Setting up a new business in a recession

I’ve never been one to take the easy route in life, and so when I decided to launch a new business at a time when the economy was still recovering from the Financial Crisis in 2007 and subsequent double dip recession, it was pretty true to form.

The secret to our success, I think, has been that we’ve created a movement and not just a brand; from the start our passion was to make cycling gear for ‘normal’ people who don’t fit the cookie cutter perception of what cyclists should look like. FLAB isn’t just about the gear, it brings people together.

Anyone from any walk of life, any budget, and any health history – mental or physiological – can be part of our community and engage with others who may be facing the same struggles they have – or ‘likeminded’ people for want of a better phrase.

It’s not just the product that has been crucial to our success; our tone of voice is designed to be informal, irreverent and funny in everything we do. From the website, to our social media – we want people to instantly know that we are different from what they have come to expect from a cycling brand. We even run a sportive that we’ve gone out of our way to make different and friendly, for example we serve flapjacks and bananas and give our riders huge ‘bin lid’ sandwiches and pork pies to fuel their miles in the saddle.

There is no judgement, there is only support – we’ll cheer and champion the fast and fit lads as well as those that are striving to make advances in their lives. We understand that for some people to get on a bike for the first time in years, or ever, and cycle a mile could be harder than an average cyclist doing a 100 mile jaunt; and we’re all about celebrating that.

I’m super proud of the community we’ve built, we have hundreds of active members who go out on FLAB cycles at least once a month, an achievement even the likes of British Cycling would be proud of. We have one of the most engaged communities in the industry with over 32,000 community members regularly interacting with our many online platforms. Of course, none of this would be relevant if our product was below par. We don’t just make bigger versions of standard cycle wear – we actually put a lot of thought into how and where bigger lads and lasses might carry weight so that our products provide a comfortable and flattering fit.

Keeping the brand at the forefront of customers’ minds is a daily struggle and as a brand that has brought something unique to the cycling industry we want to ensure this is communicated effectively when we are engaging with our customers. For example, we have just made a (hopefully) funny meme video depicting a man in love with his bike for Valentines that has proved hugely successful with over 50,000 views in less than a week. We want brand fans and loyalty from our customers and we need to communicate with them in new and exciting ways to achieve this.

When you buy a Fat Lad At The Back jersey, it’s a lot more than an item of clothing. We like to think we’ve introduced you to 35,000 potential friends. You become part of a society that will openly and collectively be with you on your personal journey. No-one is left behind, both metaphorically and, when taking part in one of our sportives or community ride3s, literally.

Our customers are our company, the community is our brand. Everything we do is for them, all of our creations, our designs and our objectives are set around making our customers feel special and part of the movement. We are humbled by their continued support. We started out making cycling clothing that normal people would feel comfortable wearing. It was a natural evolution that they should feel comfortable in each other’s company doing what they love and perhaps feeling healthier and happier too. I think that’s what sits at the core of the popularity of the brand. 

Richard Bye,

Founder, Fat Lad At The Back

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