The Gymshark story has been told by a lot of people in a lot of places.
It's never been told by us before. It's never been told like this before.
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Gymshark Was Built In The Weight Room.
A group of school friends - including our own Ben Francis - together in a local Birmingham gym, doing some bicep curls under the nattiest of lighting they could find, without any vision of what that would become. This isn't the opening screen directions to a sub-part Netflix Original (although maybe one day...); it's the foundations of our story. The Gymshark story.
In the early 2010s, Ben's life balanced lecture-attending at Aston University, pizza delivering across Birmingham and late-night lifting at the gym. But it was his appetite for fitness that he craved most. So much so that it drove Ben to want a slice of the industry for himself. It didn't matter what the 'in' to the fitness industry was; he just needed an in. A few workout apps and a social network were the first attempts in. Both to moderate success. A few thousand members, but nothing sustainable.
And then came Gymshark.
Incorporated in 2012, Gymshark began as a website domain and little more than that. Just an empty website with almighty potential.
Without any financial backing - pizza delivering wasn't proving the most lucrative vocation - Gymshark couldn't afford stock. Undeterred, Ben overcame obstacle number one with an agile solution. Gymshark.com played host to 1000s of performance supplements without actually stocking a single one. When a customer placed an order, gymshark.com simply triggered a third-party retailer to drop-ship the order, with Gymshark taking a small margin. And we were off. Kind of...
It did take two months for an order to be placed but, after a patient 60-day wait, in came order #00000001.
In a move of humble expansion, clothing started to be drop-shipped alongside supplements.
But there was one problem, and that brought about obstacle number two...
The clothing was, um… how do we put it. Questionable..
It Started With A Sewing Machine, A Screen-printer And Ambitions We Had No Right To Hold.
Okay, that might be a little harsh, but the baggy, rigid cuts built for 300lb architectures of muscle weren't quite the right fit for what we wanted.
From that, our first 'business plan' was born: make the product we want to wear. Fitted. Lightweight. Physique-enhancing. Sound familiar?
Ben began sewing, screen-printing and delivering all Gymshark product himself. By hand.
Shoutout to the Loudmouth Stringer.
Our Strength Was Instinct.
That business plan, while a little unpolished, was our superpower.
Gymshark's early moves revolved around building a brand and product that we wanted to see.
So, as lifters themselves, Ben and co. had got firsthand access to all the industry insights they could ever need.
Because we weren't building a community. We were part of one.
Because if we knew what we wanted, we knew what our community wanted.
After all, lifting and its people were what we knew best.
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They Say Slow And Steady Wins The Race. But Gymshark's Never Been A Running Brand.
Growth strategies built on brand awareness? Product development? Market penetration? Not so much...
Gymshark's rapid growth happened as organically as the first stringer was stitched.
Building a brand we wanted to be part of, we put Gymshark in places we wanted to see Gymshark.
Sending Products To Our Heroes Was 'Athlete Marketing', Apparently.
Lex Griffin. Matt Ogus. Chris Lavado. Today, we call them athletes, family. But back in 2012, as some of the biggest names in the lifting game, we called them heroes.
As many fans do with their heroes, we wanted to get closer to them. So, kind of like fanmail, those early Gymshark stringers were sent to our bodybuilding heroes in hope that they'd like them. Turns out they did. Turns out they liked Gymshark so much that they shared it with their own communities. Turns out they like Gymshark so much that they signed as the first ever Gymshark athletes.
It wasn't intended as 'influencer marketing', but advertising had never been so easy. The Gymshark family was growing, fast.
Over the years, that roster's grown and evolved, from Steve Cook to Francis Ngannou, Nikki Blackketter to Katie Taylor, Ryan Garcia to Chris Bumstead. But the approach has never changed: build a family of likeminded individuals working to better themselves and those around them.
BodyPower, Please Welcome To Centrestage, Gymshark.
It's May 2013. We'd hand-crafted the clothing, we'd signed the athletes and we'd built our small community. Now it was time to bring them all together.
Having visited the BodyPower fitness expo in Birmingham in 2012, during Gymshark's drop-shipping, domain-hogging days, Ben took perhaps the biggest risk in Gymshark's history. Insistent that Gymshark needed to be there the following year to bring some noise, our bank account was emptied to reserve a small area of floor space for BodyPower 2013. Who knew what Gymshark might look like, and what we might be drop-shipping or hand-stitching or bicep-flexing, by then?
