Ben Francis, then a 19-year-old boy, had the time or energy to create his own sports brand, Gymshark. Many young entrepreneurs have to find the time to work on their ideas outside of an eight-hour workday, and Francis is no exception. In 2012, I was studying at university full time and delivering pizza in the evenings.
“I would wake up and go to college, finish the afternoon and then work at Pizza Hut from 5 to 10 am,” he recalls. “What I would do was reply to emails about my brand between door-to-door deliveries. Then I would go home and work on my site and design new products, ”he added. After two grueling years, and with sales at his fledgling business approaching US $ 320,000, Francis gave up his education and job as a pizza delivery guy to focus on his business. Seven years later, his sportswear brand has an estimated turnover of 130 million US dollars.
Looking for a sign
Before Francis started his business in 2012, he was already feeling the “entrepreneurial fever” in his guts. As a teenager, he had created a website to sell license plates. But his real vocation was exercise and the gym. Before Gymshark, he had created two iPhone apps to measure exercise levels. One of them had declared income of $ 10,000.
What followed was the brand: a company selling sportswear that was a fan of the gym. “I used to go to the gym and basically wanted to be in the fitness industry. I wanted this to be combined with an Internet portal dedicated to the sale of gym products, ”explains Francis.
But his brand had started on the other side: with the sale of nutritional supplements for athletes. However, when he saw that their profitability was so low, he decided to change course. “I remember one afternoon when I was at the gym and looked around I felt no one had the clothes I wanted to wear. So I said, ‘I’m going do it myself, “” he noted.
Gymshark now has around 1.2 million customers and 215 employees in its central offices in the UK. But how did he manage to grow so fast? In short, the question is how to best use social media. Specifically, Gymshark has started sending free clothes to the main users of the networks: leading bodybuilders and other exercise gurus such as Lex Griffin and Nikki Blackketter.
The idea is that these social media stars will talk well about their products and in this way their YouTube and Instagram followers will start buying them. The idea worked better than Francis thought: sales exploded. At the same time, it was suggested that their own social networks should be interesting and visually appealing. Today, there are around 2.4 million followers on Instagram and 1.5 million on Facebook.
Another key to Gymshark’s growth process is that Francis surrounded himself with experienced people in the business. For example, Steve Hewitt, who had worked for other sports brands, became the director of the company. For market analysts like journalist Emily Sutherland, Gymshark’s success lies in the brand’s use of social media.
“Influencers give customers a reason to buy Francis products over other brands because they kind of feel a personal connection,” he explained. And for Sutherland, there’s the key: Gymshark is only available on the internet. “You can react quickly to changes in the market and you don’t have to bear the burden of having warehouses for inventory,” he said.
Now the next step is to become a truly international brand. About 40% of its sales come from the United States and it plans to reach 25 countries with its products. At the moment, they are only 11 years old. “I don’t do a lot of shopping, but I’m thinking about the best way to find permanent accommodation. I don’t think we need a lot of space. I just want it to be fun,” the young entrepreneur concluded.