When conceiving a new business idea and putting the initial pieces in place to make that idea a reality, few things drive a person more than passion – and through the Sir Thomas White Loan Charity, many business borrowers have been provided with the financial support to use that passion to succeed.
Rob Pullen is a perfect example of somebody that took their passion and used it when establishing his business – the Leicester Running Shop, currently located on Clarendon Park Road; just off the hugely popular Queens Road in the Clarendon Park area of Leicester.
A Sir Thomas White Loan Charity business borrower, Rob applied for a loan nine years ago – and has since developed his business sizably.
Walk into Rob’s shop and you’re met with the staggering array of colour that has become associated with joggers, sprinters and marathon competitors. This isn’t just a sports shop akin to those on the high street. This is something special, something unique – and something that could only have come to be through the owner’s desire and enthusiasm for running.
“I started running shortly after I moved back to Leicester, following on from being part of a climbing club,” explained Rob when discussing his business’ origins. “In 2005, I was made redundant; however, I had the idea of starting up a shop before that had happened and thought that now was the time to go for it. It was always an aim of mine to establish a shop that was specialised in running. At the time, there wasn’t a specialist in Leicester and the closest was Running Fox in Loughborough. I saw it as a really good opportunity to establish one.”
Prior to contacting the Sir Thomas White Loan Charity, Rob dedicated vast amounts of time researching the industry and market, ensuring he had as much knowledge as possible with which to establish a realistic business plan, alongside the contacts he needed among sportswear manufacturers.
“The running club I had joined in Leicester provided me with quite a lot of research,” he recalled. “The business plan was the starting point, and the research I had gathered enabled me to put that together. It’s a very important document to have and it allowed me to list everything I needed, from shop fittings to the amount of money required and the stock I would need. Contacting the suppliers and establishing that relationship was also important. I was lucky that I had some money available, with an extension to the house being put on hold, but it still wasn’t enough. I’d wanted to start the business without having any bank loans – and that’s where the Sir Thomas White Loan Charity came in, with their portion of cash really helping.
“A friend of mine was aware of the Sir Thomas White Loan Charity and pointed me in their direction. He incidentally also became my first guarantor! I can’t remember the application process being too stressful or difficult; it was a case of filling out the form and then attending the interview. In some ways, it’s very similar to a ‘Dragon’s Den’ scenario, but I was confident in the business plan and told them about the location and what I wanted to do. I think they saw it as a great opportunity. The interview certainly isn’t like you’re getting a grilling – the Charity is simply interested and wants to help.”
Once approved for the loan, the hard work for Rob really commenced, with the lease for his initial premises falling through, causing a period of time where he was forced to re-evaluate his options. However, a stroke of luck in the form of a friend moving to Canada made the lease for his current location available – and the Leicester Running Shop was born.
Fast-forward to the present day and Rob’s shop is still unique in Leicester. The walls either side of the property are filled with footwear produced by renowned running brands such as Asics, Saucony, Nike, Adidas and Mizuno, whilst the front of the store includes rails containing the latest in running fashion. The Leicester Running Shop also includes new arrivals in the form of wearable technology such as heart-rate monitors and GPS trackers, whilst the centre of the shop includes a treadmill to allow Rob and his team of staff the opportunity to provide runners with gait analysis – the method of determining the runner’s motion or style to provide knowledge of which shoes are best suited.
“More people are now aware of the shop and that’s resulted in really good turnover,” he said. “Running has grown in popularity over the past couple of years. Leicester’s running scene is massive, probably one of the biggest in the country, and I’m not sure whether people are actually aware of how big it is! As time has progressed, we’ve taken on a small team of staff – and every one of them is a runner, which I think has to be the case. Experienced and knowledgeable runners who come in want to know that the staff have a passion for running, otherwise it comes across as us just wanting to sell a shoe.
“Being part of the running scene has also helped bring in business,” Rob added. “I’ve been running with a club for many years now, and the climbing club I’m also part of has many members that run as well.”
Whilst he credits part of his business’ start-up to luck, Rob encourages any prospective business owner to take the leap, especially if they’re considering contacting the Sir Thomas White Loan Charity for assistance in getting everything started.
“Know you have a strong business plan and that you’ve done your research,” he advised. “Every business is different, but from a retail perspective, you need to have a good idea that your business is going to work. Try and get as many people as possible to read your plan, because this will help you iron out any flaws.
“I’d certainly recommend getting in touch with the Sir Thomas White Loan Charity,” Rob concluded. “If you think your business plan is going to work, make contact with the Charity. They’re another example of people that will look over your plan too – and for confidence, if they approve your loan; it gives you a massive boost knowing that they think your business is going to work.”
For more information on The Leicester Running Shop and to take a look at Rob’s business for yourself, please visit www.leicesterrunningshop.co.uk or visit him on 146A Clarendon Park Road, Leicester. The Leicester Running Shop is open between 10:00am to 6:30pm Monday to Thursday, 10:00am to 6:00pm on Friday and 9:00am to 5:30pm on Saturday. The shop is closed on Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays.