With our crowd funding campaign underway, we took 5 minutes to catch up with Garreth Hodgson. Garreth is an Ironman triathlete, a health and fitness sector expert and a SOAR investor. We wanted to find out Garreth's take on the sprostwear market right now, the trends he's seeing, what he thinks the future holds, and why he's backing SOAR.
Hi Garreth, firstly tell us a bit about you as an investor - you have a lot of interests in young, exciting companies in the sports and outdoor market, what draws you to this space?
Hi there. Yes I left the City just over two years ago and since then I have been investing in early stage companies in the health and fitness space. Through years of doing triathlon I had a decent feel for what was going on in running and cycling (don’t ask about my swimming!), and whilst living in the US I saw the Crossfit scene explode and felt there would be opportunities over here. We are living through a permanent change in how people train and live and I am looking for ways to play that trend. Kids focus on the fitness side of their sports much earlier and don’t stop when they leave school. 20-somethings enter the job market and their fitness activities become a huge part of their social/ dating life. 40/50/60-somethings are staying active and healthier for longer, and are not price sensitive when they find brands and activities they like.
How do you see the sports market evolving, what's changed in recent years, and what are the hallmarks of those companies that are making things work?
For all the reasons above I think you’re going to continue to see very strong growth. Within that, I think social media has made it much easier for more interesting new entrants to gain traction and the growth of online shopping has removed the barriers to distribution. I think the best companies remain authentic to their core followers and never compromise on the quality of their merchandise. They create deep communities that are valued very highly if and when an eventual exit is planned.
So, what drew you to SOAR Running to begin with, and what is it about SOAR that's kept you involved as an investor?
Historically, running has been an area where the best athletes have worn their oldest, plainest, worst kit almost as a badge of pride! Outside of the big brands no one had ever really tried to funk it up or make it cool. I liked the background of the founders at Soar - they were all runners but had also worked in fashion and in advertising. They knew the importance of functionality but also the value of emotional appeal. The early technical feedback from dedicated runners has been excellent - I think Soar now have an opportunity to commercialise this further by making clothes that their fans wear before and afterwards as well.
How do you view the future for SOAR, post this Crowdcube round and over the next 3- years? What do you think the opportunity is and what makes SOAR best placed to seize it?
Running is broadening and changing - traditional road and track racing might have peaked but areas like trail running, ultra running, community events and urban run clubs are exploding. More and more people are identifying with this lifestyle and they want a running brand that reflects that. I think the people at the company have the creativity and the energy to put Soar at the forefront of these changes.
Now for a quick word on your own running, as a committed runner and triathlete, how's training going? What's up next for you?
Athletically, I’m very much at the “use it or lose it” stage so I try and stay pretty consistent. I live out in the Chilterns and do more and more of my running off road these days - more variety, less injuries. Race-wise, I’ve just done Ironman Lanzarote and am doing Ironman Barcelona next year. I continue to delude myself that if I keep going long enough sufficient people will drop out so I can qualify for Hawaii one year.
And lastly, what's your favourite piece of SOAR kit, and why?
It has to be the Ultra Rain Jacket - it got me through the “beast from the east” yet isn’t too hot for a hard run in the spring either.
Thanks Garreth, and all the best with your training.
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