Jazz Shaper: Danny Gray & Matt Lumb

Posted on 27 February 2021

Danny Gray is the Founder and Matt Lumb is the CEO of War Paint for Men, the men's makeup brand that was founded in 2018.

Elliot Moss

Welcome to the Jazz Shapers Podcast from Mishcon de Reya. What you are about to hear was originally broadcast on Jazz FM however the music has been cut due to rights issues.

Welcome to Jazz Shapers, I’m Elliot Moss. It’s where the Shapers of Business join the Shapers of Jazz, Soul and Blues and we have a Jazz Shapers Encore Special for you today so don’t go anywhere. We welcome back onto the show Matt Lumb, former CEO and Director of Tangle Teezer, the lifesaving device that kept my first and second and third and forty-fifth marriages intact – I’m only kidding – and the hugely successful detangling hairbrush for those of you who didn’t know. Matt joined me back in 2017, in the summer he reminded me, and he’s here today in his latest role with Danny Gray. They are the CEO and Founder respectively of War Paint, the UK’s leading men’s makeup brand. As a young kid, Danny was bullied because of his appearance, an experience which he says, “Changed my life forever.”  He developed a form of body dysmorphia, obsessing about the way he looked. Age 15, after borrowing his sister’s concealer to cover some spots, he couldn’t believe the power of products yet there was no brand that related to him or that allowed him to shop with confidence so he created one, launching War Paint in 2017. Enter Matt Lumb. After leaving Tangle Teezer in 2018 with the company having sold 50 million brushes in 70 countries around the world, Matt became CEO at War Paint. Their mission, to bring men’s cosmetics into the mainstream and promote positive mental health. “Our ethos,” they say, “is to break the stigma that makeup is solely for women. We are about making men feel comfortable to shout about wearing makeup.”  Welcome to both of you in our new, virtual lounge here at Jazz FM. How are you?

Danny Gray?

Very good. Thank you for having us on.

Matt Lumb?

Yeah. Thanks for having us. Thanks for having us back.

Elliot Moss

Absolute please. Now, exactly, welcome back. I’m looking to these two handsome people here in front of me, one is in the west of London, somewhere very lovely, and one is in southwest of London and I am sitting here in the northwest of London and I have also got – I should always say this on the new series of Jazz Shapers here in 2021 – Stewart, our Producer is also here on this incredible platform. So it’s as if we are all in the room together and we can have a group hug, which we won’t do just yet. Danny, I want to talk to you first. Tell me a little bit about how War Paint happened and why you moved from all the different sales jobs that you did into something which feels like it’s much closer to your heart as well as your head and as well as your ability to earn a living.

Danny Gray

Yeah so, I think you covered a lot of it in the opening piece saying about I was bullied when I was 12 years old but only literally over  a couple of weeks, it wasn’t very long but they took the mick out of my ears that were at right-angles to my head so, I had never really taken any notice about my appearance but after that day, I did every single day and it really affected and I had my ears pinned back actually within three months and then… but I had grown up through my teenager years, 15, the spots for me, it was just overwhelming really and I didn’t want to go out so, I turned to my sister and she gave me a bit of makeup and as you touched on, I honestly couldn’t believe what a product could do and how confident it could make me feel, was a tool that I have now been using for the last 20 years to help me deal with body dysmorphia, which I actually suffer with, but being a guy and you know, a straight guy, that was seen as a taboo really and I never felt there was a brand out there that I was confident in buying in store when it related to me as a guy, education for me as well, women make it seem very complicated and I wanted it very simple. So, I sort of risked everything and thought I’d do my own brand and, yeah, it took about a year of development and I had to re-mortgage my house, sell my cars, watches, everything because my opening order was a substantial amount of money because I have actually formulated my own product and I didn’t want to white-label anything so, risked pretty much everything. Why I wanted to do it is because I knew there’s a lot of guys out there who would think about using makeup or maybe do it in secret and not see the benefits of it that I have without a brand like us coming about and doing it in a bit of a different way to the traditional big conglomerates so that’s really the reason that I founded it and then it’s been an absolute crazy journey for the last couple of years.

