A business grown from passion
"If you have an idea and you want to shout about it, just do it. Build your foundations slowly, ask for help and keep at it."
Sophie Wiltshire trained as a hairdresser at London’s prestigious Harrods department store, where she learned the importance of using quality hairbrushes for creating the perfect smooth, healthy-looking finish without damaging the hair. Little did she know that years later, the quest for the perfect brush would lead her to a brand new career.
“The perfect blow-dry demands the perfect brush,” explains Sophie. But when her own trusty brush became threadbare after years of use, the search was on to find a high-end but affordable replacement. The brush that finally met Sophie’s exacting requirements was made from natural boar bristle to minimise hair damage while maximising volume and shine, with a lightweight handle that made styling comfortable and easy. But it wasn’t easy to track down. “It felt like a quest for the Holy Grail,” Sophie recalls, “but eventually I found it – in Spain!”
Having finally identified the ideal brush, Sophie decided to try selling a capsule range of the brushes online back in the UK. She founded The Bristle Brush Company in 2013 and hasn’t looked back since. “I felt I’d found something special and different from what was widely available,” says Sophie.
The brushes are produced by a family-run artisan business in a coastal village close to Barcelona. For three generations and more than 50 years, they’ve been perfecting the design of their wooden and bristle brushes. For Sophie, it’s the combination of lovingly-crafted design and sustainable materials—all wood is from non-endangered sources—that make the product so special. “We built a strong relationship with our supplier. They saw my passion as clearly as I felt theirs and from there our relationship has grown to what it is today.”
When it came to launching her business, Sophie discovered an unexpected yet powerful way to build brand awareness quickly. Her sister Georgia was working on the marketing for The Bristle Brush Company and suggested that they apply to home shopping channel, QVC. Sophie decided it was worth a shot, so Georgia applied to have the products featured in one of their live shopping events. To their delight, Sophie was invited first to screen test and then to showcase her brushes on air. “Presenting the brushes on QVC was the scariest thing I’ve ever done,” says Sophie. “But everyone from the buyers right through to the producers made the process a pleasure. They held my hand every step of the way.”
Sophie has now appeared on QVC three times and has achieved top product ratings and sell-out shows. She puts her on-screen success largely down to having a great product and a strong message. “I had a story to tell and a passion for what I do. And I truly believe that it’s passion that engages consumers.”
In the future, she’d like to see The Bristle Brush Company products available on the high street to meet with growing demand. Thanks to her success on QVC, around a quarter of her stock is already sold on back orders when she goes live with a sale event, so getting her products into high street retailers would enable consumers to get their hands on her brushes more quickly.
Along with the highs of gaining high-profile media coverage and seeing the brushes become beauty industry favourites, there have been a few lower points, too. “There are challenges and curveballs and times when you just want to walk away,” admits Sophie, but her patience and determination have paid off as her business continues to grow. “We are still building our company…it won’t happen overnight but I’m as passionate and driven as ever. After all, it’s the most amazing feeling, knowing that people are buying and recommending your product. It’s a huge achievement.”
Learn more about Sophie Wiltshire and The Bristle Brush Company: