Kuldeep Knox

Haircare innovation in the beauty industry

HOF Entrepreneurs Kuldeep Knox 1920X1080

Published: 15/11/2023

Kuldeep Knox is part of a new wave of beauty innovator, transforming a once-sleepy industry. Having launched in 2019, her haircare brand Champo is one of the fastest-growing in the UK, gathering plaudits for its transformative impact on women’s hair. The inspiration behind the brand is deeply personal, and draws on long-held family wisdom.

Prior to launching Champo, Knox had followed a conventional business path, graduating with a master’s degree from the London School of Economics before starting a career in private equity while also developing a budding passion for collecting art.

However, it was an encounter with hair thinning that launched her on a different path. It showed her the importance of hair to women’s confidence and self-belief.

She says: “During this challenging period, I sought wisdom from my grandmother and stumbled upon her powerful Ayurvedic hair rituals.”
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These rituals transformed her hair’s condition, strength and health, and were the ‘light bulb’ moment she needed to launch her own range. She adds: “Inspired by this transformative experience, I launched Chāmpo with a clear goal in mind: to craft industry-leading, clinically-proven natural products.”

Challenges along the way

Knox developed a naturally derived haircare range based on Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medical system. Her first product was a Pitta volumising shampoo and conditioner. She has subsequently added another two lines based on the other Ayurvedic Dosha types, Vata and Kapha. All the group’s products have been devised to be vegan, cruelty-free, silicone and sulphate-free and sustainably formulated.

Knox launched in Harrods and the journey began. She started to build up a loyal customer base, particularly among women with fine or thinning hair. Today, one Pitta growth serum is sold every minute.

In the four years since its launch, Champo has won a number of awards, and was crowned the fastest-growing beauty brand in the UK in 2023 in the Sunday Times 100 list. The brand now appears in a number of department stores, including most recently Harrods and Selfridges.

As many founders in consumer goods have discovered, meeting demand and ensuring supply chain efficiency was her greatest challenge: “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.” She established strong relationships with suppliers and worked hard to optimise the group’s supply chain processes.

Knox has also had to tread a fine balance when scaling the team to maintain company culture. Cultivating a positive environment where people can perform and work collaboratively has been an important part of her success to date.

But she also has to keep a close eye on funding.

She adds: “Managing cash flow has been a critical aspect of sustaining growth that presents its own set of challenges. We addressed these by implementing rigorous financial planning and always having strong financial governance in place.”
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To date, the company’s growth has primarily been organic. She launched the company with a loan from her parents, also entrepreneurs. However, in order to maintain an efficient capital structure and maintain sufficient cash flow to expand business infrastructure and support fast growth, Knox took on some venture debt as well. She adds: “The key benefit of taking on debt to launch and grow means you remain in full control of your destiny as a business and it forces you to be more efficient with capital and innovative in your approach to problem solving.”

She has worked hard to build nascent businesses in in Europe and the US and is continuing to expand the group’s presence in the international wholesale market.

Useful advice

Knox says that segmenting her time into high value/low value and high time/low time has been useful in helping her set priorities. She then cuts out or delegates anything that sits in the high time/low value category. “It sounds simple but it's incredibly effective and keeps you focused and productive with your time,” she adds.

She has loved entrepreneurship, believing the most important factor is people. Building a business can be tough, she says, but surrounding herself with people who have delivered for her, and also that she respects, likes and trusts, has made the journey infinitely more enjoyable.