Ranked eighth on The Sunday Times Hundred 2023, making it the UK’s fastest-growing beauty company, Chāmpo has achieved a compound annual growth rate of 217% over the past three years and sold more than one million products since its 2019 launch. The company, which provides clinically proven formulas for a new generation of haircare consumers, now operates in 20 global markets.
No experience? No problem
The most-seasoned entrepreneurs have struggled to match Chāmpo’s growth in such a short period of time, but Kuldeep Knox, the company’s founder and CEO, began her career in Private Equity and Chāmpo is her “first dive into the world of entrepreneurship.” Whilst experience undoubtedly has its benefits for business leaders, Knox is definitive proof that it’s not the only driver of entrepreneurial success. As both Knox’s parents are entrepreneurs, you could say business acumen is in her blood. So, how exactly has Chāmpo become the UK’s fastest-growing female-led private company? Knox attributes channel diversification as one reason for it.
She comments, “Initially, we launched Chāmpo directly to consumers (DTC) and more recently, our focus has shifted towards wholesale. The growth has been significant – we now proudly hold the title of the best-selling haircare brand in Harrods and have become the fastest-growing brand in Selfridges. Diversifying our sales channels has proven to be a key catalyst in accelerating our growth.”
Of course, growth on the scale that Chāmpo has achieved is seldom down to one reason and Knox highlights two other key growth drivers for the company: new product development and market expansion.
She continues, “At the core of our expansion lies a deep commitment to research and development. We’ve invested substantially in new formulations that have redefined the natural haircare landscape. We proudly pioneered the introduction of a high-performance, natural bond-building complex to the market with our Leave-in Perfecting Cream, setting a new standard in natural styling.
“We’ve ventured into new markets, both in our DTC and wholesale channels, guided by data insights that highlight untapped demand. Our entry into the US and EU markets have proved to be an important step in accelerating growth.”
The importance of growing sustainably
No business can begin without at least some start-up capital and Knox’s parents provided her with a loan to get Chāmpo off the ground. But other than taking on some venture debt, the company’s growth, driven by Knox’s firm belief in the market potential and customer need for Chāmpo, has primarily been organic. Crucially, the company’s leader has also ensured it has been sustainable. For the fast-growing companies that do not expand sustainably, growth can fade away just as quickly as it’s attained.
Knox comments, “Our approach as a business has been focused on sustainable growth. We’ve demonstrated that it is possible to deliver rapid growth, profitably. In order to maintain an efficient capital structure and ensure we had the necessary cash flow to expand business infrastructure and support fast growth, we took on some venture debt.”
Chāmpo’s success is epitomised by its inclusion in the top ten of The Sunday Times Hundred, an accolade boasted by few businesses. The great thing about accolades such as this is the recognition they provide, and according to Knox, being named on this list has had a really positive impact.
She explains, “It’s garnered substantial interest from retailers, customers, and investors worldwide. Our team takes immense pride in this achievement, as it’s a reflection of nearly four years of unwavering, consistent growth. Achieving the eighth position among the UK’s fastest-growing companies is a testament to our product performance and dedication to our customers, and it has positioned us for exciting opportunities in the future!”
Never underestimate the power of loyalty
But no successful journey is without obstacles: bumps in the road will always appear eventually. Of course, obstacles are there to be overcome, and Chāmpo’s ability to do this has meant the road to success has not been overly bumpy.
Knox continues, “As our business expanded, one of our primary challenges was maintaining a robust supply chain and ensuring we remained well-stocked to meet customer demand. We tackled this challenge by establishing strong relationships with our suppliers and continuously optimising our supply chain processes.”
As a company grows, it becomes necessary to hire more staff for growth to be sustained. But taking on new people can mean the management style needs to change, new premises are required, or in the case of Chāmpo, difficulties maintaining company culture. Substantial growth can also put a strain on a company’s cash flow, but fortunately, they’ve managed to take care of this.
Knox says, “To capitalise on the opportunities that came our way, we needed to grow our team strategically without diluting our company culture. Cultivating a positive environment where people can perform and work collaboratively is so important to successful growth. Managing cash flow is a critical aspect of sustaining growth too, and it presents its own set of challenges. However, we addressed this by implementing rigorous financial planning and always having strong financial governance in place.”
Seemingly no business has been immune from the impact of the cost-of-living crisis and Chāmpo is no exception. However, customer loyalty is one thing that can help any business through periods when consumer spending power is limited.
Knox continues, “We have seen the ‘lipstick effect’ in action, and consumers have started increasing their spending on prestige haircare, viewing it as an accessible luxury. Many of our customers are experiencing fine or thinning hair and are looking for an effective solution that really delivers results. Our commitment to delivering value to our customers, coupled with product excellence, has nurtured a loyal customer base. This loyalty has proven invaluable, providing resilience during challenging economic times.”
A bright future ahead
With Knox predicting the global markets for higher-quality haircare products to grow in the years ahead, and prestige haircare distribution evolving in the UK, 2023 might not be the only year Chāmpo finds itself featured in The Sunday Times, particularly if their future plans for the company come to fruition.
Knox concludes, “Our current focus is all about our customers and ensuring they get nothing but the best products and experiences. Our primary goal is to keep bringing exceptional products to the market and to elevate the haircare experience for as many customers as we can. From a commercial perspective, we’re in a solid position, and our strategy for the next three years is clear: we’ll keep investing in new product development, exploring opportunities to expand into new markets, and diversifying our distribution channels.”