Front Up is one of the UK's leading and most exciting rugby brands and has ambitious plans for growth – with sales forecast to top £1 million over the next few years. One customer aptly described Front Up: “It’s cool après rugby clothing – the Superdry of sports”. The brand is backed by a growing army of professional and grassroots players.
The company was founded in 2008 by Jon Allen to fill a gap in the market for fashionable rugby-orientated clothing targeted at 16-24 males. Since that point, Jon has progressively developed the business, notably becoming official merchandise partner to the renowned Middlesex Sevens and securing Front Up’s first concession store in Debenhams, Gloucester.
In order to drive Front Up to the next level external finance and experience was required. Jon went about successfully making relevant business and investment contacts through LinkedIn. In May 2011, a team of 10 high profile retailers invested seed capital of over £175k for a minority share in the business. This investment was used to drive online sales, develop a broader range of styles & to open Pop Up stores.
In July 2011 Front Up launched an initial Pop Up store in London’s Covent Garden where the businesses' sales reached record levels and regularly traded in excess of £10,000 a week from a standing start. Identifying the opportunities available for these Pop Up stores, Front Up Rugby opened an additional five stores in the run up to Christmas 2011 delivering six figure turnover in a matter of weeks. A host of players attended a number of launch events including Welsh Rugby Legend Shane Williams, who opened the Company’s flagship Welsh store in Cardiff.
During January 2012 second round financing was sought to continue the ongoing momentum. The management team initially went down more traditional finance routes available: Banks, Venture Capital, Angel Networks & Private Investors. Whilst there was a good level of interest final commitments were not forthcoming. The company was too small to attract VC funding; banks were unhelpful which left Private individuals (including Angel Networks) as the primary focus.
At the time Crowdcube and crowdfunding were making a splash and Jon Allen knew of a company, Bubble & Balm who had successfully raised finance through Crowdcube. So, it seemed the perfect vehicle to raise the required finance from interested, engaged private investors who would become brand advocates and customers for Front Up Rugby.
Front Up’s pitch on Crowdcube, the UK’s leading crowdfunding platform, experienced a groundswell of demand with 63 investors helping the business raise £100,000. As a result, Front Up Rugby opened a second pitch to cater for everyone wanting to invest in the brand raising a further £23,000 from 7 investors. The company raised a total of £123,000 from 70 investors.
Jon Allen, Managing Director of Front Up Rugby commented “We’re absolutely delighted that our pitch was so well received. We now have a strong team of investors as well as brand advocates who can really help drive the brand forward. With the upsurge in the popularity of rugby, the growth of online shopping and proven traction, Front Up is well placed for rapid growth ahead of the British Lions Tour in 2013 and the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.”
Luke Lang, co-founder of Crowdcube said, “It’s always good to see another business finding a way to grow or start using Crowdcube, particularly when traditional routes to finance are so limited. We’re delighted for Front Up Rugby and look forward to seeing them use the finance to grow. Access to growth finance remains a serious issue despite numerous Government incentives and schemes to get banks lending more. There are thousands of small businesses like Front Up Rugby that need funds to grow. Equity crowdfunding is a serious solution to the problem.”
The investment will be used to evolve Front Up’s web platform www.frontup.co.uk, drive new wholesale accounts and to expand the brand’s product range. Front Up’s focus on social media, player affiliations and third party partnerships will continue as key elements of their growth strategy.
Front Up is due to launch nationally on Debenhams’ website early in 2013 and is currently in discussions with a number of other major UK retailers.
Watch this space!