Growing an anti-obsolescence brand 60% a year with Bert Beagley-Brown from TOG Knives (episode 411)

Bert Beagley-Brown is the founder and Managing Director at TOG Knives a UK brand that designs & sells premium kitchen knives, batch-produced in the Samurai sword capital of Japan. Selling via their WordPress store they’ve just run a second hugely successful crowdfunding campaign. Founded in 2015 they now do £700,000 having grown 4.9x since 2019.

Bert Beagley-Brown TOG Knives on eCommerce MasterPlan Podcast

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The Birth of TOG Knives

Bert previously ran a product design consultancy and was contacted by a family-owned cutlery manufacturer in Japan that wanted him to design a knife they could sell. He went to Japan, and there he met a samurai swordsmith, an experience that changed his life.

During his stay there, Bert saw an opportunity to design the best kitchen knife for the West but have it made in Japan. That’s how the idea of TOG Knives was born.

Shifting to 100% DTC

TOG Knives were first sold through a WordPress website that Bert himself built. Not long after that, he approached a local kitchen shop and managed to get them to stock and sell the knives. From there, he was able to get into a larger chain of kitchen shops, and Bert knew that that had an impact on brand awareness.

He then sold the knives through other retailers’ websites, but recently, he has gone full DTC. This has simplified the business for Bert and has also improved its profit margin.

Selling a Product Meant to Last a Lifetime

There is a growing movement against obsolescence and disposable products, Bert says.

And although selling a product that’s built to last has a commercial impact on the business, it’s just a matter of continually launching new products while helping their customers look after the TOG knives they’ve already bought. 

A Focus on Education

Post-purchase education is an essential aspect of TOG Knives. When a customer buys a product, they are sent an email detailing how they can best look after the product they purchased and get the most out of it.

Part of this is teaching consumers how to keep their TOG knives sharp. This then leads to further sales because customers will go on to buy their sharpening tools. But all of this comes from the education process.

Growing Year on Year

Prior to the pandemic, Bert shares that the brand was already registering a growth of up to 70% every year. He’s also working with Finisterre’s co-founder to further grow TOG Knives through brand strategy and marketing.

As a founder, Bert says you don’t have to know everything and know how to do everything. There are people who can help you, and you only have to reach out to them, which is what he has done.

Maintaining Balance

Bert does his best to maintain a work-life balance by being in control of what he does with his time.

Work stops at 5:30, so he can focus on his kids after that. He also mentions that his former boss taught him that no overtime can be done to compensate for bad management. What you have to do is really get better at it.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • Email marketing because it brings fairly consistent revenue, and unlike social media platforms that can go out of fashion quickly or change their algorithms, your email database is something you own and you can use.

Tool Top Tip

  • A bullet journal, which is an analog way of organizing and recording what you’re doing.

Growth Top Tip

  • Work with someone who has done it before because they can tell you what to do. Working with the right people is very important.

Interview Links

Related episodes

  • 382: Launching a luxury sustainable fashion brand with funding and a kickstarter! It’s VENIM
  • 390: Discover the perfect DTC Playbook with DTC veteran Mike Stevens
  • 394: Startup manufacturing and cashflow problems, crowdfunding, and organic social with Frankly Delicious

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