Current wisdom would have everyone believe that manufacturing is something that nowadays only takes place overseas and certainly not in London.
However, Greater London member Darren Sidnick, hadn’t heard this and after getting married, moving house and starting a family, he decided to set up a clothing company in 2010.
He wanted to make clothes that were fashionable and comfortable, in modern fabrics that would regulate temperature and be easy to care for. He also wanted all the products to be UK-made.
He didn’t have any experience of the fashion industry, but he felt there was a gap in the market for the sort of clothes he wanted to make.
Researching his idea didn’t help as people didn’t understand the concept, but he believed in his idea and developed prototypes which were sold at Marylebone and Muswell Hill Markets. They went down a storm!
Then it was time to start marketing and he cold-called Debenhams followed with an email. It may have simply been good timing, but he was given a meeting to pitch his ideas and was offered a contract on the spot.
This was his big break, but it was also very daunting. He now needed to work out how to deliver on the promises he’d made and it took him a few weeks to actually sign the contract.
There were so many things to sort out including IT system compatibility, storage and distribution processes. Everything took about 5 months to set up and fortunately Debenhams were patient.
Not only is the business a real family affair, with his wife and two children involved when extra hands are required, he even has supportive neighbours who suggested he put a storage container in his front garden as things were taking off for him.
Seven years on from starting HotSquash in his spare bedroom, he now employs 11 people, has moved into commercial office premises in Barnet, has three factories in Tottenham and Wood Green, and all his photo-shoots are done in Pimlico. Everything is still produced in the UK.
His own business growth has also helped other businesses. When he needed graders to produce his designs in different sizes, he used a new company and became their first big customer. They are now supplying to River Island.
His success with gaining the contract with Debenhams has led to another contract with House of Fraser. This time it wasn’t so easy to reach the right person to pitch his ideas to, but persistence and determination got him there in the end.
Whilst 90 per of his current sales are in the UK, he is looking to move into overseas markets and is working to sell HotSquash ranges in Germany, Holland, Belgium and Poland via agents.
Darren says, “Many people would think starting a business from a new home with a new family was a nightmare, but it was great for me. I could work the hours I wanted to and still see the kids. Mind you, it did drive my wife mad and she really celebrated when we finally moved into commercial premises.”
He went on, “It’s important to keep an eye on overheads and general costs, making sure you’re spending money on the right things. I delayed moving on from being home-based and spent money on a PR agency instead – this meant we grew at the speed we wanted to and gave us a good customer base before committing to higher overheads.”
When not working all hours of the day, Darren is a keen Spurs fan, who enjoys listening to Bruce Springsteen and playing with his kids. His favourite part of London is Barnet, where his home and business are. He says, “I only have a 5 minute commute to work – that’s priceless.”