One man started his own athleisure brand at just £ 250 and is now very successful.
Mark Robinson made a name for himself in the fashion industry after taking inspiration from the British gymshark phenomenon and realizing how loyal gym goers were to certain small American brands.
In 2017 he brought Just Strong out of his garage – with his fiancée Heather, who helped out with the day-to-day operations and volunteered as the brand’s first model.
After printing and packaging clothes in his small home in Keighley, West Yorkshire, the profit was used to finance a 10,000 square foot warehouse in Bolton, Greater Manchester.
Revenue has doubled in the past 12 months as more women work from home on fitness equipment – with the label being bolstered by its invaluable social media support with more than 350,000 followers on Instagram.
On the subject of matching items
On the subject of matching items
The company, which employs 23 people, has just taken its 200,000th order – shipping to more than 110 countries worldwide.
And as Just Strong continues to expand, it’s the first to benefit from a Recovery Scheme Loan Scheme (RLS) loan from Funding Circle, the UK’s largest SME lending platform.
Mark, 31, said, “I worked in a small rented house on an estate in Keighley. My fiancée and I had a bad time financially. We started Just Strong with just £ 250.
“We spent the first year packing and printing clothes from our tiny house, driving them to the post office every day, with neighbors working for us every time we were really busy.
“Even people from the gym came to help when we really needed them.
“It was our worst year in terms of sales, but it was really exciting – suddenly there were hundreds and thousands of orders.
“It was hard work, but it was also absolutely magical. Four years later we are shipping to America, Europe, Australia, Canada and many other countries around the world. ”
While you might think that fitness apparel demand fell when the gyms closed during the pandemic, it wasn’t.
With the dress code in the office out the window, more and more women gave way to restrictive work clothes for casual wear like those from Just Strong.
The global athleisure industry is now forecast to be worth more than $ 250 billion by 2026.
Mark said, “The health and fitness industry has been going through severe ups and downs with multiple gym closures across the UK and internationally.
“But the exercise of staying at home grew, as did our sales, with sales doubling.
“Influencers like Joe Wicks have also done our industry a huge favor in its most uncertain time.”
He added, “However, we still have logistics issues with things like factory closures due to breakouts, air freight and shipping complications, and the complexity of Brexit.
“Our international customer base and the added complexity of the rules of each country also made our year a great guessing game.
“Fortunately, we closed it with serious growth and a positive outlook for 2021.”
Contributing to the success of Just Strong is Funding Circle, which was the first company to take out one of its RLS loans.
The new government-sponsored program is designed to help small businesses in the country get access to the funding they need to grow and recover.
Mark added, “It’s an exciting time. How big the company can become cannot be foreseen at the moment.
“Support from Funding Circle has helped us build working capital so we can stock up and be able to add more sustainability benefits, color offerings and even more variety as we continue to expand.”
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Just Strong now plans to recruit more senior supply chain and finance management staff while also moving to a new office where they can build on their social media content.
Lisa Jacobs, Europe Managing Director at Funding Circle, added: “It’s great to see Mark and his company adapt to the challenges of the pandemic and get stronger.
“As the last remaining constraints we face are finally eased, thousands of SMEs like Just Strong will need funding to invest in their futures and fuel economic recovery. We at Funding Circle are ready to help you with this. “