Richard Hurtley (History and Politics 2007)

Rampant Sporting: ‘Socks sells’

A business conceived during Richard Hurtley’s (History and Politics 2007) second year of studies has blossomed into a story of retailing success, attracting plaudits in Drapers, the Spectator, the Telegraph and Cosmopolitan.

Richard’s ‘Rampant Sporting’ has just opened its first bricks-and-mortar shop in Exeter’s Gandy Street, selling premium sporting wear inspired by the spirit and lifestyle of the University of Exeter and its students.

In the tradition of all great business stories, the early years of the business saw Richard selling sporting socks from an Exeter garage. But support from the University’s Innovation Centre in the form of mentoring and market research, and a crystal clear vision of the business brand, has helped the business thrive.

It’s this success that has attracted interest and investment from fashion entrepreneur Tom Joule. The company now have a major stake in Rampant – providing Richard with warehousing, supplier and operational support from their Leicestershire base, as well as access to some of the business brains behind Oasis, Fat Face and Jack Wills.

“There’s a relaxed, sports-based culture at the University of Exeter that’s unique,” comments Richard on the foundations of the ‘Rampant Sporting’ brand. “It may be because it’s so close to the coast, surrounded by such a beautiful campus and part of a small, friendly city. But whatever the reason there’s a real mix of social, sporting and academic people and lifestyles here. It’s about being ambitious but having fun, enjoying the day and playing sports. And that’s where the Rampant Sporting brand is.

“I had the time of my life at Exeter. It’s where I met my best friends and I started developing the business. Our office might be based in Leicestershire, but our heart and soul are down in Devon. I wanted to make sure our first shop was in Exeter – the brand is so closely related to the University that it just made sense.”

Richard has been back to visit the campus since graduation. Whilst he admits that this was partly down to research purposes, he also volunteered to talk to students recently at the University of Exeter Business School.

He feels universities have an important role to play in the economic recovery. “The recession is pushing an emerging culture of enterprise within universities, and this brings benefits all-round. Students are starting to realise that it’s a good time to create your own job.”

When asked if he had any advice for Exeter students or alumni who might be considering setting up a business, Richard had a few words of enthusiastic advice.

“Firstly, share your idea with others, ideally people who’ve been there themselves. Test the idea, build your confidence in it and make use of resources, like the University’s Innovation Centre. If you don’t give it a go, you’ll kick yourself. I remember being inspired by Richard Branson’s ‘Screw it, let’s do it’ autobiography, and that’s absolutely the attitude to take.

“Be smart with your own money,” he cautions. “Make the most of contacts, friends and family, but try to avoid investing your life-savings – business angels are a good route to raising funds. Have clear goals in mind and revisit these as you go.”

It’s an approach that has worked for ‘Rampant Sporting’. Their first shop in Exeter’s Gandy Street is set to be followed by more outlets across the country later this year – showcasing not only their clothing, but something of the University of Exeter spirit at the same time.

Useful links relating to this article:

Visit the ‘Rampant Sporting’ online shop at www.rampantsporting.com. For more on the University’s Innovation Centre, visit www.spaceforsuccess.co.uk. For career development support visit www.exeter.ac.uk/employability, and for more information on supporting the University through volunteering, visit www.exeter.ac.uk/alumnisupporters/volunteering/.


Date: 13 April 2011

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