Check out our great www.express.co.uk interview in the business section on how to start and keep a fitness fashion brand going.
Tiny Fish, a new fitness and fashion brand, is making its mark on leggings with zesty print makeovers of the womenswear staple.
With first year turnover set for £75,000, the British firm is now poised to increase its retail footprint and expand with tops, sweaters, other leisure wear and accessories
Using soft, breathable stretch fabrics sourced from Italy, "our ranges are designed to transfer seamlessly from fitness studio to street where they look just as good, say with a shirt and ankle boots," explains founder and owner Kristina Carman.
In classic start up fashion she runs the company from home in Berkshire with help from her husband Chris.
The idea came to Kristina while they working in south east Asia. "I wanted to create a lifestyle brand to give women confidence, wearing a bold colour or print does that.
My products are ones I want to wear myself. Customers respond to authenticity," she says.
"I took sewing courses in Singapore, explored fabrics and samples. I realised for a new small scale entrepreneur the key was to keep it simple, leggings are certainly that compared to a dress. Once we returned to Britain we set up."
The label "bridges the gap between fitness and fashion where function, quality and comfort are fundamental. Research showed there were not many competitors in that space," say the couple who learned from scratch how to convert a concept into a product and then take it to market.
The rolls of white fabric are sent from Italy directly to Manchester where Kristina's designs are printed and then to Estonia for manufacture. The leggings come back to Tiny Fish for dispatch.
"I wanted to create a lifestyle brand to give women confidence, wearing a bold colour or print does that "
"Our printer is fantastic, and we tried very hard to find a UK company to make our leggings, but we had trouble finding the manufacturing technology that suited our fabrics and the costs did not work," adds Chris.
The £40,000 investment needed so far for product development and marketing has come from the Carmans themselves.
"Starting with a core product worn by a broad range of customers has given us the best chance as a small business to build volume quickly," says Kristina.
Customers of the leggings range, currently with 12 designs and costing from £56.50 each, are fitness studios, yoga and pilates network contacts, shops, pop-ups, well-being shows and direct orders online.
"I have had to really put myself out there to sell and introduce customers to Tiny Fish.
That has definitely been a challenge, the fashion market has different concerns to the fitness one and I am targeting both. But there is no substitute for getting out, meeting people and getting feedback," believes Kristina.
The mother of two young boys, the eldest helps her take pictures for her website, she uses all of the main social media channels.
Most noticeable success has been with picture and video-sharing site Instagram. "It has made me realise how powerful our products are visually," she says.
Looking ahead Tiny Fish plans to explore links with wholesalers in eastern Europe and north America, and build sales in California where the Carmans' long term friend and collaborator, yoga therapist Erin Fischer is based,
"But the internet does not mean we can short circuit brand development," says Chris. "We have to get the UK right first."