The Interview: how actors Andy Coxon and Ed Currie became accidental beauty entrepreneurs with AKT London
Actors Andy Coxon and Ed Currie (pictured above) met while performing in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical in the West End. It was there that they realised the need for a deodorant that worked for eight shows a week, under hot lights, in the same costumes. Coxon and Currie set out to create their own deodorant, on the hob in their tiny Camden kitchen and after three years of testing on friends and cast mates, AKT London was born.
The brand was launched in May 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. Starting a business was something Coxon and Currie never set out to do – they simply wanted to solve a problem that they had with deodorants not working for them on stage or for their busy lifestyles. The result was a formulation that like them, was born to perform. “When our cast mates tried The Deodorant Balm and started asking if they could buy it, we set out to raise some funds via a Kickstarter. We thought AKT (pronounced “act”) could be a little side hustle but then Covid-19 happened. If it wasn’t for Covid-19, we wouldn’t have been able to focus all our efforts on launching the brand and making it what it is today. It’s now our full-time job and it’s been one hell of a journey,” Coxon says.
Coxon and Currie didn’t have a business background prior to launching the brand and almost three years into their journey, they still see every day as an opportunity to learn something new. To ensure the brand was ready for launch, they utilised their community (who were geared up and waiting through pre-sales and waiting lists), made sure their messaging and assets were clear and showcased the brand, product and their story and made sure the website and 3PL were working. With 10 years’ experience performing on stage, Coxon and Currie had tried every deodorant on the market and they noticed that everything had gender specific fragrances and came in plastic or unsustainable packaging. “We didn’t spend time trying to identify a gap. We simply created something we liked that felt authentic to us and our story. We’ve fallen into the luxury space, which is where we wanted to be because we were so inspired by brands like Aēsop and Le Labo,” Coxon says.
When the brand first launched, it wastargeting what it called ‘Earth Conscious Metropolitans.’ “We aimed the product at people who live and work in busy cities and do their bit for the planet, but since doing some further research into our audience, we now know they’re from all over – in different wage brackets, of all ages and all purchasing AKT in equal measure,” Coxon says. AKT is by and for those who are “born to perform” – whether that’s on stage, at work or in life. The brand’s mission is to give its customers the confidence to step on their stage – whatever that may be – and perform.
AKT London was well received as Coxon and Currie had already gathered a large following through the theatre community and Kickstarter campaign. In the early days of launching, they had a huge amount of top tier press. “Vogue, GQ and Esquire all billed us as their number one deodorant, which was amazing, but what blows our mind the most is that so many of our customers (or ‘cast’ as we like to call them) love to spread the word about AKT. We’ve received over 4,500 five-star reviews and most customers share it online without being prompted. We love our cast!,” Coxon says.
The brand’s range comprises five fragrances. “All of our fragrances are high-end scents and are inspired by scenes in nature. The descriptions are written how you’d read them in a script,” Coxon says. SC.01 Orange Grove is the current bestseller, closely followed by SC.02 After Thunder. Coxon doesn’t think there’s any secret to the success of these particular scents, but does acknowledge that orange is the brand’s hero colour and first scent. “It was also shared in a lot of advertising so I understand why our customers would want to try that one first – it’s a stunning fragrance!,” he says. AKT’s latest launch is SC.O5 Columbia Road, which is inspired by the famous East London flower market. “It’s our third bestseller and has been hugely popular in the press,” Coxon says. The scent has notes of zesty lemon, iris, amber and tonka bean.
Coxon and Currie spent three years working on their formula and tested it on over 1,000 West End theatre performers, so it’s safe to say that they’ve been making beauty effective and accessible for all since their journey began. “Our deodorant is the best on the market for performance. We wanted to create something that could be used anywhere on the body. As for accessibility, we’ve created stunning fragrances without a gender focus. We wanted to throw away the gender stereotypes and make something for everyone – more women buy our grey tube SC.02 AFTER THUNDER than men,” Coxon says.
AKT London is adding value to consumers’ experiences by developing high-performance formulas that are moisturising, full of natural ingredients and 100% plastic free. “Our formula doesn’t stain clothes, which means our customers can enjoy their garments for longer and know in their heart that they’re helping to minimise their ‘fast fashion’ impact,” Coxon says. The brand’s deodorant is in a balm format and applied like a moisturiser, which is a move away from the aerosol sprays many consumers are used to. Coxon tells us that aerosols are now the largest contributor to air pollution in the UK – ahead of automobiles. “We are determined to not add more waste to our environment. Even our tubes are fully recyclable – including the cap!,” he says.
The brand has remained committed to providing consumers with high-quality products by carrying out regular checks at its factory and staying in constant contact with the team who are always helpful in improving its operations. “Sometimes, we don’t always get it right. In the past, we’ve had leaks, grainy formulas and exploding tubes! But we are very transparent about it with our customers. They know we are still a small operation and trying our best to improve the deodorant industry. One of our brand values is that we are ‘always in rehearsal’ – always creating, collaborating, learning and improving, but we never go on stage unprepared.
Almost three years after their launch, AKT London continues to go from strength to strength. Not only have the brand been recognised by a number of renowned publications, they’ve also been awarded “Best Deodorant” at the Harper’s Bazaar Beauty Awards. In its first two years, AKT London made £1.25 million in gross revenue and 5,000 people are signed up to their
subscription service. While Coxon has enjoyed being part of the beauty industry, he believes that it’s time for brands to address their use of plastic. “We need the bigger guys to use innovative packaging that is available and make it more accessible for the smaller brands, who currently pay a fortune to be ‘greener’. Sustainability shouldn’t be a marketing message, it should be expected. It’s great to see brands making changes but there’s always more room for improvement,” he says.
Coxon’s advice for anyone who wants to get into the beauty industry is to make sure they have a product that is needed, wanted and has been made for a reason. “You can’t sell something if you don’t believe in it - and don’t have an audience wanting to buy it,” he adds. So what’s next for AKT London? Expansion might be on the horizon as the brand continues to evolve. “AKT is more than just us founders. It’s a team of creatives, performers and marketing minds. It’s no longer just a deodorant brand, but a Personal Performance Company that’s ready to step into its second act. For us, it’s not just about creating a product. It’s about creating a bit of theatre,” Coxon says.
For more information on AKT London, visit its website.