Gymshark's Bootstrapped Journey to a £1 Billion Valuation
Happy Monday everyone!
Gymshark bootstrapped a gym wear brand to £1 billion by turning their customers into sort of a cult.
Ben Francis started the brand in 2012 as a drop shipping website selling supplements and gym clothing but realized the gear he was selling wasn't what he and his friends liked to wear.
He used the drop shipping business profits to buy a sewing machine and screen printer and started making stretchier and more fitted gym shirts.
Here are 4 lessons from his journey.
Find The Right Ambassadors
When Ben launched his clothing line, he knew his target customers followed the same YouTubers as him, so he reached out and sent them products.
While now this is known as influencer marketing, very few brands were doing it at the time.
“Lex [Allen] was the first person to ever get Gymshark product … I remember when he got it and he gave us his feedback and he uploaded a video in it, it was just the coolest thing ever.” — Ben
Turn Your Brand into a Movement:
To build a sense of community, Gym Shark identified their target customers - young gym-goers - and did the following:
Live Events: at the center of the community-building strategy are the meetups that the company hosted and documented through vlogs.
Challenges: like the "Change Your Life" campaign. Followers were challenged to set a personal goal, submit an initial photo, and an update 66 days later for the chance to win a year's worth of products.
The CEO: Ben shares vlogs, milestones, and more on his Youtube channel which helps him connect with customers on a personal level.
Strategize About Sales:
Here’s how GymShark does this:
Facebook ads: They target lookalike audiences and customers that had started but didn’t complete a purchase.
Discounts: The company only runs discounts twice a year, on its birthday and Black Friday in order to build hype leading to those events.
Being agile: When COVID hit, they anticipated a rise in demand for loungewear and focused on that line, they even changed their Twitter handle to Homeshark.
Tiktok: When Gymshark joined TikTok, they partnered with microinfluencers with high engagement and consistently posted content that fit the platform, growing their account to 4 million followers.
Treat Customers As People, Not Numbers
In 2013, Gymshark's website crashed on Black Friday, but Ben made up for it by sending out 2500 handwritten apology letters with discounts to affected customers. Talk about going above and beyond!
The first time Gymshark accepted outside investment was in 2020 at a £1 Billion valuation proving that building a loyal customer base pays off!