Elliot Moss

You very kindly, the two of you, sent me a little package and I have already showed off the fact that even I am 50 and I look 80, your concealer has helped me, my bags under my eyes look a little less worse and the other thing I have used today, and I do recommend this one, is the beard and brow gel, and I only say that because the packaging looks fantastic and I think obviously the aesthetic of makeup should look phenomenal. The only thing I have ever used in the past was when I did a bit of television, it was the Touche Eclat and it was the stuff that goes underneath your eyes, it was the only thing I had ever heard about. You two met, Matt, how?  And what convinced you to join and go, you know what, we can make this special?

Matt Lumb

So we were introduced by our mutual friend that I had met at a fast track event a few years ago. He owns the company that does all of our fulfilments so he knew Danny for the first six months of trading. I think Danny had just filmed the Dragons’ Den show and was also getting quite a lot of interest from L’Oréal’s Incubator Programme and I think he just had people coming at him from all angles. Our mutual friend, Stuart, who hopefully is listening, said to Danny you know, “I met this guy a few years ago. He’s got some experience of scaling start-ups. Maybe you could have a chat.”  As you touched on before, I had left Tangle Teezer in pretty good shape I think, revenues were circa 30 million. Great team, you know, established team and distribution and this, that and the other. I wasn’t really looking to join a six month old start-up with no infrastructure but I did think I could maybe add some value and meet Danny once a month maybe and sort of just try and put him in the right direction and make some intros. So we met for a coffee in Soho and you know when you just know. So Danny and Sean are very different people but I like people who back themselves and Danny had a business that was six months old but believed 100% in what he was doing. That makes a big difference to me, it wasn’t just about selling product. The story behind this brand is incredibly real and it resonates with people and we found a way of making it work and I joined full-time probably three weeks after meeting them for the first time, maybe four/five weeks. And here we are. We sort of started from scratch, it was just the two of us in the summer of ’19 was it?  I think it was ’19 Danny?  Yeah. And now we’ve got a great team behind us. We are managing to grow the business which obviously we will come onto but that’s how we met. It was fate, I guess. I had spent 18 months post-Tangle Teezer doing some consultancy with a few different brands and I know consultancy works brilliantly for some people, I didn’t find it anywhere near as fulfilling as being able to get involved, roll my sleeves up and get stuck into a brand and fortunately Danny and I sort of clicked ‘yin and yang’ together really well as well, we work really well together. So, here we are.

Elliot Moss

Danny, we were hearing Matt’s version and the chemistry, and the chemistry is a serious point in business partnership as a very fragile and a very special thing and I meet lots of people who have phenomenal lifetime partnerships. From your perspective, how quickly did you know that Matt could help and what was the thing that you identified in him that you knew would indeed be able to help you?

Danny Gray

So, before I actually met Matt, the business had grown very quick, very quickly in the first six months, lots of stuff had happened to us and we sold 15,000 products in four months and it was me and one other in a flat and as the brand was growing quicker and quicker I knew I needed to get someone in to help me with sorting the back end and everything to do with the business so, it’s that famous saying, I should be working on the business rather than in the business, and I didn’t know that for the first six months and, you know, I’ll be honest, I get like imposter syndrome every single day, even today, so I don’t believe this is going to work or how is it me or I think that’s healthy in a way but it’s very hard and I spoke to a few people about I wanted to get someone in and help me with business and driving it forward so I could concentrate on, let’s be honest, the exciting stuff, and when I met with Matt, because of his past history and just how he was and such a nice guy, I just knew straight away and sort of Matt was saying well look I can do the consultancy maybe a day or two a month and the way I work, I’m like, it’s all or nothing and I was like, I don’t want you for a day or two, I need you full-time. I couldn’t afford him if I’m honest. The business couldn’t afford him but we made it happen and that was the right thing for the business and since he’s come, I still worry about a lot of stuff but to be able to know that we’ve got everything you need in terms of… so look, when I’ve got an idea or anything or driving the business forward to know that someone’s behind it effectively catching everything and making sure the business runs smoothly, that is what a Founder needs and I think a lot of the time, Founders can try and do everything or not think anyone can do it as good as them, where I am a little bit the opposite of that, I’d rather you know do the things I am good at and then there’s a lot of things I’m not good at by the way and get people in that make that happen and as soon as he come in and, he’s alright as well you know, I actually think he’s a nice guy and we get on, we have a laugh, you know, he’s all about culture which I am as well, you know, I don’t… I never raise my voice to staff or anything like that and it’s all about happy workplace so, it was perfect really. As Matt said, ‘yin and yang’ so, I’m basically really exciting and Matt’s just the steady one behind the ship steering.