By the time BodyPower 2013 came, Gymshark had become more of a brand, with a genuine product offering, a brand identity and a small community, all of which came along to the expo. We knew we had a presence. The size of that presence was what we never could've predicted.
10am. Friday morning. The NEC, Birmingham. The doors to BodyPower 2013 opened and within seconds the Gymshark stand was swarmed with athletes, fans and staff. Family.
Expos had, until this point, been corporate exchanges and retail spaces, to promote new products and services and hopefully make a handful of cash along the way. That wasn't our way. For the entire weekend, the Gymshark stand was a place for everyone to just hangout, chat, advise, flex, with an infectious energy never seen before.
This wasn't what expo halls were used to, but it was what they were about to become. A new way of doing things.
Having revolutionised the expo scene, spread the Gymshark vision and welcomed more lifters into our family, we had one more introduction in May 2013...BodyPower 2013.
Enter, The Luxe Tracksuit.
Development of Gymshark's first truly game-changing product began in late 2012.
Until then, new products were pulled together in a matter of minutes in Ben's backroom, but this one was going to take longer to develop. Because this was one we weren't stitching and printing ourselves.
We designed the Luxe Tracksuit to be Gymshark's highest-quality offering yet, a fitted hoodie-and-joggers combo that was durable yet athletic and functional yet aesthetic. When the design was complete, the development needed a specialist touch. The creation of the Luxe Tracksuit was outsourced and the minimum order quantity took every penny Gymshark had made. For the second time in six months, the Gymshark bank account was emptied.
Luxe finally debuted at BodyPower 2013, repped by athletes and sold in small quantities to our community. But when it reached dusk as BodyPower, the Luxe Tracksuit dawned. And it rocketed.
In 30 minutes, gymshark.com achieved more traffic and sales in half-an-hour than we'd had in our entire existence, from £300 per day to £30,000 in 30 minutes.
Gymshark had arrived.
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From day one, we were the community and the customer; making stuff we wanted, working with who we wanted, showing up how we wanted. It was 'easy'. But we were only showing up for half of the lifting community.
It was time to Flex on 'em.
The first Gymshark women’s products were, erm, well, they weren’t great. But we weren’t deterred.
Then along came a pop colour waistband and a few shades of contouring and we were starting to see the Flex we know and love today. Better yet, we found out that Flex sells.
It was the first look at what Gymshark seamless could become and since then Flex has been joined by Vital, Ombre, Adapt and every other seamless rang we've loved over the years.
The Gymshark family grew too, as we brought in heroes from the women's fitness world, with the likes of Nikki Blackketter, Robin Gallantt, Jazmine Garcia and more signing as athletes.
Today, @gymsharkwomen is a huge part of our story and our identity. Gymshark and seamless leggings have become synonymous.
We Changed The Expo Game, Then We Invented Our Own.
BodyPower 2013 (we'll stop bringing that up soon, promise) was our expo debut, but it was far from our swan song. We went back in 2014. And 2015. And '16 and '17. We travelled to Olympias and Arnolds and FIBOs around the world to get closer to our people, literally. We continued to bring clothing, content and community together, with a lot of energy.
But once we changed the game at expos, it was time to do things our way.
In 2016 we took Gymshark on a world tour that put us on doorsteps from Brum to Brooklyn. A small group of athletes and staff travelled across the UK and US to put Gymshark on the map.
The Gymshark World Tour was less 'expo' and more 'hangout in the park with your mates', but we wouldn't have had it any other way.
We'd simply take to social media, drop a location and meet the Gymshark family there, from Times Square, New York, to Grafton Street, Dublin.
The people who build this brand are those who wear it on their chest. This was our way of enabling the Gymshark family to meet their heroes, our athletes, but also a way for us to connect with our people too.
We Stopped Lifting Expos And Started Lifting Entire Cities.
Then it was time to up the ante again.
Starting in our hometown, Birmingham (where else?), we stopped lifting expos and started lifting entire cities.
The first 'We Lift The City' event, LiftBrum took place in May 2018 (sheer coincidence that it was the same weekend as BodyPower...), and gave us freedom to do all we could at an expo and more, and do it our way. Lift events are the place for the Gymshark family to come together and celebrate lifting and the future of the sport, with meet-and-greets, seminars, chicken, rice and broccoli (other food options available), fitness challenges, clothing and more.
