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Sports brand Gymshark becomes UK's newest £1bn start-up

Clothing brand Gymshark becomes the UK's newest £1 billion start-up after securing £200 million investment.

While studying at university by day and delivering for Pizza Hut by night, Ben Francis started Gymshark from his parents garage in 2012 at the age of 19 by drop shipping supplements to avid gym-goers which then led to producing garments. Fast forward eight years and Gymshark is now worth over £1 billion following investment from General Atlantic.

The private equity firm will obtain 21 per cent of the business sitting Melis Kahya Akar on Gymshark’s board. General Atlantic’s head of business EMEA, Gabriel Caillaux, described the brand as “authentic, disruptive and differentiated”.

Ben will continue to own 70 per cent, estimated to be worth around £700 million, making him one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in the UK. The remaining 9 per cent will be owned by partners and senior management.

Gymshark became popular with millennials whose growth was a result of the use of social media and Instagram “influencers”. Before influencer marketing became popular, Gymshark was at the forefront and "one of the first businesses in the world to sponsor influencers," according to Ben, "Equally, we were one of the first businesses to really double down and invest in social media."

The Solihull-based firm look to use the investment to target the North American market where they’ve experience growth and success in recent years. Former pizza delivery boy has ambitious goals for Gymshark which he firmly believes has the "potential to be to the UK what Nicke is to the US and Adidas is to Germany."

Reported to be the UK’s fastest growing company, Gymshark received growth in sales during lockdown while raising money for the NHS in Birmingham. An online campaign named “NHS Sweaty Selfie” was launched as well as supporting personal trainers by hosting paid virtual classes.

According to their accounts, compared to last year’s figures for July, Gymshark experienced revenue growth from £103 million to £176 million. While pocketing over £250 million in its last fiscal year. Yet, at the start of the year, the firm announced their best revenue growth quarter ever.

The sports apparel market is predicted to generate US$208 billion in revenue in five years’ time and the cash injection from General Atlantic will only boost Gymsharks’ chances of competing in a saturated market.

Ben adds, “Against a backdrop of rising social media usage, rapid growth of ecommerce and increasing focus on health and wellness, Gymshark is positioned to seize the opportunity of further growth.”

Author: James Parker