It is no doubt that, over recent years, Gymshark has become one of the most prominent names in the sportswear industry. And it has done so in a very short space of time.
In a segment that has become increasingly popular over time and that some would describe as saturated, Gymshark founder, Ben Francis, has quite simply reinvented the gym and fitness apparel industry.
From a university student with a sewing machine in his bedroom to a global entrepreneur with a team of over 200 and counting in under a decade, Ben Francis is quite the inspiration.
Gymshark: the beginning
After developing a number of rather successful business ideas, including fitness tracking apps and a website selling car license plates, the young entrepreneur finally settled on the fitness industry.
Gymshark was created by Birmingham-born Ben Francis while he was a student at university, and he soon employed some of his high school friends. Originally a small start-up, Ben balanced running the brand-new business with studying in the day and delivering pizza by night.
After reaching an impressive milestone of £250,000 in revenue in just two years, Ben made the executive decision to leave university and his job as a pizza delivery driver to focus on the growth of Gymshark.
Although a huge risk, it was definitely one worth taking. As I’m sure I have already mentioned in this series, particularly in the piece about Just Eat’s latest campaign with Snoop Dogg. I have huge respect and doff my cap to businesses and entrepreneurs who have the courage and ability to take such risks.
Originally concentrating on fitness supplements, Ben soon realised that the profit margin was too small and, after discovering that there were no gym clothes that appealed to him, he decided to make some. Seeing a gap in the market, Ben was taught to sew by his grandma and hand-made the products himself until the quantities were simply too much.
One thing that has remained the same for Ben and Gymshark throughout its existence is their mission and values of family, progression and vision. All of which resonate with me on both a personal and professional level. From the very beginning, Ben and the Gymshark brand have focused on the customer and their needs, something I believe has helped them get to where they are today.
Gymshark: social media and influencer marketing
Social media has played a huge part in the success of Gymshark. The brand was one of the earliest adopters of influencer marketing as a growth strategy.
A roaring success, the brand now markets its products through a large community of influencers and brand ambassadors, focusing on sustainable and long-term partnerships. This demonstrated that Gymshark is way ahead of its time. And, although influencer marketing is a popular marketing tool these days, it was a rather risky tactic to use all those years ago.
Because of this, Amelia Neate, senior manager at Influencer Matchmaker, describes Gymshark as one of the most influential fitness brands of the 21st century. It’s a bold statement to make, given it is not yet 10 years old but it’s a statement I agree with, nonetheless.
Having sent free clothing products to those with high social status within the fitness industry, Gymshark’s sales began to rise. And they have yet to slow down.
As well as working with others on social media campaigns and sponsorships, Gymshark works tirelessly to ensure that its own social channels are as engaging as possible, something I believe has also contributed to the brand’s online success.
With several Instagram accounts with a combined following of over eight million, a YouTube channel, Facebook page and LinkedIn account, Gymshark is a social media force to be reckoned with. Not only does the brand dedicate time and creativity to social media but Ben, along with other members of the Gymshark team, do too – documenting their entire journey.
Showcasing behind-the-scenes insights into the growing company, its business goals and updates, Ben’s social media platforms are a great source of inspiration and admiration for business owners, fellow entrepreneurs and fans alike.
Gymshark: a global phenomenon
With a global audience of over 20 million, Gymshark has placed itself firmly on the map and has successfully taken on an already established market as a challenger brand. Going up against brands that have been around for decades is tough, but Gymshark thoroughly deserves the top spot in its industry.
Now, almost a decade later, Ben Francis has become one of the wealthiest British entrepreneurs under the age of 30, making it onto Forbes’ ‘30 Under 30 Europe 2018: Retail & Ecommerce’, which is such a great achievement.
Taking his business a step further, Ben has entered a strategic partnership with General Atlantic. As Gymshark’s first investor, General Atlantic will take a 21% stake as the brand hopes to expand even further. The investment values the business at $1.3bn - incredible in just nine years.
Despite establishing one of the most recognised brands globally, Ben has remained humble which is something I truly admire. ‘Stay humble’ is a motto that is regularly used by Ben and the brand. It is displayed on the walls of Gymshark HQ and even has its own dedicated hashtag on Instagram.
It is crucial to remember your roots, where you came from and to appreciate where you are now, which is why I doff my cap to Gymshark and its founder, Ben Francis.
To have reached such heights in the business world is an immense achievement. Ben and the Gymshark team have created something much more meaningful than just a brand. They have created an entire community, and therefore, I doff my cap to Ben and his Gymshark Tribe.