Elliot Moss

I’m really exciting. Matt’s really boring. Is what he was saying. No but… exactly what he’s saying but in another way. The serious side, I just want to pick up on for a minute before we… I’ve got another question for Matt. The body dysmorphia, the imposter syndrome. It strikes me that you have got a lot of stuff going on in your brain all the time and you sound like you’ve had that for most of your life actually. How do you manage it?  What is your way of dealing with that worry and that anxiety that naturally comes up?  Which, by the way, drives many successful people, I mean, there’s no doubt, in all the people I meet, there is that DNA of just ‘I’m not good enough’ and therefore every day you go for it. But how do you manage to not let that paralyse you?

Danny Gray

Yeah and look, what I want to say is, don’t be afraid if either, you know, this imposter syndrome and feel you’re not good enough and a lot of people feel like that and I do every day, and in terms of body dysmorphia for me, ten years ago I was in a bad place, bad, bad place, so you know, every minute of every day consumed me and eventually I talked about it. I was literally, you know, I’ll be honest, I was drunk 4.00 o’clock in the morning and wake my mother-in-law up of all people and just say look I can’t deal with it anymore and no one knew, no one knew what I was going through in my head and I think that’s the other thing with mental health is, you know I am very confident on the outside and jack the lad, life and soul of the party but then inside, it was just, it was a bit turmoil so, as soon as I started talking about it, it really helped and I’ve managed to… and what I believe in with War Paint it’s about tools, right?  So its tools to let anyone do whatever they want to do that is going to make them feel better and make them cope, right?  And if that’s using makeup that’s not for men and traditionally it’s for women then there shouldn’t be a taboo about it, if it’s about anything that can that help you in the day-to-day then I’m a massive believer then use those little bits of tools, whatever they are, exercise whatever you want, that help you feel better and give you confidence because then you can be the real you. So this is why I have so much belief in what we are trying to do which is open the door and let people use it and then off the back of that, just quickly on body dysmorphia, I’m actually going to go through treatment for it very soon because I’ve never actually had treatment because I’m a big believer why you use these tools, you need to get your mind right so, I’ve actually just been asked today funnily enough to be a patron of a Body Dysmorphic Foundation charity and we’re going to do that and we’re going to film every session and put it out there as well because I think a lot of the time, it’s the worry about the unknown and I want to people to know it’s okay to do stuff and to get treatment or whatever it is and we’re going to be doing a lot of stuff with that Foundation but this is for me, about everything, if you know there’s an option for you, right, that’s going to help you and make you feel better, the worrying, it prevents it anyway so for guys for example, if you know you come out in spots or rashes or whatever it is, if you know there’s something there that can help you deal with that, that can stop the worry and that’s what’s helped me in the last five to six to seven years. Don’t get me wrong, I worry about it every day still and I still have it but I’m seriously a lot better than what I was before so it’s never going to go away but it’s just about managing it and dealing with it.

Elliot Moss

Stay with me for my very honest and courageous Business Shapers today, that’s Danny Gray and Matt Lumb and we’ll be hearing a lot more from both of those in a couple of minutes.

Right now, we are going to hear a taster though from the Mishcon Academy Digital Sessions, they can be found on all of the major podcast platforms. Mishcon de Reya’s Suzi Sendama and Emily Dorotheou talk about how fashion brands can be more sustainable while maintaining profitability and what consumers should be doing to support sustainable fashion.

You can revel in all our former Jazz Shapers and indeed hear this very programme again with Matt and Danny by popping Jazz Shapers into your podcast platform of choice or if you have got a smart speaker you can test its smartness by asking it to play Jazz Shapers and there you will find many of our recent shows but back to today’s guests, Matt Lumb, CEO and Danny Gray, Founder of War Paint, the men’s makeup brand. Matt, Danny was being super honest, super open about what’s been going on for him mentally. Externally, you look like a super successful guy who has no worries in the world, Tangle Teezer big success, you carry on, you are a confident person, you meet Danny, Danny says I’ve got to have you. Is that true underneath?  Is that the way it’s all going on for you internally?

