A Tees Valley teacher is hoping that extra homework will pay off as he looks to make a name for a fledgling fashion business.
Jonathon Bull has always had a keen eye on fashion – a collection of 500 pairs of trainers is testament to that – and despite going down the teacher training route he always harboured dreams of having a crack at the clothing sector.
After carving out a successful career in education as deputy headteacher at Holy Trinity Church of England Primary School in Seaton Carew, Jonathon decided to set up 13 Apparel earlier this year.
“I always wanted to get involved in fashion before I was 30,” he said.
“I was watching The Apprentice one night and there was a lad on who had an idea with trainers. Something just clicked. I thought ‘I can do that’ and I decided to go for it. That was in January, and my 30th birthday was in February, so I hit my first target!”
Jonathon put his artistic flair to good use by creating a company name and drawing up a logo, then trawled the internet to research fashion trends before contacting a supplier.
“People ask me why it’s called 13 when that’s supposed to be unlucky, but I’ve never really bought into that. It’s proving to be lucky for me so far.
“I had to do plenty of research before placing my first order, the colours change season by season and I didn’t want to just gamble and hope it worked. The colours for spring 2019 were white, grey and pink, so everything I did was based around those colours.”
His first order was for 30 baseball-style caps and 30 t-shirts, costing him £800, and he set about trying to spread the word among friends and family as well as mounting a one-man social media campaign to divert traffic to his website.
“I wanted to start it off locally, so I tapped into my contacts in and around Hartlepool and people helped me out by wearing the stuff and posting pictures on Instagram. It wasn’t just mates doing me a favour though, even though they might be good friends they would have been the first to tell me if they thought the quality wasn’t right or if the items looked substandard.
“A couple of the Middlesbrough players, Lewis Wing and Marcus Tavernier, got wind of it and I also made a contact with Savannah Marshall, the boxer from Hartlepool. These people not only wear clothes like the ones I’m creating, they also have a strong influence on social media. It all helps spread the word.”
That exposure helped Jonathon shift the full order inside the first month, doubling his initial outlay, and all the funds were pumped straight back into the next order, which included hoodies as well as a wider range of headwear.
“The first month went far better than I expected, but it was tough doing the job at school from 7.30am until 6pm on an evening so I’ve had a lot of help. My mam has spent hours packaging items up and running back and forwards to the post office to get the orders out!”
Two of Jonathon’s pals – Liam Richardson and Lee Crowe – bought into the business in May and they have some exciting plans.
“Things are going really well now and we’re starting to make a name for ourselves. We have said we won’t take a penny out of the business in the first three years, and everything we make goes straight back into it so we can place bigger orders and keep ahead of the competition with colours and the items we offer.
“We want to be known as an exclusive but affordable brand. They are two words which may not sit comfortably alongside each other, but the volume of sales we’ve made in the first few months suggests people are buying into it.”
For more information about 13 Apparel, visit th13teenapparel.com or search for 13apparel on social media.