Ben Francis founded Gymshark, now a $ 1 billion fitness wear brand, when he was just 19 years old. In 2015, he stepped down as CEO in what he described as a heartbreaking decision.

Now he’s back in control, speaking to CNBC about why his original decision to step down was best for the company.

“CEO wasn’t the role for me when I was in my early twenties,” the 29-year-old founder told CNBC Make It a week after he returned to the role in August.

“Just because I started a company that grew very quickly didn’t mean I was the most competent boss.”

Gymshark online fitness apparel and accessory brand has seen rapid growth since Francis created the first iteration of the website just a decade ago as a college student. Revenue has increased ten-fold over the past four years, rising to £ 400 million ($ 550 million) this year, according to the company’s latest financial results in July.

In addition, Gymshark has almost doubled its number of employees to over 800 in the last 12 months alone.

Francis stepped down as CEO six years ago, handing the reins on to then CEO Steve Hewitt, a former director at Reebok.

Francis felt that he “wasn’t” best person for the job “in the early years of the business, but said the decision was still” a bit heartbreaking “.

In retrospect, he said the withdrawal actually gave him “an incredible opportunity” to try his hand at different areas of the business. Francis has held various roles over the past six years including Chief Technology Officer, Chief Marketing Officer, and Chief Product Officer.

He said this gave him time to work on both his weaknesses and his strengths “without worrying about failure” because he had the full support of Hewitt and Chairman Paul Richardson.

Comparing it to “being able to take an exam and just taking it as many times as you want until you get the result you want,” Francis said the decision to temporarily step down as CEO had its evolution as ” Turbo “ultimately” charged “. Business leader.

Britain’s answer to Nike

Although Francis has only been back on the job two weeks, he has ambitious plans for the business.

He said he liked that different countries have their own big sportswear brands like Lululemon in Canada, Nike and Under Armor in the US, and Adidas and Puma in Germany.

“I really believe Gymshark can be the UK’s answer to these brands,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean that the UK is the beginning and the end for us, we also want to be a truly global brand.”

Francis said he was also inspired by other brands like automaker Jaguar Land Rover.

“I know it’s a British brand and they’re from where I grew up, but it’s so cool when you’re abroad that … you see their vehicles drive around,” he said .

Francis has stayed true to his roots in Britain’s West Midlands. Gymshark is headquartered in Solihull, just outside of Birmingham. The Gymshark offices now consist of a campus with its own lifting club and fitness studio for employees.

It’s been an impressive leap since Francis started making the brand’s first fitness apparel almost a decade ago in his parents’ garage.

The origins of Gymshark

When he was doing an internship with his grandfather, who ran an oven lining company, as a teenager, Francis decided to start his own business too.

A computer science class at school then sparked Francis’ passion for creating websites and apps. At the same time, Francis had developed an interest in fitness.

“So those two things just came together and I started creating a lot of fitness websites, more for fun than anything,” he explained.

In 2011, as a 19-year-old student at Aston University in Birmingham, Francis created the first version of the Gymshark website.

He founded the company in 2012 with his school friend Lewis Morgan. To work in the fitness industry, the couple first used the Gymshark website to “dropship” fitness supplements. Drop shipping is when a company takes customer orders but doesn’t keep the products in stock.

This means that they were effectively acting as a middleman to market and sell the products without incurring the added cost and risk of buying stocks themselves.

With the money from dropshipping and what Francis made as a delivery man at Pizza Hut, they bought a sewing machine and screen printer to make their own fitness apparel.

Cash: 32-year-old founders of a multi-million dollar app share their # 1 tip for starting a business