Have you ever dreamed of running your own business? In 2009, after many years working in our family business supplying garments to sports clubs and companies, I decided it was time to follow that dream. I ‘d gained a lot of retail knowledge over the years, and noticed there was something missing in the marketplace specifically for sports and club ties, mainly because remarkably the prices were quite high, yet the quality was distinctly poor.
So in 2010 I took a leap of faith and set up Tie Club, a company that supplies high quality bespoke woven ties, at really great prices, to sports clubs, security firms, and organisations all across the UK and further afield.
It wasn’t easy starting a new company on my own, but through sheer determination I grew a customer base and managed to make a profitable business. I continued for a few years, but the progress and profit started to slow. It was a good business, with a great product and happy customers, but it was demoralising that however hard I worked it wasn’t expanding quick enough. After spending a year considering solutions for my business, I talked to Andrew Whitmey, a friend from Umega Lettings operating a successful property rentals business in Edinburgh. He mentioned that his company was part of an organisation known as Entrepreneurial Spark, and it had helped them develop their business. This conversation proved to be a turning point for Tie Club.
The next day I applied, and after an interview, I received an email to say I had been accepted into Entrepreneurial Spark. That’s when my business started its transformational journey. A 3 day “Boot Camp” at Glasgow’s Thistle Hotel, gave me the opportunity to meet other businesses starting out in the process, and from day 1 of boot camp I have not stopped learning. A big emphasis was placed on developing a ‘1 minute pitch’, being able to explain, enthuse and sell your business to anyone in just one minute. I also learned about the #GoDo mindset which now drives me on a daily basis.
As soon as I got back to Edinburgh, full of the knowledge I gained at boot camp I started to look at my next steps. There was a free space in the Edinburgh ‘Hatchery’ so I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to run the business from this shared office with other like minded entrepreneurs. I started to attend fortnightly development evenings, workshops, and meetings with an ‘Enabler’ at the Entrepreneurial Spark offices. This ongoing training and support has helped my business grow tremendously.
The results speak for themselves. In only 10 months we’ve managed to double our monthly turnover. In fact we’ve managed to more than double it, and next year, we are predicting 300% growth. Tie Club would not have achieved this success without the package of support given through the programme supported by RBS and NatWest:
- The financial training – which has turned into tangible financial help –thanks to Trish Mclay.
- Being introduced to very influential people who have introduced us to buyers who have placed significant 5 figure order. Without the buyers who are part of this organisation, we couldn’t have made it.
- The enablers and mentors within Entrepreneurial Spark’s mentorships who’ve supported, encouraged, challenged, and given me confidence to aim high and deliver pitches to prospective investors and clients – thanks to Katie Mcnair, Gill Rattray, Anne Ferguson and many others. They have worked without break to help me and Tie Club develop.
- The events at which we have been invited to for free, to exhibit our products and represent Entrepreneurial Spark.
- The new staff who have joined us on our journey. Thanks Jennifer Rankin.
One morning I realised just how powerful Enterprenual Spark is for the businesses lucky enough to be part of the programme. I was sitting in my old 1996 Saab 9-3 estate with my wife, Sandra and my 1-year son. We were invited by Entreprenuial Spark mentor Anne Gloag to the grounds of her home, Kinfauns Castle. We were delivering a pitch for Tie Club to create ties for Anne’s school in Kenya. We parked across from a Bentley Flying Spur V8 and a Bentley Mulsanne Convertible. I made sure I was dressed smartly for my meeting. Sandra turned to me and said: ‘You know my old boss spent five years trying to get a conversation with Anne Gloag, you have managed to get a meeting in her castle after 2 mins of being in Espark, Good work!!’ This made me think about the fact that I couldn’t have made it to this point in my business without being part of Espark. We managed to gain the Kenyan school business, and the children are wearing the ties I created. I REALLY want to thank Anne for that, and congratulate her for her dedication and hard work with Entrepreneurial spark.
Entrepreneurial Spark is much more than a business accelerator, it is a motivational environment with which companies can start gaining new grounds and excel in their niches. If you are just beginning your business, it would be mad not to enrol with this great organisation. It is a place for education and networking for any type of business venture. In case your application is successful and you are really committed to doing the hard work, get ready to earn big and learn invaluable business and life lessons with this amazing social enterprise run by Jim Duffy. It might just be the best thing you do for your business, it was for me.