The Beginning

Michael's Story of how it all began...

Crisp Solutions was founded in 2001 by current CEO Michael Clark to be used as a platform to sell a product that he had recently created.

In his own words:


“I was working at the Shaver Shop every weekend to make ends meet as a university student. I loved the concept of the stores and what they offered the customer. It was a genuine value-add retailer where customers came for real advice about products and problems they were having with personal grooming from highly trained sales staff. This concept was unique from my other retail experiences and also what my other friends were experiencing in their part-time jobs so I felt lucky to be part of it. I really wanted to impress the directors and owners of the company so they would offer me a marketing position at the head office when I left university, I could then use my passion and what I had learnt both in the store and in my course to help the company grow and succeed.


Often the store would have quiet times with little traffic coming through the door and I started using this time to analyse all aspects of the business. I had a strong belief from what I had learnt that if we gave the customers what they wanted the business would benefit across the board. Focusing on this I started looking for gaps in the market of what we offered as a store and what the customers were really looking for. Many different ideas came from this initial research which I then took to university and applied them to an assignment for my 3rd year Product Development subject. I then took the research to the next level. I selected the top 3 of my ideas and put them to the test. I surveyed the market and potential customers and the response was overwhelmingly positive. It was clear that there were gaps in the market and that the new product ideas would fill those gaps and give the customers what they were looking for.


As exciting as these results were, there was still a big piece of the puzzle missing as the assignment had made assumptions that the products could actually be developed and manufactured and also for the right price.”

Product Development


“This left the next big task which at the time was much more challenging than anything else to date, finding someone who could create the product. With no idea where to start I started asking everyone and anyone that I could with little direction coming from it. The answer finally came from the Yellow Pages (which almost seems like a foreign concept with internet search engines so easily available today). In there I found 3 businesses that could potentially be able to solve my problem. I approached them only to hit my next speed hump, money. They were looking for between 10 and 25 thousand dollars to develop the product and give me the magic recipe. As a university student earning between $200 and $250 per week with most of it being spent on beer and books it would be impossible to find that sort of money. I decided to try a different tack and went back to one of the developers and negotiated with them to create the product for me for free of charge with an exaggerated forecast of future earnings that I assured could be met 😉 To my astonishment they bought it!


Unfortunately, it then took over a year of being pushed to the back of the queue with many phone calls and visits to them before they actually did what they had promised and created some samples. I did learn a lot in this time so as difficult as it was for me, I have taken many lessons from it. A great memory from the time was that I realised my conversation on the phone and my phone messages were getting me nowhere. I figured if I actually turned up in person and asked for progress reports and definite dates of action that it may be more successful. I had my first suit that I had inherited from my sister’s ex-boyfriend hanging in the cupboard, I would put it on, drive 20 minutes to the offices, park around the corner so they did not know I was driving an old bomb, walk in and speak directly to the manager that had been giving me all of the empty promises. I would simply tell him that I was passing by and figured I would drop in to see him rather than just make another call. This would take all of 5 minutes, I would then get back in the car and drive 20 minutes home take off the suit and hang it back in the cupboard. (It never even needed a trip to the dry cleaners). This went on for a few months until I think he realised I wasn’t going away and would hold him to his word each time he made a promise. Whatever it was it worked! The samples came back with pricing and after suggesting several changes (based on my experience in the stores of what the customers wanted) the product came back far better than expected.


The biggest lesson I took from this was that face to face communication is unbeatable in getting results.”

The Shaver Shop


“So now I had a great product to sell that I knew the customers wanted but I was only halfway there. The next thing was to convince the Shaver Shop that this was a product that would sell in their stores and that I could be trusted to bring it to them. I had designed the product and all of its attributes to focus on the customers and the stores so I knew I was in with good a chance.


I was going in to the negotiation with a product that was the best quality on the market, cheaper for the customers, Australian Made and offered the stores a slightly better margin. We would sell a lot more units as a result and significantly increase the revenue for the Shaver Shop group. I was ready to deliver it to the stores in 2 months ready for Christmas and all the Directors had to do was approve it.


I arranged a meeting with the owners and Directors of the group Gary Tyquin (son of the founder of the first store), Peter Claydon and Vince Defazio. It was a very daunting thought as a university student/ part-time sales assistant to negotiate with 3 very successful businessmen. Their expertise ranged from finance, accounting to marketing and the retail industry. I had dealt with them in the past as an employee but this was clearly very different. I practiced my negotiation for days and nights. I went through all possible discussions. I even practiced out loud in front of the mirror.


