Ed Currie and Andy Coxon, who went from acting every day to founding Akt – the all-vegan, gender-neutral, natural, plastic-free deodorant brand, which is tested on performers – not animals.
With vigorous and demanding schedules under hot lights on the West End, Ed and Andy struggled to find a deodorant that prevented the smell of hard work. Over a three year journey, Ed and Andy created, developed and formulated the award-winning balm in Ed’s kitchen – which now comes in three refined scents, accompanied by The Applicator and newly launched, The Assistant.
Read our Q&A with Ed and Andy.
Ed and Andy’s personal values have led Akt to be vegan, sustainable and plastic-free.
Sustainability is something that is very important to us as individuals, it was never an option to create a product that wasn’t environmentally friendly! We want to make it easier for the consumer to be sustainable. As an industry, we have a responsibility to protect the world that we live in and as part of this we are actively part of a movement looking for change. We’re currently on a journey to becoming a ‘Net negative plastic company’ with partnerships with plastic-free charities in the works. Overall, we are very proud to be plastic-free, sustainable and vegan.
How did acting lead you to create Akt and how were you able to start a business during a pandemic?
Our story began in 2015. Andy and I met whilst performing in the original cast of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical in the West End. With gruelling schedules and 8 shows a week in the same costumes under hot lights, we needed a deodorant that worked. Nothing covered our sweat patches, or the inevitable smell of sweat when we were performing – typical deodorants just weren’t cutting it. This was the point where our journey truly began. We both began researching and after 3 years of developing formulations on the hob – EUREKA! We then ran a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign by handing samples to every West End performer then we simply HAD to make it into a business.
Andy was on day 2 of rehearsals as Tony in West Side Story at The Royal Exchange, Manchester, when the pandemic hit. At this point, we both sat down and said “Right, let’s try and pay ourselves enough to get by and work full-time on Akt”, which was due to launch in May 2020 and it did! So in a way the pandemic was a blessing in disguise for Akt, we definitely wouldn’t have been able to focus on it as much as we would have wanted to without the halt the pandemic caused. We consider ourselves very lucky to not only have been given a way of creating ourselves a job, but also to have been given a focus and routine during these tough times. It’s certainly true that every day is a challenge, due to learning every element of running a business from scratch, but so far it’s paying off and we’re loving it!
I understand that Ed, the ‘nose’ of Akt lost his sense of smell as a result of COVID-19 – how did this affect working with Akt products?
Deciding on favourable scents without being able to actually smell was really hard. However, I saw this challenge as an opportunity for those closest to me to get involved and have their own unique impact on the brand, by deciding the scents for upcoming launches for Akt – so the new scents have been chosen with a community-led approach, which I think is wonderful.
What next for Akt and long term?
2021, luckily, is set to be a big year for us at Akt, with new research well underway for new scents to be launched in 2021 as well as new products coming, such as soap bars – we are really excited to be branching out our product offering. We’ll also be launching in Germany this Summer. We have received overwhelmingly positive feedback on our product so we can’t wait to launch in more markets.
How have you coped during the current pandemic and what lies ahead with the prospect of the West End and theatres re-opening?
We think, like most people, Covid has been really tough. We have of course faced challenges, we work as a remote team so there have been elements of running the business that have been difficult in that sense, but at times it’s also been comforting to know that everyone is in the same situation. Andy and I haven’t been able to celebrate a single Akt success in person. Luckily for us, we’re in a position where we’re able to do something that keeps us busy and focussed. At Akt, we’re learning all the time, trying new ways of working and continuing to build our business.
We really do hope things will start to open up soon, it’s such a shame to see our theatre community suffer in the way that it has. After the previous government announcement, it does look like the end is in sight, fingers crossed.