A former marketing manager has invested £20,000 to launch a unique new sports and team wear shop in Darlington, thanks to help and guidance from TEDCO Business Support and Virgin StartUp.
Mark Hunter (46) from Darlington has launched mysportswear with his partner, Theresa Mason from their brand-new retail base in Morton Park. Mysportswear will help support the huge growth in grassroots sport and active wear as one of the only specialist retailers of personalised clothing for sports clubs and teams, schools and colleges and everyday corporate clothing that requires personalisation.
Mark Hunter, co-founder of Mysportswear comments: “I’ve always been heavily involved with grassroots sports and have been working with local football teams on a coaching level for several years. One of the main problems I’ve encountered has been sourcing cost-effective and good quality team kit that not only fits the different sizes required but offers real value to the team.
“Mysportswear came about as a direct result of these experiences as there just isn’t any other retail outlets offering the kind of personalised sportswear we wanted in the local area. Most orders are placed online and so it was difficult to have a good idea of sizes or quality and this often led to a lot of back and forth and hassle to get even a basic team kit together. Personalising these kits specific to the club with logos and sponsors made it even more difficult.
“We realised there was a gap in the market for a retail outlet that could offer a more direct service to customers for an array of different sports organisations from football and rugby to dance and karate. There has been huge growth in recent years in sporting clubs and societies requiring personalised kit and it is a very important market so we are hoping to cater for this demand with a selection of quality branded sportswear that can be personalised in whatever way required.”
Mysportswear offers well-known sporting brands including Macron, Joma, BLK, Mitre and Stanno in their 1500 sq ft retail outlet to give customers a broad selection of options when it comes to style, fit and type. In addition to team wear they also offer a broad range of accessories including team bags, training equipment and winter clothing.
Mark continues: “We are confident in our business model and know that we can offer something unique to the area as we plan to serve customers from the North East and North Yorkshire from our base in Darlington.”
Mark, who was previously a marketing manager for a North East firm worked with TEDCO Business Support as part of the Start and Grow programme to help get his idea ready for investment through the Virgin StartUp business loans programme. Virgin StartUp is exclusively delivered in the North East by TEDCO.
Mark continues: “We knew quite early on that even though we had found the right premises for Mysportswear to trade from, there would be significant costs involved with renovating the space to create a retail showroom for the kind of quality stock we offer. With this in mind, we approached Mark Johnston at TEDCO Business Support to discuss ways in which we could raise the necessary capital to fund the renovation costs.
“He was incredibly helpful in directing us towards Virgin StartUp who offer low-cost, government-backed business loans and guided us through the application process at every stage. We were successful in receiving £20,000 and we’ve used the capital wisely to fund the fit-out of our premises to ensure we were ready to start trading. We are very fortunate in that we know our market well but as this is our first business venture, we couldn’t be more grateful to Mark for his help and assistance in supporting us both with advice on the day-to-day requirements of running a business – even pointing us in the direction of seminars to help develop our knowledge in everything from accountancy to commercial premises.”
Mysportswear was supported by the Start and Grow programme, which is delivered by TEDCO Business Support in the North East and supported by the Regional Growth Fund (RGF). The programme is delivered throughout England by Cavendish Enterprise in areas where there are lower levels of business start-up to help new enterprises get up and running and develop new employment opportunities in the private sector with a range of services, including one-to-one mentoring, business planning and helping new ventures get investment ready.
Mark Johnston, TEDCO Business Advisor comments: “Both Mark and Theresa have operated within the grassroots sports field for several years and so know their target market inside and out. They have thought through their business in a great deal of detail so I was able to help them more with the unknown aspects of running a retail business to ensure they get off to the right start but also with applying for the Virgin StartUp funding to help fund their plans. So many new business ideas fall flat when appropriate financing cannot be sourced and I was particularly pleased to see Mysportswear successfully obtain the £20,000 loan they needed to really push the business forward. I wish them both the very best of luck and look forward to continuing our relationship as the business progresses.”