As we approach the Christmas break, and the one time of year where no matter how driven, ambitious or focussed an individual you are, it is only right to take some time out to look back and reflect on the year gone. Whilst neither of us are individuals who naturally enjoy periods of reflection, much preferring being in the trenches and living and breathing the daily spectrum of emotions involved with building a business, Christmas is different. During this break we are very much looking forward to spending some proper time with family, who often bear the brunt of the stresses involved with building Castorea and who we rarely get to see as much as we’d like. As we prepare for the break, we sat down together and outlined a few of our most memorable experiences over the last twelve months.
More than anything else though, we want to take this opportunity to deeply and sincerely thank each and every one of our customers – without you Castore would not exist and your support means more to us than we can properly describe.
Tom & Phil Beahon
Undoubtedly the highest profile moment of 2019 for Castore has been our partnership with Andy Murray. When we founded Castore, our very simple goal (though definitely not an easy goal to accomplish) was to create the highest quality sportswear in the world – as we set about achieving this through a relentless focus on innovation, testing and never settling for anything less than the best, a natural follow on was to have the best athletes in the world wear our products. Our partnership with Andy has had some major ups and downs (to put it mildly), from a potential retirement in January at the Australian Open and undergoing resurfacing hip surgery – something never done before by an athlete of his calibre, to a long period of rehabilitation with no guarantee of a positive ending, before an eventual return to Wimbledon playing with Serena Williams, winning the Doubles event at Queen’s with Feliciano Lopez and finally, and most unexpectedly, winning the Singles title at the European Open in Brussels in October. It has been an amazingly eventful year and in the process Andy has taken Castore to a new level as a brand – not something we fully anticipated this time last year. No athlete on the planet embodies the Better Never Stops ethos like Andy and we cannot wait to see what 2020 has in store for him.
Culture Over Strategy
Whilst Andy may have been Castore’s most externally notable achievement of 2019, without question the most valuable overall has been the culture that is now firmly establishing itself within the business. From beginnings that were humble at very best (the two of us packing each order personally at the kitchen table), our team has grown rapidly and now includes 15 hungry, smart and ambitious individuals all committed to our Better Never Stops ethos and sharing the vision of building Castore into the number one premium sportswear brand in the world. The are many books and thesis’ written on how to build a winning culture (we’ve read a fair few of them) but to us, none quite capture the true essense of what it means. From our experience of the last 12 months and actually experiencing this on a daily basis, culture is embodied by a core set of values that never change; honesty at all times and an old fashioned belief that your word is your bond, a dedication to hard work – simple to say, far more difficult to enact relentlessly 365 days a year, commitment to the team’s cause and an acceptance that your own short term personal feelings must be subservient to collective goals (again, far easier to say than enact) – and finally, the desire to dream huge dreams, not something that comes naturally to many people. Underpinning these values is a daily commitment to bringing them to life and a pride in being part of a team that is aiming to achieve something really special. Seeing the manifestation of these values within the team we are starting to build gives us both immense pride and of course, like any business or team, the challenge will be retaining this special culture as we continue to grow. Culture can’t be found in a company’s P&L but is far more important than any number.
Forever Committed To Product Excellence
Whilst many aspects of the business have evolved this year, from our distribution channels expanding beyond our own website (Castore now sells in retail doors in almost 20 countries), our product categories encompassing tennis, golf, lifestyle and most recently womenswear, the opening of our Kings Road flagship store and the ongoing internationalisation of our business – the one thing that will never, ever change is our deep commitment to product excellence. The goal of creating sportswear garments superior to those developed by the global mass-market brands forever focussed on margins and economies of scale drives us every single day and is infused in our decision making across the entire company. From travelling further afield to find mills who create fabrics unlike anything else in the world (Italy and Japan are the best we have come across, so far), constantly challenging our manufacturing partners to trial innovative new development methods in the search for performance enhancement, and testing, testing and more testing with our athletes to ensure that absolutely everything we do helps make athletes better. Whatever success we have had so far as a brand can be traced back to this singular commitment and as Castrore continues to grow, we will never lose sight of this and what makes us who we are. We are particularly proud of our recent womenswear launch which had been a long time goal and sets a completely new standard of quality in this market – a perfect example of where we can apply our Excellence ethos to disrupt and make a difference.