Happy Birthday King Camp Gillette: The Inventor Who Eased The Way We Shave

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I dared where the wise one’s feared to tread

A man who had no background in manufacturing or metallurgy but possessed the cutting-edge idea that proved to be the milestone in men’s grooming industry. There was a famous Russian proverb, ‘It is easier to bear a child every year than to shave every day’. The preliminary razor consisted of an unprotected and sharp blade which was dangerous, time-consuming and caused burning sensation and cuts on the skin and one needs to sharpen the blade every time. But, where there is a problem, there is an opportunity, and King Camp Gillette identified it well in time.

King Camp Gillette learned the Value of time from his mother. In 1871, due to the fire in the Chicago city, his family lost all their possessions and they moved to New York. Later he became a successful travelling salesman who also loved tinkering and inventing new products but often without success. His tinkering grasped the attention of one of his employers who advised him to try his luck on some use and throw product so that the customer becomes accustomed to it.

In 1901, Gillette Safety Razor Company was incorporated with King Camp Gillette as its President. In 1903, the company recorded sales of 51 razors and 168 blades, but the numbers skyrocketed to 90,000 odd razors and 12,400,000 odd blades the following year making Gillette the undisputed king of the newfound market. Today the brand value of Gillette stands at $17.1 billion and ranked #32 on the Forbes list of World’s Most Valuable Brands 2018. Proctor and Gamble Co. bought Gillette in a $54 billion deal back in 2005.

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His product matches Gillette Company’s Tagline ‘The Best a Man Can Get’.

Birth Date: January 5, 1855

Died: July 9, 1932 (aged 77)

A visionary, an inventor and a successful entrepreneur ‘King Camp Gillette’ who never got dissuaded with the negative comments about his product and made his idea a masterpiece. Let’s dig deeper into the achievements of the founder of Gillette:

  • He always craved for changes in the social and economic systems of the United States and was also an avid reader and possessed strong political views.
  • The mentor: In 1891 William Painter, inventor of an improved bottle cap encouraged Gillette to try his luck on some use and throw product and will keep the consumers indulged. The words proved to be an obsession for Gillette and kept ringing in his mind.
  • Tried his luck in Political writing after getting motivated by his mother’s best-selling recipe book named ‘White House cookbook’. In 1894, he completed his book ‘The Human Drift’.
  • ‘Eureka’ Moment: Once he was shaving, suddenly the razor dropped and its blade got damaged which gave birth to the idea of a disposable razor blade and sooner he bought files, brass pieces, and vice and began moulding his idea. Later he wrote a letter to his wife who was visiting her family and in that letter, he expressed his excitement with the words: ‘I have got it; our fortune is made’.
  • Idea: A T-shaped handle will house the new double-edged razor in place of the conventional single-edged blade and instead of sharpening the blade it would be disposable and cheap.

1904-gillette-safety-razor--300dpi

  • Never got dissuaded: His idea was criticized by his friends and technical experts after he filed for the patent on August 11, 1989. Experts regarded the design as an impossible task to be achieved.

The razor was looked upon as a joke by all my friends, A common greeting was,”Well, Gillette, how’s the razor?’ If I had been technically trained, I would have quit.

  • The birth of Gillette Safety razor Company: The meeting with William Emery Nickerson, a graduate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology brought kudos for Gillette. By 1903, Nickerson developed the magical machine to manufacture the disposable blades. By 1904 90,000 razors and 12,400,000 blades were sold.
  • Buy the competitors: Enormous time and money were spent by Gillette to buy its competitors and in the protection of the company’s rights. By 1910, he became a millionaire and a celebrity as every single razor package has his image imprinted on it.
  • In 1910, he vainly offered $1 million to the former President Theodore Roosevelt to act as the president of his experimental ‘World Corporation’. But he declined
  • Alladin’s Lamp: Ironically, World War I proved to be the Alladin’s Lamp for ‘Gillette Safety razor Company ‘. By 1917, every soldier was carrying a Gillette shaving kit along with their equipment and thus created a huge customer base who kept buying the products for a refill.
  • Retirement: After Gillette retired in 1913 but remained its President until 1931, his focus was shifted towards writing. In addition to The Human Drift (1894), he presented his ideas in The Ballot Box (1897), World Corporation (1910) and The People’s Corporation (1924).
  • He envisioned a ‘Metropolis’ city near Niagara Falls for maximum efficiency and uninterrupted water supply. Huge apartment buildings and state of the art society was his vision with no economic competition. Sadly, it never worked out. Later he jumped into the real-estate business.
  • Today, Gillette is a $20 Billion Brand with a wide variety of products and innovation.

There are two kinds of men who never amount to much: those who cannot do what they are told and those who can do nothing else.

The post is a part of a B’day Series where we celebrate the birthday of renowned personalities from Tech Industry, very frequently. The series includes Entrepreneurs, C-level Executives, innovators or renewed leaders who moved the industry with his exponential skill set and vision. The intent is to highlight the person’s achievements and touch base the little known, but interesting, part of his life. You can see the list of all earlier celebrated tech personalities, including Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayor, Sean Parker, Andy Rubin, Julian Assange, Sir Richard Branson, Sergey Brin by following this link or subscribe to your daily newsletter.

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