January 5, 2021 | Jim Magats, SVP Omni Payments
The Mo Bro's team, a UK-based business specializing in beard-care products.
The global pandemic has dramatically accelerated the shift to a digital economy. In the U.S. alone, as health and safety concerns escalated, 40 percent of consumers reported shifting their retail shopping online and 71 percent of small businesses increased their digital capabilities. To adapt to these changes, we’ve seen small businesses around the world enable contactless payment solutions in-store, launch ecommerce sites and leverage data to gain a deeper understanding of their customers.
For small businesses like Mo Bro’s, a UK-based business specializing in beard-care products, this pivot came naturally. Brothers Keval, Kunal and Savan Dattani founded Mo Bro’s in 2014 out of a desire to do good for society during Movember. The brothers have steadily increased investment in new digital tools as a member of the PayPal Global Sellers Program. I participated in a Bloomberg SMB event with Keval recently and was inspired by his story, the brothers' commitment to supporting frontline workers, and the tremendous growth they’ve seen even after facing real challenges as a result of the pandemic.
At PayPal, we’re fortunate to work with 28 million global businesses, the majority of which are small businesses. We’ve been speaking with some of our small business customers to hear directly from them about how the pandemic has impacted their business, what new technologies and tools they are leveraging to adapt and grow, and what advice they have for other entrepreneurs. For the latest in our series, we spoke with Keval to learn about how his business pivoted during the pandemic.
Jim Magats: Can you share a bit about Mo Bro’s?
Keval Dattani: Mo Bro's is a leading men's grooming brand based in Leicester, United Kingdom. The business started in 2014 with a little bit of friendly sibling rivalry. My brothers and I decided to compete and grow beards to raise some money for charity. However, it wasn't long before all three of us were facing different problems with our beards – from unruly growth to terrible beard itch. We started researching the market, but there was nothing out there. So, we decided to create our own remedies. Fast forward to today, and we’ve sold more than 500,000 grooming products in 78 countries worldwide.
JM: The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on small businesses. Have you had to pivot or change anything about your business since the pandemic hit?
KD: We’ve had multiple supply chain issues. During Covid, one of the facilities we manufactured our products in stopped working and a second facility we worked with decided to increase their pricing, which meant we no longer could make the margins that we needed to make to continue our business. We decided to start manufacturing in-house, and we were able to make 8,000 units a day. We also took on a fulfillment partner with locations in the UK, Germany, Cyprus and Miami. During the first couple weeks of the pandemic, we saw a slight wobble in sales and I think it was just down to the insecurity that people were having. But we were fortunate that soon after, we saw what we call the "rise of the lockdown beards." Guys were self-grooming at home as barber shops closed and on the back of that, we saw a 500 percent increase in sales year over year. We’ve learned a lot of lessons from this pandemic.
JM: Can you share some of the lessons you’ve learned as a small business operating during a pandemic?
KD: In many ways, Covid has been an accelerant for change. For us, it highlighted that we needed to double down on things that we knew were already working, like our focus on ecommerce. This has allowed us to access millions of customers across the world, which meant we could grow sales quickly, make faster decisions and stay dynamic and reactive. We live in a digital world that is more connected than ever and we now have access to a globalized marketplace. We’re no longer bound by timezones or regions, so we can sell around the clock and have the opportunity to become truly timeless and spaceless.
We also learned about the importance of having a plan B and C. We chose to work with multiple facilities to manufacture our products so that we had a backup plan in case there was an issue with one, but the pandemic caused one to stop working and one to increase their prices, so we had to fall back on our plan C of manufacturing our own products. It’s important to distribute your manufacturers and suppliers so you don‘t only rely on one, but it’s also important to be able to pivot to a completely different means of manufacturing if needed. As a small business, you need to be able to quickly flex and adapt to change.
JM: Has PayPal helped your business grow during the pandemic?
KD: During lockdown, we continued to sell our products through PayPal Checkout, which meant we were able to sell online and across borders and reach new customers and markets. With a trusted and established brand like PayPal behind us, our customers -- especially new customers who weren’t yet familiar with us -- knew if there were any issues, PayPal would always be there to support them. The last thing we wanted was for customers or prospects to have any level of anxiety when shopping at Mo Bro’s for the first time, especially with an ongoing purchase where they’re coming in to buy more than one product. We’ve also relied on PayPal’s analytics tools to get to know our customers better. Finally, we knew we had access to PayPal Working Capital. Fortunately, we didn't need it, but it was reassuring and gave us peace of mind to know it was there if needed.
JM: Making a positive impact on the community is a core part of Mo Bros’ business strategy. How have you continued to make an impact throughout the pandemic?
KD: I'm a big believer in when you give back, you always get twice as much back in other ways. We became involved in a campaign in the UK to create personal protective equipment (PPE) for the national Health Service (NHS), where business leaders put their time towards giving back. We started making hand creams with the products that we had here for the nurses that were using sanitizer too much and getting sore hands as a result of it. We started using our 3D printers and equipment to produce PPE, which was sent directly to our local hospital. This was whilst we were running our core business and, as a business that was doing well, we thought, if we can continue supporting our community, if we can inspire even one other business to take action as well, then we’re onto a big win.
JM: I love your commitment to giving back to your community. At PayPal, we share a similar belief that we can do well and also do good and we have invested a lot in helping underserved communities and business that have been impacted by the pandemic. Well, it’s clear that Mo Bro’s has seen a lot of success after an initial period of challenge during the pandemic. What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs or people looking to start their own business?
KD: Get to know and understand your customers and their needs very well so they keep coming back for more. Brands can find success by using data to deliver more targeted information and data-driven marketing, rather than relying on gut feelings or guessing what customers want. Don’t be afraid to reset and reinvent your business for the future.
We’ll be publishing another interview with an inspiring PayPal small business owner next month, so be sure to check back in.