Ed Currie and Andy Coxon, founders of Akt, met on stage in London's West End in 2015. The Deodorant Balm was born from needing a deodorant that could keep up with their training and provide the protection they needed while being a planet-friendly, sustainable option. We chatted to Ed about their journey and what challenges they have faced as a brand.
Tell us about you and your background.
I am one half of the founders of Akt London, and Andy Coxon is the other half. We first met rehearsing for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, in London’s West End. We played The Righteous Brothers and sang “You’ve lost that loving feeling” together.
Funnily enough, my background has never had anything to do with deodorants. I trained as a dancer and singer, and had a career in musicals. But my performing background is what ultimately led me to my career in deodorant… because I smelt (!) and needed a long-standing solution.
How did Akt come about? Why did you see a gap in the market?
Our story began in 2015. Andy and I met whilst performing in London’s West End. With gruelling schedules and endless physical exercise under hot lights on stage, we searched for a deodorant which would work. Nothing covered our sweat patches, or the inevitable smell of sweat when we were performing - typical deodorants just weren’t cutting it. This was the point where our journey truly began - three years later we have created a deodorant balm that our users love.
Akt’s ethos is ‘Plastic free. All natural. All genders.’ Why was creating a product that is completely sustainable as well as inclusive important to you?
It’s clear to us there’s a real need for a skincare range for both men and women which supports their personal care, health and wellbeing. What is so great about our products is its versatility to appeal to all consumers, indifferent to genders or ages for that matter. The scents are also specifically created on neutral tones to eliminate scope for splitting the balms into genders.
Sustainability is something that is very important to us, it was never an option to create a product that wasn’t environmentally friendly! As an industry we have a responsibility to protect the world that we live in and as part of this we are actively part of a movement looking for change. We are very proud to be plastic free.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as a brand?
One of the biggest challenges was finding a formula that not only worked but was also plastic free. We started making the balm in my kitchen and must have tested hundreds if not thousands of different methods to get to the right mixture. When we arrived at the final product the next challenge was ensuring that the packaging was plastic free. We had to trial different materials, and we landed on aluminium as it is a material that can forever be recycled without losing any quality. It was a learning curve but we are so happy with where the company is now and the reception it has received. It makes all the sleepless nights worth it!
What inspires you and motivates you?
Having the ability to do something I love everyday. I never thought a desk job would be for me, but I use my brain in so many ways everyday that no day is ever the same, and I find that really fun. When I was theatre, it all got a bit repetitive, so it’s nice to be learning something new everyday.
How important is it to you to build a community and connect with the people who follow you?
Our community has made us who we are and we wouldn’t be where we are without them. Their feedback and support has been critical to our success so continuing to build and grow is fundamental to our business. We always want to be honest and “non-corporate” with our customers. Where we have made mistakes we always own up to them. People really respect that. We aren’t perfect… yet.
What have you worked on or achieved with Akt (or in general) that you are most proud of?
We earned a lot of accolades early on, which was incredible! We were Vogue’s No1 deodorant brand and winner of the Harper’s Bazaar award for Best Deodorant. It’s made all the stress (and financial difficulty) over the last 4 years worth it. Honestly, I never thought I’d be more famous for starting a deodorant brand than performing!
What piece of advice would you give to someone who is looking to set up their own company or start their own personal project?
Believe in your product even when others don’t. You’ll also get critics and those that don’t think your idea is worthy, but push through the negativity if you really believe in yourself. I would also suggest taking as much feedback as you can from whoever it is, critique is invaluable (even if you don’t always want to hear it.) Early on I used the mantra “you’re no better than anyone else, and no one is better than you”. It puts you in a place of willingness to learn (whatever that lesson may be). There can be a lot of sharks along the way, but you must remember to “put them on your level”, to begin to see a clearer picture.
At A LITTLE FIND you can find brands and products for all your home and beauty needs, with a particular focus on sustainability and being kind to our planet. What would be your top tip to help encourage others to live more sustainably and mindfully?
In a world where we want immediacy, the only way we can be sustainable is to slow down, just a bit. Yes it may be more of a faff to put things in different recycling bins, but in the grand scheme of the world, that effort does not go amiss. Also it’s worth keeping in mind that although more sustainable products are more ‘expensive’, you’re often supporting your local economy rather than putting money into the pockets of shareholders. Often too… they last longer than what you currently use, so work out probably at a very similar price.
What are you most excited to work on over the next few months (or in 2021)?
We have new products coming! New scents and soap bars, so stay tuned for those. I’m also super excited to be launching in Germany, my new home.
What do you look for when finding the perfect gift?
Something well designed that lasts, that’s sustainable and local.
It’s always fun to end with a quick fire round...
- Favourite TV series right now? Prince Charming. It’s Love Island meets The Bachelor…but gay. So trashy and full of drama. Gives my brain a nice rest after a tiring day!
- Last thing you cooked? Chicken Bibimbap.
- Favourite Instagram account to follow? @bennydrama7. His Gen Z intern sketches have got me through 2020.
- Best book recommendation? How to be a Badass. Changed. My. Life
- Perfect way to spend your weekend? At the moment… sleeping, doing DIY in my new Berlin apartment and going for walks with friends. Normally though, I wouldn’t mind a night out. I love to dance!
- Best restaurant you’ve eaten at? My favourite restaurant is probably “On the Bab” in London. Korean Street Food at its best.
- Country you’d love to visit? Vietnam! And I’d love to go back to Japan again. I only spent a week there and barely scratched the surface.