The first hiccup came when the Directors asked me to remove my own brand (Crispy Clean) and replace it with the Shaver Shop logo. Of course, this presented a massive problem as I would lose complete control of the product and was basically giving them my idea. This meant I needed to find a way to protect my idea and figured I should ask some lawyers. Again, this was a first for me as I had never spoken to commercial lawyers before let alone knew where to find one. The Yellow Pages again came in handy and I found a small lawyer in Lilydale who was the cheapest in Australia, then I negotiated him down even further. At this stage I was advised to protect my idea by getting both parties to sign an Exclusive License for Use of Trademark. This simply meant that if the Shaver Shop wanted to buy cleaning products with their logo on them that they had to purchase them from Crisp Solutions for the period of the contract. This would protect my idea so that I could make it a success and when it was proven to work any old business man could not just come along and take all of my hard work away from me.


I almost forgot, I also had to convince them to buy enough stock and pay for it straight away because I had absolutely no money to pay the manufacturer for the 20,000 products I was ordering!


After several meetings and tough negotiations, it was decided by the Directors that the idea was perfect for their business and we agreed on a deal.


In regard to the License for Use of Trademark the owners/directors could see that I was being more than reasonable and that they stood to make significantly more from my idea than I did. The agreement they signed was for a lengthy period due to the fact I would have little control over the product with their brand on it. I also stood to benefit very little for the first few years based on the price they negotiated and projected sales.”



I could not believe it, I had done it! After so many set-backs, so many doors closing in my face I had turned my crazy idea from sitting in the shop as a part-time worker into an actual product that stores would sell and customers would love to buy and use.


Shaver Guard was born!!!!!


That was 1 of the biggest feelings of accomplishment I have ever experienced and will never forget.”




“From this agreement Crisp Solutions was born. I will never forget the semi- trailer pulling into my suburban street and up to my mums garage for the first time. The driver could not even get the truck into the driveway without blocking off the entire street. We of course did not have a fork lift either so we had to unload 2000 boxes off the truck by hand. I will never forget the look on the drivers face when he realised what he had got himself into. I will also never forget the willingness of people like that to help me out, whether it was for sympathetic reasons or not, it just showed how generous and giving people could be to help out a fellow man.


We ran the business out of the garage and in the space under the house for the first few years before upgrading to a shed and then a bigger shed. I would have laughed if the Directors had ever seen the lengths I was going to supply them with the product. I just knew what the stores expected and did everything I could to go over and above that. All the Directors knew is that I supplied them with a great product and great customer service and they didn’t need to know anything else.


We now work out of a factory in Knoxfield and have offices in South Melbourne. We employ 10 people on a permanent basis and many others as regular contractors.


We continue to be a valued supplier of the Shaver Shop offering the best customer service with a perfect history and reputation for high standards in all facets of our business. Our product Shaver Guard still offers the stores the best margin of any product that they sell and the highest unit turnover of any item in the store.


We strive to offer this same level of customer service to all of our new clients and work as hard as we can to achieve the best for them.


Personally, I love what I do and cannot be happier. I work with amazing people every day and together we continue to achieve great things.”



“Firstly, I think it starts with a burning desire to be something better or improve your current circumstances or situation in life. Then you must have the determination to never give up until you achieve what you are after and I mean never.


It comes from understanding your customer and being able to give them exactly what it is that they want. It comes from the love of progression and not being able to sit still because you have a million things that you want to achieve racing through your mind at the same time.


From humble beginnings that I am sure many are familiar with. My family was torn apart by a business bankruptcy in the 90’s recession. The bank took the family home and my Mother was left to survive with 2 kids a receptionist job and no child support. She refused to rent and somehow, with the help of friends she managed to get a house for us. It was nothing like any houses that my friends lived in and it needed a lot of work but it was a home.


I was so fortunate to have such an inspirational person in my life that showed me to never take no for an answer and never give up.


From these circumstances the burning desire was cemented in me and from my Mothers lead I learnt everything I needed to about determination, I am sure the success I work hard for every day will one day be achieved as a result.


Thank you Marlene Birchall you are an amazing woman ;)”


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