Blair James (pictured) has built a multimillion-dollar beauty empire after creating the world’s best-selling self-tanning brand
A man who lost both his parents at age 23 has built a multimillion-dollar beauty empire after creating the world’s best-selling self-tanning brand.
Entrepreneur Blair James, the founder of Australia’s most beloved tanning brand, Bondi Sands, launched Growth Bomb in the midst of the pandemic.
Within six months of hitting drugstore shelves, the brand hit an incredible $10 million in sales, now selling one product every two minutes.
But his journey to success was not an easy one for the 41-year-old self-made businessman as he spoke of his extraordinary climb to the top.
“I had a challenging upbringing…I look back on that time as a real turning point in my life,” Blair told the Daily Mail Australia.
But the journey to his multi-million dollar success wasn’t an easy one for the businessman as he spoke about his extraordinary rise to the top (pictured with his fiancée Melanie)
Australian model Steph Clare Smith (pictured) is the face of the hugely popular Bondi Sands
Blair grew up in Yea, a small rural town of just 1,100 people in Victoria, about 100km northeast of Melbourne.
After his family moved to the UK in 1986, his British-born father decided to set up a shop in Birmingham selling imported Australian products.
‘As a seven-year-old I often sat in the store with my father, unpacking the stock or merchandising the store. The business was not a success and in the late 1980s every pound we lost meant losing $3,” Blair said.
“Money was tight and I started looking for ways to make my own money.”
So he picked up a box of Vegemite that his father was having a hard time selling and walked around the mall to see if anyone wanted to buy the jars.
“I wanted to buy a calculator watch that I had dreamed of. I made enough money to buy the £11 ($20.50) watch and give my father £8 ($15) change. It taught me that if I want something, I have to find my own way to get it,” Blair said.
The family moved back to Australia after their lives in the UK became extremely difficult financially.
‘After returning, we lost the parental home. My father struggled to find work and my mother had to go back to work to make ends meet,” he said.
“The financial troubles continued for the next eight years, not that anyone would have known that my parents sacrificed everything to make sure that me and my brother and sister had everything we needed.”
The self-made businessman is the founder of the beloved Australian brand Bondi Sands
Blair launched a range of Growth Bomb products amid a global Covid-19 pandemic
Blair created Bondi Sands in 2012 after seeing an opening in the self-tanning market (pictured with his fiancée Melanie)
When Blair was 17, his father died tragically, leaving his mother the sole breadwinner for the family.
His death put more stress on my mother – and her struggles took its toll. I didn’t realize then 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 my father’s death when my mother was diagnosed. When she was sick, my focus was to make sure I was there to take her to her treatments and care for her as her cancer got worse,” he said.
‘She died 18 months later. I was working in retail at the time, so the dream of my own brand was pushed aside for the time being.
“I think I was in shock for a long time, but I didn’t have time to deal with it because I had to find a place to live and pay the bills.”
Two years after his mother’s death, Blair said he suffered from panic attacks and depression.
“It all surfaced . . . of unresolved grief. Growing up, I was always worried about losing both my parents and when I was 23 I was faced with that reality. After two years of counseling, the entrepreneurial desire started to return,” he said.
In August 2018, Bondi Sands scored a big plug from makeup mogul Kylie Jenner
Since its launch in 2012, Bondi Sands is now available at 22,000 retailers worldwide, with 48 products and 60 percent of the market share in Australia
Bondi Sands has a legion of fans, including celebrities and models (Photo by Isabelle Clarke)
At the age of 25, Blair opened his own salon in Melbourne, which eventually led to the development of Bondi Sands.
“We did a lot of spray tanning every week and when we couldn’t make more appointments, I recommended self-tanning products to our customers – but no matter what brand I suggested, there was always bad feedback,” he said.
“The product smelled bad, had a bad color or didn’t last long enough… so it was time to make an affordable salon-quality self-tanner in Australia that was just as good as a salon spray tan. ‘
Since its launch in 2012, the fake tan brand is now available at 22,000 retailers worldwide, with 48 products and 60 percent of the market share in Australia.
Following its massive success, Blair and his friend Hamish Buckley created Growth Bomb, a hair care line focused on hair loss and scalp health, during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown.
“The entire range is powered by a natural formula that targets scalp health to develop stronger, healthier hair,” he said.
‘Our hero-ingredient Yerba mate has a high caffeine content to stimulate hair growth, while our other unique natural ingredients help to soothe and treat scalp problems.’
Within six months of the growth bomb hitting chemists, the team made $10 million in sales
Following its huge success, during the 2020 lockdown, Blair and his friend Hamish Buckley (right) created Growth Bomb, a hair care line that focuses on hair loss and scalp health.
In November, the ‘miracle’ hair care range was launched in the Priceline and Chemist Warehouse stores – a rarity for a brand in its first six months of trading.
The brand is on track to hit $10 million in sales by the time it becomes one.
“We’re excited about these numbers, but that’s not what drives us, we’re driven to build a global brand with a unique product and do things differently in our own way,” he said.
Amazingly, it took Bondi Sands five years to achieve the success that Growth Bomb had in just six months.
“Growth Bomb still has a long way to go to match Bondi Sands’ global success, but we’re incredibly excited to see a brand we’ve created in lockdown become one of the fastest growing hair care brands in Australia by 2021,” said Blair.
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 essential. Understanding who your customer is will determine so much about what your business will become,” he said.
“If you understand your customer, you can develop a product strategy, pricing, which retailers or retail channels to go to, what your tone of voice will be… all facets of your business will come from the customer.”