Freetrain becomes a new force with the launch of clothing
The Freetrain Vest started as an idea by two former professional footballers as a way to solve that perennial problem of what to do with your cellphone while playing sports.
But what started as a one-product business is now aiming for a slice of the multi-billion pound fitness wear market by creating a whole new range of clothing.
Co-founders James Wren and Jack Dyer, who first met in 2011 while playing for Burton Albion FC, have spent the past two years working on the products and have now brought them to market British.
Called “The Emergence” in a nod to the company’s “emergence as a brand”, according to Mr Wren, it offers 22 different items for men and women, including leggings, sports bras , vests, t-shirts and shorts.
They will be sold online alongside the company’s basic vest and other items that Freetrain has developed over the past few years, including hats, gloves and a recently launched hydro vest that can carry both a mobile phone and a water bottle.
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Speaking exclusively to BusinessLive, Mr Wren said the plan had always been for the business to branch out into other areas, with the new collection aimed at all types of sports.
“We knew one product wasn’t going to make the business last forever and we always planned to stand out with one product and then branch out into other areas,” he said.
“But with covid and a few other hiccups here and there, it took us a lot longer than we wanted.
“We’ve been a bit behind in terms of product and it seems like an exciting time now where we have one thing coming out after another. This new collection includes all the essential training gear.
“The design process was a collaborative effort and reflects my and Jack’s inspirations. It has always been important to us that the products we release are a representation of what we love and believe in.
“The one thing we’ve tried to do that’s probably slowed us down is that the range is about 73% sustainable, so it contains recycled or organic materials.”
The design of the company’s original product, the Freetrain vest, is based on the GPS trackers that footballers wear to monitor their movements during training and is aimed primarily at runners.
It has shoulder pockets for small items while the cell phone sits in the center of the chest, solving the “unbalanced” feeling of carrying it in an armband or bouncing around in a fanny pack.
The co-founders used their own savings to develop designs while working as personal trainers and football coaches, with Mr Dyer’s grandmother knitting the first prototype cut from an old t-shirt.
The first iteration hit the market in 2017 since then it has attracted fans from around the world including Premier League footballers Paul Pogba and Virgil van Dijk and Coronation Street actor Colson Smith.
The company has grown from just four employees 18 months ago, all based remotely, to ten employees, including a social media manager and an in-house designer, and even opened its own office in Aldridge, affectionately nicknamed The Bunker.
Revenues are rising steadily, from £4.1m in 2020, boosted by an increase in people taking to running due to covid closures, to £5.7m forecast for 2022.
But so far more than 90% of that revenue has come from vest sales alone, around 300,000 units to be precise, sold both domestically and in countries like Australia, India. Germany and the United States.
Mr Wren said all profits were plowed back into the business to fund the development of the Emergence range, meaning they avoided having to seek outside funding or attract new shareholders.
He added: “For now we’re keeping the new collection just for the UK. It’s still a learning curve for us at this stage so we really wanted to understand that market first and absolutely put it there. on point.
“Maybe in a few years we can start looking further afield. We are actually planning at least two more clothing drives this year.
“Sneakers and shoes are something that could be on the horizon, but we want to get it right first and then we will assess that later.
“Any sporting brand worth its salt has to span all kinds of sports and sporting goods.”