There are so many rumours about where Sweaty Betty came from, so we thought it was time to set the record straight! Welcome to Part 1 of Tamara's 'no holds barred' autobiography!
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"Every cloud has a silver lining" said my Mum, or was it "Don't look back, keep looking forward" Either way she was right. I had just been made redundant from my first real job. Unknown to me I was also taking my first steps on the Sweaty Betty adventure. Moping about was not an option so I talked to my fiance about my idea for a shop selling women's sports clothes. Being a consultant and a typical man wanting to fix things rather than listen to me moaning, he insisted on a ridiculously thorough business plan and so the work began. One hundred women answered a viral questionnaire, numerous 'price points' were checked in sports and surf shops, financial spreadsheets became my friends (sort of) and a business plan was borne. It looked good so we bought a company off the shelf (can you believe you can actually do that) for a few quid and my fiance called it Lady of Leisure Ltd - he said that was what I was, working from home etc. (I won't tell you what I said!)
"We might be able to supply you if Adidas are supplying you" says Nike. "We won't be able to supply you unless Nike are supplying you" says Adidas "We won't give you any money until you have found a suitable shop" say our potential investors. "We won't talk about renting you this shop until we see your money" say the shop landlords. For us it was especially complicated as we had no money of our own so had to raise some cash to buy stock, fit out the shop, pay wages etc. I had no idea how we were going to break these barriers as my savings from my first real job were fast running out! We persevered, we had some luck, we massaged the truth (sometimes) and we had friends who helped. One friend, Juliet, worked for a big sports brand so with her support we cut through the 'we will only supply you if they supply you' conundrum. We also had the lovely Olly, our own Dragon from the Den.
This is our version of pitching to the Dragons. We were on holiday with friends in the early days of the business plan and Olly (a retailer who we'd already quizzed about how to run shops) was there too. It was a long night in front of a fire drinking bad red wine and it was snowing outside. My husband (yes we are married now, keep up) and I were full of the enthusiasm of wanna-be entrepreneurs and could not stop talking about our plan - it looked great on paper. Either our plan was overwhelmingly convincing or Olly had drunk too much, or both because Olly declared his interest and said I will give you Â£20k to get started and I know a shop on the Fulham Road that is available" We checked with Olly the next morning and... YES he did have Â£20k available to invest YES he would invest it in our plan We never secured the Fulham shop but now we had a Dragon.
We needed a name. So far we had done all our supplier presentations, bank meetings etc. with the snappy working title 'Women's Activewear Retailer'! We were going to 're-define the UK sports market'- instead of trainers and replica football strips we were focussing on women's activewear by selling gym and yoga clothes with ski wear and bikinis in season. And we were going to present the clothes in an aspirational female environment. Oh, and we wanted to be a brand in our own right. We had a talented store designer, Tina, working with us and she called on a talented graphic designer, George (ina), to help us with the branding. Once again, a late night (all girls this time) and more red wine brought the breakthrough. 'Active Woman', 'Egg', 'She's Active', 'Form' and many others were all rejected in favour of Sweaty Betty. And once the typeface and colours were finalized there was no turning back. By the way, 'Sweaty Betty' is a sexually polarizing name - 90% of women like it and 90% of men actively dislike it. You will probably have your own theories on this but one thing is for sure, it always catches people's attention and often makes them smile.
Since our humble beginnings as a multi-brand retailer with one boutique in Notting Hill London UK, Sweaty Betty has grown considerably to 30 stores nationwide, including concessions in Selfridges and Harrods. We have diversified into a multi-channel retailer with a growing website, mobile site and catalogue business. Along the way we have picked up some industry awards all of which we are particularly proud of including â€˜Sports Retailer of the Year 2001', â€˜Entrepreneur of the Year 2003', and most recently â€˜Drapers Best Single Etailer 2011'. In 2008 we celebrated our 10 year anniversary and to mark this momentous occasion we gave our identity, particularly our stores, a makeover. We took a blank piece of paper and drew up a new description of our brand plus a drawing of our perfect shop (in reality it was quite a few pieces of paper, customer focus groups, staff feedback and late night inspiration sessions). We found a brilliant designer at Caulder Moore who translated our ideas into a stunning new store design think traditional yoga studios meets futuristic gym. We re-fitted Soho, Selfridges, Kensington and Harrods as a start, threw in yoga mannequins made from a cast of Christy Turlington's body, added walls of yoga mats and the customers loved it and so did the judges at the 2009 Retail Interior Award.