Market Gravity look for something different in the people they recruit. They look for an ability to inject an entrepreneurial spirit into the innovation projects and propositions they’re working on. We call it the ‘secret sauce’ – it’s what makes our approach and the way we help our clients deliver projects different to other consultancies.

But how do we know if someone can inject an entrepreneurial spirit into a big company? Well. A lot of the team at Market Gravity are entrepreneurs in their own right. They’ve started their own businesses outside of Market Gravity – something the company advocates and actively looks for. They know the work it takes to get something off the ground. They are passionate about ideas in the same way as our clients are passionate about theirs. They’re able to draw on their experiences in client projects.

Because we love to share, celebrate and support our team’s entrepreneurial passions, we’re creating a series of blogs about them. This month we chatted to Lee Chapman who’s one one of our Senior Consultants specialising in Insight, about his business – The Dark Peak.

Hi Lee, tell us a little about your startup, The Dark Peak.

The Dark Peak is an eCommerce business selling unisex clothing made exclusively using British products and manufacturing. After tracing the life of a typical garment, we believed there was a more economic, environmental and socially sustainable way of producing affordable clothing. That is what we set out to prove. This was reinforced by the idea that people should be able to make an informed judgement about the origin of their clothing and the cost to who of producing it.

 

The Dark Peak sells unisex clothing made exclusively using British products and manufacturing.

 

Where did the idea come from?

I had always wanted to start my own business but in all honesty, The Dark Peak began more as an experiment than a business venture. A friend and I read a story about a company in Yorkshire that still hand-stuffed duck down sleeping bags that were being used for serious expeditions. It amazed us that this type of industry still existed in the UK – very manual, highly skilled, cherished with the community and deeply connected with the past.

We asked ourselves, ‘I wonder what else exists out there?’ Before we knew it, we were travelling the length and breadth of the country visiting hand-knitters, shirt manufacturers and sixth-generation cobblers, all working under a veil of secrecy since the introduction of cheaper global labour, keeping these phenomenal, traditional skills alive.

The business fell out of that. We decided to reject the traditional fashion industry model of producing two collections a year in favour of utilising the downtime in factories between the production of those two collections for major brands – that would typically be a cost base for the manufacturers – to keep production cost of high quality garments as low as possible. That was saving we wanted to pass on to our customers.

Plus, the factories loved us! We were easy to deal with in comparison.

 

Production costs of our high quality garments were kept as low as possible by rejecting the traditional fashion industry model of producing two collections a year, instead utilising factory ‘downtime’ outside of this period.

 

What did you find most rewarding about the experience?

That first pint after your first sale. That’s pretty rewarding.

What lessons would you give others?

When you’re running your own business, you learn very quickly that bad suppliers don’t exist. If something goes wrong, it’s likely because they have been mismanaged. You can spend your time blaming others when things go wrong but when it’s your own business, that doesn’t help you. Instead, put frameworks in place that enable effective communication of your values and expectations early.

What was most challenging? 

Running a business. That sounds like an odd thing to say but it’s true. The thought of running your own business is such a wonderful idea but it’s anything but easy.

My co-founder and I used to joke between ourselves because when we incorporated the company, the two of us became directors in the business; he had a real flare and capacity for all things creative, so he naturally took on the role of ‘creative director’ but I was the ‘director of everything else’. Funnily enough, everything else is a lot of stuff: sales, marketing, supply chain, wholesale, logistics, finance, regulation. The list goes on.

Getting to grips with that stuff was the biggest challenge for me and for a very long time, we had no other option but to find shortcuts for absolutely everything in order to keep things ticking over.

Funniest anecdote?

People see the fashion industry as an extremely glamorous industry. We never referred to ourselves as a fashion business but people, none the less, had that expectation of us. One week, we were visiting one of our favourite manufacturers, based in the beautiful coastal village of Flamborough. Despite her very generous offer of a bed for the night, we stayed at one of nearby Bridlington’s finest establishments, three to a room. Far from the champagne lifestyle, we found ourselves drinking pints of John Smith’s in the hotel bar, watching a part-time magician entertain a room of people exclusively 50 years our senior. Amidst all the furore, we sat in silence. We looked at each other and just laughed until we cried. I think we all questioned our decision to start a business at that point.

How has the experience helped you at Market Gravity?

Starting, building and scaling a business can an extremely emotional experience. I suspect most people who have done it – for themselves, or somebody else – would vouch for that. Dealing with that emotional roller coaster is not something you can teach somebody but it’s certainly something you can support people with. I know from experience that having that person there when things feel like they’re going to the wall can be the difference between success and failure.

 

We learnt quickly to put frameworks in place that enable effective communication of our values and expectations early on. That was a valuable lesson and something I encourage anyone else to do when setting up a new venture.

 

If you’d like to talk over any ideas you have to launch a new proposition or how to overcome innovation challenges you’re facing- get in touch.

lee.chapman@marketgravity.com

Find Lee on LinkedIn

You can find the The Dark Peak website which is a live project in progress here.