Paul Sherratt, CEO and Founder of gloveglu – the grippy goalkeeper glove spray – talks about how the business started, the lessons he has learned, and what every entrepreneur should know.
How it all started
I have always loved sport and was lucky enough for my first job to be my dream job. I began life in the sporting goods industry in 1994 working for Head -the racket and ski brand. At 23 years old marketing tennis rackets and skis, spending time testing products, and mixing with athletes was incredible and gave me such a deep passion for building sports brands.
By 2005 I had developed this passion into a business that solely focussed on helping European based sports brands enter the UK & Irish markets. Working with the likes of adidas, Spalding, McDavid , Ironman, and many more, big and small, gave me the opportunity to explore global brand building and provided a deep and wide contact base.
In 2011 one of my core clients was the leading German goalkeeping brand Uhlsport and, through this relationship I gained a deep understanding of goalkeeping products and began, independently, exploring potential new product ideas in and around that position.
I knew that most goalkeeper brands focus on making the grippiest latex but constantly face the issue that, to make a grippy latex means that the palm will be soft and thus will break down quicker than a harder palm that offers less grip.
This challenge is one that has existed for over 50 years and I thought it was time to challenge the status quo.
“What about a spray that you could apply to any goalkeeper glove, any palm, and brand, to make the glove grippy” was the thought I had in 2011.
By 2012, safer nearly 12 months of testing and tweaking gloveglu was born.
Today, the brand is a multi-million pound business with global distribution and we have created an entirely new retail category – goalkeeping glove care.
With my background, the ability to find new customers was not too difficult. The challenge was to persuade these customers that the end consumer would continue to purchase new gloves and not merely use gloveglu to make their products last longer.
It soon became apparent however that the cycle of match gloves becoming training gloves and new gloves being purchased to replace the match gloves continued and keepers welcomed the ability to “regrip” their gloves whenever extra grip was needed.
Greater challenges came as we scaled from filling bottles around the kitchen table to daily production runs of over 3000 bottles and as we began to establish a core team.
In any scale-up business, in the early stages staff members have to be prepared to be flexible – one minute they could be talking to an athlete and the next unloading a truck – so recruitment is critical.
Many people see competitors as a challenge but with gloveglu we have always taken the view that if competitors enter the category then they are helping spread the message around goalkeeping glove care and, in effect, helping make the market bigger.
The market in goalkeeping was dominated by either the traditional glove brands – Uhlsport and Reusch – or by the mega brands -adidas and Nike. However, by penetrating the market with something new and different, and outside of their core areas of expertise and focus, gloveglu was able to establish an entirely new category – goalkeeper glove care.
This gave us a chance to skirt around the outside of the market incumbents to the extent that, even when we began to go deeper and wider into the goalkeeping niche with the launch of gloves and apparel, we were not really on their radar.
Our position as category king (in a category that we invented) also gave us huge credibility and relationship with the key soccer specialists.
Without doubt, this approach to drive deep and wide into the goalkeeping niche (rather than push into other sports) has provided a strong base to enable us to expand further.
The original business plan outlined the opportunity within other glove wearing sports i.e. taking our unique grip spray and pushing into sports such as baseball, American football, hockey etc. However, during the Covid pandemic, we decided that the more prudent approach was to develop a wider range of goalkeeping products to grow through our existing football goalkeeper base rather than, at that stage, branch out to find new costumes on new sports.
There is no doubt that this was the right call and, more importantly, the opportunity to move into other sports has not gone away.
Advice to others
Building the business is as much about building the team as it is about putting in the right systems and procedures.
Having been around sport and teams I have seen time and time again how a stong team ethic can often overcome a group of talented individuals who do not gel as a unit.
It is not always about talent, it is often about attitude and application.
In that same vein, I have seen how coaches can be key in getting the most from an athlete or team and thus, for gloveglu, the addition of a business coach as part of the team has enabled us to grow more rapidly than we would have done without the advice of a coach providing short cuts and ideas that he has seen and brought from other businesses.
Focus is another areas that requires discipline as a business owner and entrepreneur. It is often tempting to get pulled away from core strategies and be distracted by new ideas. Stop and think whether this will help or hinder the business and whether the time, effort, energy, and resources justify the end game.
We’ve used social media to really help drive the business. It’s free and, if done properly can really help push your business. TikTok, in particular, has been spectacular with our most viewed post attracting over 70m views!
Believe in yourself and your ideas.
Being a solo entrepreneur and driving forward a challenger brand by definition means challenging the norm. Sometimes this goes against people’s beliefs and requires leadership and education to encourage team members and customers to follow your lead and journey.
I believe that employing the person, not the skill, will often result in a better result. It is the sum of all parts, not the individual skills, that ensures that the team is a successful one.
Sure, certain functions, such as finance, require specific qualifications, but in many areas individuals can learn and grow and become aligned with business goals due to their approach and attitude.
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