The business model behind a unique clothing company run by three people with strong North East sporting connections has proved to be anything but pants after it pulled in a six figure outside investment.
Oddballs Apparel designs, manufactures and retails a striking high quality range of boxers shorts and briefs for both men and women, and was set up last year by former Newcastle United goalkeeper Steve Harper, ex-Newcastle Falcons and Scotland rugby union international Richard Metcalfe and former Falcons chief executive Paul Varley
The sporting friends established the business as a way of raising money for men’s cancer charities, with ten per cent of every sale being donated to organisations concerned with testicular cancer.
Oddballs’ initial products have quickly proved extremely popular, with many selling out on the www.myoddballs.com website, and the management team is now implementing plans to double its product range, with new items including flip flops and swim shorts.
To add the necessary support to its plans, Oddballs has worked with regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers to secure a £225,000 investment from the Finance For Business North East Growth Fund.
Eight new machining jobs are also set to come to Newcastle through an investment in new equipment on which the firm’s products can be made locally, and the management team is also in discussions with more than a dozen potential High Street retailers that want to feature their wares.
The management team is aiming to hit a turnover figure of £600,000 by the end of this year, and to then raise it to £3m within the next three.
Richard Metcalfe, who has previously attracted an NEL investment for his Orion Teamwear business, says: “The patterns of our products are obviously the first things that catch the eye, but the quality of the materials we use and the attention to detail in the manufacturing process are just as important in creating something that really stands out.
“The response we’ve had in just a few short months has been fantastic – our social media presence has grown extremely quickly, with more than 18,000 people following our @myoddballs Twitter feed alone, and we’ve had great support from athletes and teams right across the sporting world.
“With our strong links to the area, being able to bring jobs back to Newcastle is particularly pleasing for us all, and we know the textiles and machining expertise we need is going to be readily available in the region.
“Extending the product range seems like a natural next move to make, and the interest we’ve had from High Street retailers has been very encouraging. We’re already getting pre-orders for items that will be coming online soon, and all our sales are adding to the total sum that we’re able to donate to the testicular charities that we support.
“We’ve set ourselves some stiff commercial targets over the next few years, but we’re confident that we’ve got the business model and products in place to reach them, especially now that NEL has come on board – our relationship with their team has been fantastic and the whole investment process went really smoothly.”
Chris Parker, investment executive at NEL Fund Managers, adds: “Oddballs has quickly established an extremely strong brand presence that’s backed up by an excellent product range and the commercial knowledge required to achieve great things in the future.”
Aimed at regional businesses which are at a development and growth stage, the Growth Fund forms part of the wider Finance for Business North East Fund.
Managed by North East Finance, it will see £142m of investment capital injected into the region by the European Investment Bank and the European Regional Development Fund 2007-13.
NEL is looking to make around 130 investments from the Growth Fund, and is actively looking to speak to ambitious north east companies with robust business plans.
For more information about NEL’s investment criteria, visit www.nel.co.uk or contact the investment team on 0845 111 1850.
The ERDF 2007-13 programme is bringing over £300m into North East England to support innovation, enterprise and business support. It will help create and safeguard 28,000 new jobs, start 3,000 new businesses and increase the region’s productivity by £1.1bn per annum.