Matt Lumb

No, not at all. I understand completely where Danny is coming from when he spoke just now. I suffered with the whole imposter syndrome thing pretty much every day as we scaled Tangle Teezer, as we grew it from a £1 or £2 million business to a £30 million business and you would ask yourself, or I would tell myself every day, never in front of the staff obviously you come across as really confident and you know trying to lead the team and especially when you are talking to external bankers and accountants and that sort of stuff, you are confident, but my overriding thought was I’m just going to get rumbled at some point, someone is going to just peel the layers back and think he doesn’t know what he’s doing. It’s slightly different now at War Paint, I think Danny will be… Danny is very honest and open anyway but he will tell you, for the first twelve months of us working together, he would ask me maybe once a week, like is this going to work, this isn’t going to work, is it?  And my honest response was, look, it’s, I promise you it’s going to work and I promise you I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think it was going to work but even then, you know, you get hung up on, you know I don’t want to have one success story and then one massive flop and one massive failure, we’re going to need some luck along the way, we’re going to make tonnes of mistakes, hopefully not as many as I made the first time round because I tried to learn from them but, you know we’re both incredibly driven, we both believe 100% in this brand, it’s much more than just a men’s makeup brand, there’s a lot more to it than that I think, but no it’s not all smooth sailing sitting here thinking, you know Danny touched on before the business not being able to afford whatever you’d want the CEO to be or to look like but we made it work and, you know you take steps back and you make some sacrifices and you cut your cloth and you know I love what I do and I think that’s really important.

Elliot Moss

And I guess since the last time we spoke, Matt, you’ve obviously learnt a lot but you know you have been able to scale a business up from 1 to 30 or whatever it is. Building the team I’m interested in because obviously this is a very important moment in the life of War Paint. How have you gone about finding the right people and have you made any mistakes yet?

Matt Lumb

I banged on about this last time I think I spoke to you but to me culture’s at the heart of everything, it’s at the heart of every successful brand, certainly every brand I’ve been involved with, people work for people they don’t work for brands, people very rarely leave a bad brand, they leave a bad boss or a toxic work environment and I think if you can get the right people round you who believe in the brand as much as you do then that’s more than half the battle. I don’t think we’ve made any mistakes so far, we’ve grown the team from two to ten now, with one, our latest recruit is going to join us in May. They are a fantastic bunch and they work tirelessly and if they do moan, it’s not to me or Danny, it’s probably amongst themselves but, no, they’re a great team and Danny and I interviewed all of them together, we tend to go very much on our gut feel in terms of you can have the best CV in the world, are they going to fit, is the fit culturally, is it going to be a good fit, you know how, what’s their work ethic look like?  All that kind of thing but, yeah, I’d say we’ve done a good job, Danny, so far?

Danny Gray

Yeah, the team we’ve got now is. And that’s the other thing, you know what with a business, for me, as soon as you start bringing in people who are better at what you do at stuff, you see the instant impact of what they can do and I think that’s all we ever do with employing people is to say look this could be a massive opportunity for you and look work your backside off and we’ll have the best time, at the same time it’ll be the best thing you’ve ever done, it will be the hardest thing but I promise you it will be the most rewarding and just give me everything. I’m not saying work to 12.00 o’clock at night or anything like that, it’s nothing to do with that, you know, we’re so flexible on when they want to work or whatever. All I want them to do is believe in what we’re doing, it’s so much more than just selling the product and all the team back it and I think if you interviewed one of them now and said what do you think?  The stuff that’s happening to us every day and we are trying to do is so different to anything else and I think that’s a great work environment to be in so they can’t answer that and so no it’s amazing but hopefully they think they do see a culture…

Elliot Moss

But if they could…

Matt Lumb

We’ve even let them work from home these last twelve months.

Danny Gray

I know, that’s how flexible we are.

Elliot Moss

Well, you’ve been very kind, I mean, you know, and I think most businesses have followed your lead here out front and let people work at home. I’m sure people working at home were going “Yes and I wish I wasn’t just a bit less, it would be good.”  Stay with me for much more from Business Shapers today, it’s Matt Lumb and Danny Gray, CEO and Founder respectively of War Paint, the men’s makeup brand.