Take the energy of an expo and multiply it by 10. Imagine taking five scoops of pre-workout instead of one (don't try this at home).
After Birmingham, we lifted Dublin. Then we lifted Toronto. Then Frankfurt then Houston then Amsterdam. We've been lifting cities for five years now and best believe we aren't done yet. #LiftManchester was our latest, and there's something already in the pipework for our next...
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Our Growing Families Needed a Home, Or Five.
Having moved from garages to cabins to corporate offices, and having grown from a group of friends to a team to a whole family, Gymshark needed somewhere we could call home for good.
A forever home.
April 2018 saw us move to Blythe Valley Business Park, Solihull and into our stunning GSHQ. Across two floors with stunning infrastructure and architecture, shared open spaces and private ideation spaces, our decadent in-house restaurant Refuel, sleep pods, treatment rooms... this place had everything. And it was only the start.
Today, GSHQ is just one of a global network of Gymshark brick-and-mortars across the world. We've got two more at Blythe Valley. We're also up a high-rise in Denver, Colorado.
It Wouldn't Be Gymshark Without A Gym.
August 2019. Speak to anyone who works at Gymshark and they'll tell you exactly what happened that month... The covers came off at the best gym in the world, the Gymshark Lifting Club.
The LC is a home for conditioning* and content, and it's ours.
It's where our employee family go to become their own personal best, it's where we (and our athletes) capture content to inspire our global family and its where we host events to bring everyone together to shift some weight or run some miles.
We could continue to tell you how good it is. Or we could show you...
We're Always Inherently Questioning.
Remember GSHQ? That place we mentioned about four paragraphs ago? Well now imagine that, but three times bigger. With endless more creative space. And our very own product innovation centre.
GSIQ, the latest of our global offices, was built to give us all that we need to unite the conditioning* community and change the conditioning* world.
The Gymshark Team Have A Home; Gymshark Regent St. Is For Our Whole Family.
Speaking of significant dates, very few come close to Saturday 29th October, 2022.
On Regent St., London, the most revered shopping street in the UK, and arguably the world, Gymshark came to town. The first Gymshark flagship store opened its door.
The future of retail will continue to evolve over time and, with clothing to shop, the hub to hangout, the Sweat Studio to train and a whole lot more too, Gymshark Regent St. will not only evolve with it, but strive to revolutionise it itself.
The Gymshark team members have a place to call home. This is one for our whole family.
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By Lifters, For Lifters
Gymshark was built by lifters, for lifters.
We're taking things back to our routes. Groups of school friends, together in the gym, doing some bicep curls under the nattiest lighting they can find. We're taking things back to lifting.
Since 2012, our lifters have welcomed runners and HIITers and yogis, and the conditioning community will always belong to anyone who finds belonging in it. But, for now, we're going back to who we are at heart.
David Laid, former Gymshark athlete, has been employed as Creative Director of Lifting to advise the business on the direction of product and brand. David inspires millions of lifters every single day; we can think of no-one better for the job.
Gymshark will continue to be built by lifters, for lifters.
*Conditioning is everything we do today to prepare for tomorrow and we aren't done yet.
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Gymshark started in 2012, when Ben Francis (19-years-old) fell in love with the gym. Realising that there wasn't any gym clothing that he actually wanted to wear, Ben started to create something new: fitted, aesthetic gym apparel, perfect for a new era of bodybuilders.
Since then, Gymshark has expanded its brand into women's clothing, content creation, and events.
Ben Francis stepped down as CEO of Gymshark in 2017 to move into a new role as Chief Brand Officer, focusing on innovation, the brand’s identity and its creative content.
During this time, Steve Hewitt stepped into the role of CEO to help develop the structural foundations of the business.
Ben Francis, who founded Gymshark in 2012, is the current CEO of Gymshark (2023).
Francis took over from Steve Hewitt in August 2021.
David Laid is the Creative Director of Lifting for Gymshark.
As part of our move back to our roots of lifting, David will be advising the business on the direction of product and content through a lifting lens.
Gymshark IQ (GSIQ), Solihull, UK is the latest of our global offices and the home of many departments of the Gymshark team, including Product, Brand and Marketing.
GSIQ includes design rooms and our product innovation centre to enable us to create truly game-changing product.
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