A Welsh rugby clothing brand is expanding into Japan after the country embraced the sport during the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Rugby mania gripped Japan whilst it hosted the international tournament with the Japanese team, the ‘Brave Blossoms’ making it to the quarter-finals for the first time.
Thousands of Japanese fans, dressed in red and white, rallied behind the national team as it scored victories over Ireland, Scotland, Samoa and Russia. It followed a famous victory over South Africa in the tournament four years earlier.
Scott Flear, 27, the founder of Rugby Warfare, based in Carmarthen, is an unexpected beneficiary of rugby’s growing popularity in Japan.
He spent this summer scouting locations for a new shop in Tokyo after online orders from Japan for his rugby clothing range sky-rocketed.
Scott founded the company in 2015 whilst still a student at university. He believed there was a market opportunity for a business that educated young people around the world about the sometimes elite and secretive world of rugby.
The business began as a website where people could find information about the diets and lifestyles of rugby players. It gained rapid traction through social media, reaching 20,000 followers in less than 10 months.
Scott’s business extended to manufacturing rugby clothing when he left university and realised there was a demand for rugby-style gym wear. Rugby Warfare sold out its first collection within weeks.
Using a £5,000 Start Up Loan, Scott was able to bulk buy clothing products to keep up with the influx of orders and now exports to 42 countries with a turnover of £320,000 last year.
Rugby Warfare prides itself on staying ahead of worldwide rugby trends and recently launching a limited-edition Japan Rugby World Cup Tech Jacket tocapitalise on the country’s new-found passion for the sport.
Scott also plans to open new stores in America, where the sport is also becoming increasingly popular.
Scott Flear, Founder of Rugby Warfare, said: “Coming from Carmarthen, I’ve been brought up to be passionate about rugby. I’m proud that I’ve built a business educating other young people around the world about the sport.
“I’ve always known I wanted to start my own business, so when I spotted the gap in the market, I immediately went to Start Up Loans to ensure I could launch on the scale I wanted to. Since then, the business has gone from strength to strength and I’m delighted that we’re expanding as far as Japan.”
Richard Bearman, Managing Director of Start Up Loans, said: “Scott shows that with passion and determination, you can realise your dreams of business ownership. He has created a fantastic brand in Rugby Warfare and with the growing popularity of rugby around the world, in no small part thanks to the amazing World Cup in Japan, he is now in a great position to grow his business internationally. As a referee and junior rugby coach its particularly pleasing to know he got the support and funding he needed from Start Up Loans to help him on this exciting journey.”
Jill Walters, Business Contracts Manager at Start Up Loans Delivery Partner, Business in Focus, said: “We’re so proud of what Scott has been able to achieve with the support of Start Up Loans. To start a business at 23 and grow it internationally is an amazing accomplishment that shows true entrepreneurial flair. Scott is now ready to seize this fantastic opportunity in Japan and we wish him every success with further expansion.”
The Start Up Loans programme provides fixed-interest loans of up to £25,000 to aspiring business owners from across the UK, many of whom might be struggling to access other forms of finance. Since 2012, it has issued 67,862 loans, providing over £542.9 million in funding.
In addition to finance, Start Up Loan applicants receive support from an experienced business advisor to help them prepare a business plan and cash flow report. Successful applicants are also offered 12-months of free mentoring to guide them through the early stages of their business journey.