Building a brand on your own is no easy task – and doing it with no background in business to boast of is even harder.
Judith Smith, however, managed it – creating Primal Europe out a what began as a select group of twelve riders wearing Custom Primal kit.
The rise to success was never planned – explaining the journey, Judith tells us: “I haven’t planned to start Primal, it was a job offer, and at the time you’re not quite sure if it’s for real, but I said yes - as it was a once in a life time opportunity I wouldn’t want to miss. I am a big believer in fate, but you also have to trust and believe in yourself and others as to where you are going, to make success happen."
“The first few years the only target I set myself was to learn the market."
Primal Europe now has its own office in Plymbridge and employs six people. They're clearly growing, having announced a 58 per cent sales increase year on year. But it was never expected that the business would grow as quickly as it did – its founder says: “The first few years the only target I set myself was to learn the market, understand where we sit, and where we want to be - then how we get to that end goal.
“Looking back the first year was all about knowledge and training myself in business. As soon as James joined me the following year, that was when we were able to take the next step as the foundations were in place, and we could start building the brand."
Being colleagues with your nearest and dearest is something many of us like to avoid – but it works for this couple – with James looking after Marketing, Social Media and Sponsorship, and Judith heading up the Operations. She explains: “To be honest it really works! James spent over 21 years in the Navy and away from home, so any time we have together is now a bonus. At the very beginning we set out roles within the company that fitted each of our strengths, and that naturally has continued to today.
"Our shared past experiences and life skills mean we are a great team. It’s all about that work life balance works. Our set up works for us, may not for all, and I am lucky enough to be able to share that with my best friend – it’s been an incredible journey so far and I this is only the start."
Last year Primal Europe moved into its new office, and both Judith and James like to ride mountain bikes through Plymbridge Woods to their office – riding off-road is the order of the day at the moment, but they’re into road riding and everything in between as well. Judith explains the product testing procedure, saying: “Everyone at the office gets a chance to try out the new products. The great thing about Primal is that we love feedback, and this goes directly back to product development."
Discussing personal favourites, she tells me: “I am in love with the Airespan tops and new gym pants – I love the fact they are so versatile and you don’t get sweaty in the tops and you can mix and match the range. When on the bike, it’s always the Helix range for me."
“Cycling and bikes is just a part of what we do, and who we are."
The couple have always been engrossed in cycling – running the team which included male and female riders before the brand was born. And the good news is, they’re not about to get tired of it. Judith says: “Cycling and bikes is just a part of what we do, and who we are. People have visions that working in the cycling industry means you get to ride your bike a lot, for me it was the one thing I had to give up regularly, to make what we do successful. Thankfully four years on we are now starting to get back some of our time, and it’s exciting to be planning and entering cycling events."
The pair have set some definite goals for themselves for the year ahead – Judith says: “To make sure we keep that fun we have both set ourselves targets – James is going to ride the Etape du Tour, and race Cross this year, and I have found myself in a 4 person women’s team taking part in Twentyfour12 endurance Mountain Bike Race this July."
Success for Primal Europe and the Smith’s has come as a result of a great deal of hard work – but it is paying off, and its worth it for the rewards. The key take-away for Judith? Supplying people with great kit, and knowing she’s helped them on their way in cycling: “Every time I see someone wearing something Primal, whether that be in person or on social media, it makes me very proud – I love what I do, and I love the fact that others love Primal too."