Philip taught himself how to make soap by watching YouTube videos and started crafting his product range from his sink at home.
Soon after launching in 2018, the Charcoal & Tea Tree Oil Breakout Control Facial Cleansing Bar sold out – one is now sold every 30 seconds globally.
The acne-curing line-up of cleansing bars, scrubs and masks launched in Priceline last year.
We caught up with Philip to find out first hand more about the cult UK brand.
How long ago did you start the brand? Why?
Carbon Theory launched in February 2018. Around six months prior to that I had become aware of the increased media coverage around young people seeking a solution to acne and breakouts. I also noticed how many people were heading straight to the GP to pick up aggressive medication as a first solution, rather than looking into a skincare routine. Looking at the market I couldn’t see a product that was super accessible with a simple formulation, or which included natural active ingredients that aimed to not only get your skin as clean as possible but also had healing properties. That’s when the idea sparked our iconic first product – the Charcoal & Tea Tree Breakout Control Facial Cleansing Bar.
Tell us about your career path?
When I left school I did a five-year apprenticeship in precision engineering so I’ve always been interested in products and how things are made. When it came to making the first batch of cleansing bars it was a really exciting time. Beyond engineering, I had a series of senior sales roles across a number of categories including sport, property and retail. I also appeared on the UK series of The Apprentice which I think is where I got my bug to start my own business.
Which is your favourite product in the range and why?
Without question it is our iconic Cleansing Bar! It was where it all began and when I see the thousands of reviews we receive from happy customers and how it has transformed their skin, it’s a wonderful thing. The fact that it’s super affordable and effective makes it a very special product. We had sell out launches with this product in both the USA and Australia which shows the global appeal of the product. Most recently, it won an Allure Best of Beauty Award in 2020 in the US and appeared on America’s biggest morning show The Today Show – it’s about as good as it gets for an independent brand.
What do you consider to be your greatest success?
I think you look at what our brand has achieved in the last three years against huge corporate organisations with limitless budgets, we have been outselling them consistently and that is hugely satisfying! Having an incredibly driven and talented team has enabled us to do this and we are punching well above our weight. If we can keep the competition scared that’s what success looks like to me.
What has been the most valuable learning in your career?
If you don’t work hard, don’t expect anything. I never forget the sleepless nights and hand labelling products for months on end to get the brand off the ground. If you don’t put the hours in, it won’t happen for you. I also understand the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people, I don’t need anyone around the team with negative energy, it’s exhausting and stops progress. Most importantly personal relationships with manufactures, logistics teams, retailers will go a long way. It’s much easier to get added value and pull favours if you are friends. Being a pleasure to deal with costs nothing.
What advice would you give to the next generation of brand creators?
I would say you need to ensure that your product will cut through all of the noise, be unique and be brave. It’s a very competitive landscape, but if you believe you have a great product or brand go for it and don’t listen to anybody else. The amount of people who told me people do not use cleansing bars anymore – if I would have listened it would have been a completely different story. The only way you will know, is if you put yourself out there.
How do you maintain a work / life balance?
I’m on emails till 10pm at night as we are in three different time zones but it’s part of the course when you are building a brand, and I’m used to it now but I’m also a big believer in work hard, play hard. I believe in creating an office culture where social occasions are the norm. It’s important to celebrate the wins even if they are small ones. I want people to love working for Carbon Theory not just turn up. I figure I keep working hard for five years and if everything goes according to plan I might be on a beach in Hawaii somewhere – that’s the plan anyway.