cargo global transportation.

14. Apart from property, what is the most expensive thing you’ve bought?

Audi R8 Spyder Quattro six-speed convertible. It’s all black and I fell in love with the shape, not the speed dial. I’m actually a very cautious driver.

15. Suit or jeans?

Both. I’m comfortable either way.

16. Flexible working or office hours?

A happy working environment is more important than the hours.

17. What is your favourite thing about the office?

I never see it as an office. It’s a hub of creativity that feeds your energy. The things that come out of it never cease to amaze me. There are only 15 of us and it’s a bit like the Starship Enterprise.

18. What app can’t you live without?

One you can download to show the nearest toilet. It’s invaluable for when I go out with my mum. It saves a lot of footwork.

19. Who is your business idol?

Expedia chairman Barry Diller.

20. If you were prime minster for the day, what would you change?

There’s not much you can do in a day, so I would change the furniture at Number 10. I’m all for the unexpected, so would give it a very modern edge.

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