War Paint and War Paint is disrupting the cosmetic’s industry because it’s makeup for men – gay men, straight men, again Danny you said very early on, I am a straight guy but I needed makeup and I think that’s also another big myth that you guys are busting. I just want to talk to you a bit about the community you are building. You said something I found very interesting about, I just want the people that work for me to believe in what I am doing. It feels like there is a massive purpose, a massive mission at the heart of this and of course you are business people and of course you are excited but this came from the heart and your worries Danny and it feels like you want it to land that way and that that’s going to be the key thing. How are you going about helping convince people that this is not just another product you might want to buy?

Danny Gray

You are in business to make money, right?  Which is amazing and the bigger this brand is growing, the more people saying oh, you have X in his many years and that’s all amazing but I’ll be honest, all I want is, I tell this analogy, when I’m 60 years old I want to be in a pub and someone comes up to me and says what did you do?  And I’ll say well I started a men’s makeup brand and they say, it wasn’t War Paint was it?  And them to be like, you helped change the mindset about guys because if we can change the mindset on makeup, can you imagine what we can do for guys, especially guys being comfortable to talk about stuff or do anything like that and where it’s taking me, it shocked me a little bit, is the responsibility we’ve got as a brand because I will scare you the amount of people who reach out to me personally and through the brand about their own insecurities or mental health, even it’s nothing to do with how they look and about opening up and that’s why I’m becoming more confident about talking about anything like that rather than just about selling products so, it’s not about what this business is going to be worth or anything like that, it’s about making a difference, making a change and everything we’ve done, we’ve done first – the first to have a men’s counter in the world, we are launching a book on the 1 March with Haynes manuals so it’s a published book, it’s going to be the first ever men’s makeup book in the world, we’ve got something massive planned for this year. We’re doing it the first things in the world because this is what’s going to make it normal and that is about our mission about changing the mindset and just going back to this Body Dysmorphic Foundation, I spoke to them before here, have asked me to be a patron and we are going to do loads of amazing things, we have just confirmed we are funding the helpline, as a brand, for the year because they haven’t got any funding and you need so much for that. I would never have had that opportunity if it wasn’t for War Paint and for me, that is so much more, honestly, it makes me upset now, so much more and that’s… that’s what is going to make my family proud.

Matt Lumb

They are already proud, mate.

Elliot Moss

You’re going to have me in tears as well in a moment.

Matt Lumb

They are already proud of him, immensely proud of him because they are both lawyers and everybody is.

Elliot Moss

They are super proud.

Matt Lumb

We are as well, mate, back in the office, we are all super proud of him.

Elliot Moss

I mean, it’s extraordinary just to hear that and that’s, you know, I’ve got goose bumps over here and we’re not even in the same room. It’s really powerful stuff and I think anyone that’s thinking about doing something that really means something to them should be listening to this and pass it on to someone if they haven’t heard it because it really is doing something way beyond the commercial world and that’s what I think is special about this brand. Stay with me for my final chat with Danny and with Matt today. They’re the Founder and CEO, respectively of War Paint.

This brand has at its heart something that really matters, it’s addressing something that really matters. Tell me in tangible terms what some of those partnerships have looked like, just briefly, with regard to actually making a difference with regard to actually bringing this notion of giving people tools to fix their self-confidence and to address some of their anxieties. I know there is a Norwich City relationship and there’s a few others as well, aren’t there?

Matt Lumb

Yes, we’ve partnered with several different organisations actually, we’ve done some work with the charity, Calm, who campaign against living miserably. Danny did some fantastic work last year with Look Good Feel Better which went down really well. As Danny touched on before, he is now working with the Body Dysmorphic Association and last year Norwich City reached out to us which we sort of raised an eyebrow at first because we thought we can’t possibly afford to probably even get tickets to go and watch them play let alone be one of their corporate sponsors but they were coming at it from a completely different angle so Norwich City have the Justin Fashanu Foundation – Justin was the only player to date who came out as gay when he was playing and even now there is such a huge stigma around sports people and footballers in particular to have the confidence to be able to come out and just be who they are and that you know they are still the same footballer, they are still the same player but they don’t, and they can’t do it for fear of the huge amounts of abuse that they’ll get every time they step onto the pitch so, I think what we’re doing resonated with them and we met with their team and they are incredibly genuine about what they’re doing and we’ve been up to Carrow Road and met the team there, pre-lockdown obviously. It feels a lot more than just a sponsorship deal so, you know, we love it every time they are on TV and you can see War Paint on the back of their shorts and in their training kits and on the boards and all this sort of stuff but we meet with them on Zoom or whatever once a week, once every two weeks, you know, it’s very much a partnership and look, they’re top of the Championship as well so, you know, hopefully we are having some sort of good luck charm.

