Suka Sport: Alexander Neumuller and Yolanda Hinchliffe
The men’s sportswear retailers on launching their boutique and still finding time to train their new puppy
Tell us what your business doesWe’re an independent sports boutique that stocks exclusive brands and puts the enjoyment back into sports shopping.
Where did the idea for your business come from? We knew that the independent specialist sports retail idea worked having seen it succeed in other countries and market sectors (female). We did not feel that there was the same offering for men despite the growing participation and the closeness of fashion and sport.
How did you know there was a market for it? Sweaty Betty & Lululemon have shown that specialist sports boutiques have a large place in the market. Differentiation is in the product that we stock and the way which it is displayed, along with our location and having expert staff. Also, no-one else has really supported men’s yoga. We are the only men’s only sports shop to stock a selection of well-chosen technical wear for the disciplines of running, cycling, swimming and yoga.
What were you doing before starting up? Alex: I was working in the research and development field and cycling (a lot!). I found the project management side exciting but have had to learn the “retail way”.
Yolanda: I’m a keen athlete and former regional manager of Sweaty Betty. I’ve got in-depth knowledge of retail, specifically sports retail. It was hard to leave SB but they are only a few doors away if I get homesick!
Have you always wanted to run your own business? We have both always aspired to run our own businesses and have always planned on setting up in the future. When this idea came up and we realised it was a viable business option we jumped into action. It is a little daunting at times, but it is more exciting than scary. We are learning so much every day. Alex’s dad was also an entrepreneur and so perhaps it is in the blood. For us, the appeal is being able to create a shop that we would want to shop in. And being our own boss means that we can support the projects, brands and ideals that we love and hopefully encourage greater sports participation while we are there too.
What planning did you do before you started up?We didn’t seek any advice other than to speak to plenty of friends in the sports world to get their opinion on the idea. We wrote a long business plan with financial forecasts so that we had a concrete plan set out to work from.
How did you raise the money? Suka is a privately funded business and we raised the money through our own savings and personal investments.
How have you promoted your business? We have a great PR team – PHA Media – working with us. They have proved invaluable, for their knowledge of the sports world, but also for their constant support and enthusiasm. They have steered us in many a right direction.
What about staff?Two full-timers and a part-timer – they are passionate and enthusiastic and have a real can-do attitude. As long as there is constant coffee and the odd sandwich then they are happy to work hard and get stuck in. A real asset to us!
What’s the impact on your home life been like?As a couple who run a business together, it can be hard to switch off but having a puppy helps greatly. We also have continued to train throughout and sport is the easiest way to switch off and means that we are both happier people. We try our best to have at least an hour off a day to chat, have a sit down lunch, walk the dog – just to unwind.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time? Do you have an exit plan?We would like to be in New York, working on the next project that we have already started planning!