With strong statements such as "deliberately small" and "fiercely independent", cycle apparel business Morvélo is a great success story of a business breaking into a large market to provide a unique product.
Based in Brighton (UK), Morvélo has been growing a loyal customer base since 2008 with no sign of slowdown. We were curious to learn more about their strategy so asked co-founder Oli Pepper a few questions...
Let's begin with what the vision statement for Morvélo...
A small creative brand that focuses on a passion for cycling and inclusivity. Increasingly environmentally focused, our Overland range aims to reduce the surplus of clothing, by being supremely multifunctional, reducing the amount of clothing a person needs.
One of the key strategies of the business is a focus on remaining small and independence, can you tell us a little about that approach?
This has come about from two sources. The first was an analysis of why we work. We love riding bikes and spending time in the outdoors. Morvélo is very much a passion project, which means we are reluctant to have other parties involved who drive is solely from a growth perspective. We would rather has less turnover, greater profitability and the ability to spend more time outdoors enjoying the sport we love.
The second is from an environmental stand point. Modern consumer culture is based on growth at all costs, which is unsustainable and also in terms of the clothing industry like ours, incredibly damaging. By remaining small and independent we are very adaptable in these uncertain times, adjusting our business quickly to tackle challenges. A larger team, investment and the resulting pressure on growth at all costs we believe would be to the detriment of our environmental objectives and also the enjoyment of our working day.
How do you balance the challenges of remaining small and independent with growing the business?
Adaptability is key. Each year our business plan changes depending on what the market is doing and what trends are emerging. Being small means we have the luxury of being niche, so we fit in around the bigger players and offer consumers an intentionally different product.
How did you develop your strategy?
Our strategy is constant in terms of design ethos and environmental concerns, but alters in terms of approach. The approach is decided by what the industry is doing and where we determine the opportunities are created.
What was your initial growth strategy?
To be honest, we didn't have one. Morvélo was a T-shirt side project to our design consultancy business that focused on action sports. We decided to take this action sports attitude and put it into cycling, which was our passion. We were racing and wanted Morvélo technical clothing so designed and produced some and had to sell the extras to friends to help us reach the minimum order quantity. We took that money and put it back into making more clothing. This bootstrapped approach continues to this day and something we feel proud of.
What challenges did you encounter early on?
Everything! From being two graphic designers to running an apparel retail business means the learning curve is steep and the mistakes numerable. The greatest challenge then was understanding how production and supply chains work, logistics and financial planning. This is still a challenge as we introduce new products and the market is forever changing. There is no constant so you can never sit still. Which is exciting but also means new challenges present themselves invariably followed by new mistakes, which I think is the only way to truly learn.
Looking back, have you made any key strategic mistakes?
Yes, when we took a decision to employ an external marketing agency. The growth was fast, expensive and unsustainable and exposed many weaknesses in the business. It was the learning from this mistake that made us decide to stay small and independent.
How often do you review your strategy?
Pretty much everyday to make sure we are on track, where we are winning, where we are losing. The retail and cycle market landscape is forever changing so we need to adapt accordingly.
What are your top 3 strategic objectives and why?
Create clothing that is focused on sustainability and environmental concerns. Every company will have to do this at some point but the later we leave it the worse the damage to climate change will be.
To create new revenue streams in which to sell sports apparel. This is so we become less reliant on one source and enables to pick up on others when one is slow.
To enjoy our working life. People spend most of their life at work. Why not make it enjoyable and create opportunities that not only benefit you but also your mental and physical health.
How do you think Morvélo will continue to succeed and grow?
By staying small, nimble and focusing on combining environmental concerns with innovative products.
Thanks for your time Oli! If you enjoy cycling remember to check out their fashionable cycle apparel.