Elliot Moss

It’s the impact that you guys are having, obviously, on their performance. Danny, finally, because we are going to run out of time, beyond the emotion and beyond the fact that this is addressing something for the wider, you know, for men and all that, it seems like you are in clover, it seems like you are a very happy fellow who is doing something that’s very important to you on a few levels but also, let’s not forget as you said, it’s a business and hopefully you are going to do super well.

Danny Gray

Yeah and look, I can’t wait to go to bed every night because I can’t wait to get up in the mornings to work and that for anyone is an unbelievable feeling, very rare and I feel very privileged to have that and look people can have that in any walks of life to whatever level, you don’t have to own a business to do that and it’s an amazing feeling and I just love everything about it and what I’m doing and it’s hard and it’s the hardest thing I have ever done but it’s by far the best thing that I’ve ever done and I just want to say thank you for the opportunity to anyone who has bought our products because it’s amazing and I just, I can’t believe it’s happening to me really and hopefully, yeah, it will go on this journey and I don’t know what’s… literally every week something happens to us and we go on a different path and I think that’s what’s exciting about it so, I’ll ride this as long as I can and if it all stopped tomorrow, honestly I wouldn’t mind because, you know, I’ve loved what I’ve done already so…

Elliot Moss

Well listen, masses of good luck to you, you’ve definitely tapped into something super important, there’s no doubt of that, it’s a values driven business which also sounds like a fantastic, what do I know because I’ve been using the products and you’ve both told me how fabulous I look, I know that it’s wonderfully efficacious as well. Just before I let you both go and thank you both so much for this Jazz FM virtual lounge Jazz Shapers Encore Special that you have both taken part in, I’m not sure who’s doing it but what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Matt Lumb

So our song choice today is a song that I think sums up how we are feeling pretty much every day, every week, we know we’ve got a long journey ahead but most days we are feeling pretty good about where we are and what we are doing and what we are trying to build here and so we’ve gone with Nina Simone’s Feeling Good.

Elliot Moss

That was Nina Simone and Feeling Good, the song choice of my Business Shapers today, Danny Gray and Matt Lumb. Danny talked about not being afraid of having imposter syndrome. Talk about it. Everyone feels it. Matt talked about culture being critical to any business, his experience in Tangle Teezer and his experience now with War Paint. Danny talked about tools, he’s giving men the tools to manage their anxieties and their worries and to make them feel good. And finally, both of them talked a lot about really believing in what you are doing. Absolutely critical to any business, especially at a young stage.  That’s it from me and Jazz Shapers, have a lovely weekend.

We hope you enjoyed that edition of Jazz Shapers. You will find hundreds of more guests available to listen to in our archive, just search Jazz Shapers in iTunes or your favourite podcast platform or head over to mishcon.com/jazzshapers.

Danny Gray grew up in Buckinghamshire where he developed body dysmorphia disease at the age of 14. He began to use makeup which helped his confidence. Wanting the world to know about men's makeup, and that’s when he began War Paint for Men which has since been picked up by many celebrities and large department stores.

Matt Lumb was the CEO and director at Tangle Teezer prior to joining War Paint for Men. Over six years at Tangle Teezer he helped sales grow from one million to 30 million per year. He was voted Best Director – International Business in 2015 at the London and South East Institute of Directors Awards.

Highlights

I couldn’t believe what a product could do and how confident it would make me feel.

Being a guy, a straight guy, wearing makeup is such a taboo.

I risked everything.

The story behind the brand is incredibly real.

We are trying to open a new door.

You need luck along the way and you will make many mistakes.

Culture is in the heart of everything.

Imagine what we can do for guys.

There is a huge stigma for sports people to have confidence to come out.

I love everything about the brand and what it brings to others.

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