If you don't try, you won't succeed: Harry Blackwell (2021)

— 29.11.22

by Caroline Mailer

Our BA Business Management with Employment Experience alumnus, Harry Blackwell, graduated in 2021 having started a side project sourcing traditional rugby jerseys. Now, his business Jim's Jerseys is his full-time job and it has already hit the six figure revenue mark.

We caught up with Harry to find out more about his entrepreneurial journey so far...

Words of Harry Blackwell, November 2022

I always thought that to be able to start a business you had to come up with an idea that no one else had ever thought of before. That’s definitely not the case. You just need to be the best at what you do in your chosen market. If you go to a supermarket and look at the water aisle, there will be at least 20+ brands all selling exactly the same product. Just because a product already exists doesn’t mean you can’t do it better than the rest.

At Sheffield I was a member of the rugby club.

Playing rugby at Sheffield certainly left me with some good memories of Wednesday nights, and sore heads on Thursday mornings! This was where I met some of my closest friends and was trusted in leadership roles including 1st Team Rugby Captain, which helped me develop greatly as a person. We had a Facebook alumni page and one of the old boys posted a picture of an old cotton shirt they used to play in. I liked the look of it and wanted to get my hands on one! I did a quick search on Google and I managed to find a UK based supplier who would make them for me at a reasonable price and so I placed my first order for 75 jerseys.

At this stage, it wasn’t necessarily a business venture!

When I first started the business, it was very much a side project and I don’t think it was on my radar that I could be running the business as my full time job. I was lucky to have a mate at Exeter University and a mate at Newcastle University who also both placed orders with me and with that Jim’s Jerseys was born. I actually used this business idea for the New Venture Creation module in my final year at Sheffield. That module definitely helped me in terms of being able to write up a proper business plan with guidance from the university. I got a 2:1 in that module and I can remember being a bit disappointed it wasn’t a first!

The biggest challenge was getting started.

Jim’s Jerseys is a startup clothing brand selling custom rugby jerseys to teams, clubs and societies. I started the business in April 2021, just before I graduated in June of that year. After my final exam, I only had two weeks off before going into my first full time job working in digital marketing for an advertising agency in Manchester.

Working a full time job alongside running a business is difficult. I’d get home from work, and then work most evenings and weekends on Jim’s Jerseys. I soon realised there was a strong market for the product and started to invest a lot more of my time into the business. It definitely wasn’t easy, but doing this allowed me to grow the business to a stage where I could quit my job and focus all my attention on the business.

Since then, I've scaled the business to be one of the biggest suppliers of custom rugby jerseys in the UK.

The business started to gain more traction with more and more orders, and we recently took our biggest order for 300 shirts which tipped our revenue into the six figure mark. It’s a significant milestone for any small business but we have plans to achieve much more in the near future.

First and foremost we want to continue the growth of the business through selling custom jerseys and establishing our brand further within the UK market. We’re looking to expand our revenue streams by adding our own stock to our website, allowing customers to purchase shirts on a more individual basis.

In the medium term future we’d love to start exporting to other countries around the world. A few business trips to Australia doesn’t sound too bad!

My advice is to just go for it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Even if it doesn’t work out, I guarantee you will learn something along the way, whether that be about yourself or in business. Cotton rugby jerseys are nothing new but I found a niche, where no one was really selling custom jerseys in the current market.

Now, we exist to bring traditional rugby jerseys into the modern era.

You can find out more about Harry's start up business, Jim's Jerseys, on the website at jimsjerseys.co.uk or by following on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.


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