Blair James (pictured) has built a multi-million dollar beauty empire after creating the world’s top-selling self-tanning brand
A man who lost both his parents by the age of 23 has built a multi-million dollar beauty empire after creating the world’s top-selling self-tanning brand.
Entrepreneur Blair James, who’s the founder of Australia’s most-loved tanning brand Bondi Sands, launched Growth Bomb in the midst of the pandemic.
Within six months of hitting chemists’ shelves, the brand made an incredible $10million in sales, with one product now sold every two minutes.
But his journey to success didn’t come easy for the 41-year-old self-made businessman as he spoke about his extraordinary rise to the top.
‘I had a challenging upbringing… I look back at that time as a real turning point in my life,’ Blair told Daily Mail Australia.
But the journey to his multi-million dollar success didn’t come easy for the businessman as he spoke out about his extraordinary rise to the top (pictured with his fiancée Melanie)
Australian model Steph Clare Smith (pictured) is the face of hugely popular Bondi Sands
Blair grew up in Yea, a small country town with a population of just 1,100 people in Victoria, about 100km north-east of Melbourne.
After his family moved to the UK in 1986, his British-born dad decided to set up shop selling imported Australian products in Birmingham.
‘As a seven-year-old, I would often spend time in the shop with my dad unpacking stock or merchandising the store. The business was not a success and in the late 80s every UK pound we lost meant losing $3,’ Blair said.
‘Money was tight and I started looking at ways to make my own money.’
And so he took a box of Vegemite his dad was struggling to sell and walked around the shopping centre to see if anyone would buy the jars.
‘I wanted to buy a calculator watch I had been dreaming of. I made enough money to buy the £11 watch ($20.50) and give my dad £8 ($15) change. It taught me that if I want something I needed to find my own way to get it,’ Blair said.
The family moved back to Australia after their life in the UK became extremely ‘tough financially’.
‘After returning we lost the family home. My dad struggled to find work and my mum had to return to work just to make ends meet,’ he said.
‘The financial struggles continued for the next eight years, not that anyone would have known as my parents sacrificed everything to make sure myself and my brother and sister had everything we needed.’
The self-made businessman is the founder of Australia’s much-loved brand Bondi Sands
Blair launched a range of Growth Bomb products in the midst of a global Covid-19 pandemic
Blair created Bondi Sands in 2012 after he saw an opening in the market for self-tanning products (pictured with his fiancée Melanie)
When Blair was 17, his dad tragically died, leaving his mum to be the sole breadwinner for the family.
‘His death placed more stress on my mum – and her struggles took a toll on her. I didn’t realise at that time how much she took on, today I still don’t know how she did what she did,’ he said.
Four years later, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
‘I was only just recovering from the death of my dad when mum was diagnosed. When she was sick my focus was on making sure I was there to take her to her treatments and look after her as her cancer got worse,’ he said.
‘She passed away 18 months later. I was working in retail at the time so the dream of having my own brand was pushed to the side for the time being.
‘I think I was in shock for a long time but I didn’t have any time to deal with it as I had to find somewhere to live and pay the bills.’
Two years after the death of his mum, Blair said he started suffering panic attacks and depression.
‘It all came to the surface… from the unresolved grief. Growing up I used to worry about losing both my parents and I was faced with that reality at 23. After two years of counselling, the entrepreneurial desire started to return,’ he said.
In August 2018, Bondi Sands scored a major plug from makeup mogul Kylie Jenner
Since launching in 2012, Bondi Sands is now stocked in 22,000 retailers globally, offering 48 products and holding 60 per cent of the market share in Australia
Bondi Sands has a legion of fans, including celebrities and models (picture of Isabelle Clarke)
At the age of 25, Blair opened up his own salon in Melbourne that eventually led to the development of Bondi Sands.
‘We were doing a large number of spray tans every week and when we couldn’t fit in anymore appointments I would suggest self tanning products to our customers – but no matter what brand I suggested there was always bad feedback,’ he said.
‘The product either smelt bad, had bad colour or didn’t last long enough… so that was the light bulb moment to make an affordable, salon quality self-tanning range in Australia that was just as good as salon spray tan.’
Since launching in 2012, the fake tan brand is now stocked in 22,000 retailers globally, offering 48 products and holding 60 per cent of the market share in Australia.
Following his huge success, Blair and his friend Hamish Buckley created Growth Bomb, which is a haircare range targeting hair loss and scalp health, during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown.
‘The entire range is powered by a natural formulation that targets scalp health to develop stronger healthier hair,’ he said.
‘Our hero ingredients Yerba mate has high levels of caffeine to help increase hair growth while our other unique natural ingredients help to soothe and treat scalp concerns.’
Within six months of Growth Bomb hitting chemists, the team made $10million worth of sales
Following his huge success, Blair and his friend Hamish Buckley (right) created Growth Bomb, which is a haircare range targeting hair loss and scalp health, during the 2020 lockdown
In November, the ‘miracle’ haircare range launched across Priceline and Chemist Warehouse stores – a rarity for a brand within its first six months of trading.
The brand is on track to make $10million worth of sales by the time it turns one.
‘We are excited about these numbers however that is not what drives us, we are driven about building a global brand with a unique product and doing things differently our own way,’ he said.
Astonishingly, it took five years for Bondi Sands to reach the success Growth Bomb had in just six months.
‘Growth Bomb still has a long way to match the global success of Bondi Sands, but we are incredibly excited to see a brand that we created in lockdown become one of the fastest growing haircare brands in Australia in 2021,’ Blair said.
For anyone hoping to start a business that will succeed, Blair said it all comes down to who your customers are.
‘Understanding your customer is vital. Understanding who your customer is will determine so much about what your business will become,’ he said.
‘Understanding your customer will help you develop product strategy, pricing, what retailers or retail channels to move in to, what your tone of voice will be… all facets of your business will come from the customer.’