Disrupt Sports provides custom sporting equipment for individuals, businesses and brands. From Ssrfboards and Yoga mats to bikes for Deliveroo. Founded in 2014 the scaleup now operates globally, has more than 20 staff with over $2m in revenue. We talk to co-founder and COO Chris Bailey about how to access different markets.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced growing across multiple markets? Do you think the right support is available locally?

The biggest challenge has been ensuring that we spread evenly, across markets and countries. There’s a danger of going too far down one road, then becoming very segregated in that market.

We were first pigeonholed as only working with sports brands, so getting the mindset changed and showing opportunities and other options available outside of sports brands was a challenge. In terms of support, it’s all about growing a network, helping people, and being helped! Without various networking events where I’ve met some key people, I’d be stuck scratching my head! Get out there, but don’t think you can just turn up and sponge off people. You’ll earn a reputation for it very quickly. Look for every opportunity to help other businesses. It will come back to you either when you most need it, or least expect it.

What advice would you give yourself if you went back in time a few years?

I would do more background checks on some of the offshore manufacturers we have used, and some research on limitations/restrictions on import/export (it can get very expensive very quickly). I would also be a bit more cautious when hiring, make sure they fit in culturally, as well as being capable of the job.

I think there are projects we took on a couple of years ago that took so much time, effort and money, but we just wanted the sale, so we said yes. Now we know the real value of our time and effort, so learn when to say no!

How important do you think being able to look at different markets and countries has been to the success of Disrupt Sports.

We first started in Australia with success and thought we could open a UK office and replicate that very easily – that wasn’t the case. It made me realise when that you’re opening a new market or country you can’t take anything for granted. It’s like starting again!

Go back to basics and do the market research! What’s your competition? What will be your USP be? Why would people buy your products over anyone else? “Because they look cool” is not a good answer!

Looking to the future, how would you approach new markets and growing sales?

I feel that now we have successfully launched in the UK and US, we have good experience in launching in new countries. My advice to launching in a new country would be to assess what you currently have. Do you need to launch in a new country? If the answer is still yes, then trial it before diving in at deep end – MVP (minimum viable product).

Before you sell your house and move to a new country, see if you can get some traction on a small scale. Find out what is currently available there. What are their price points? Who has tried previously in that country? Has anyone failed? Why? Treat it as if you are starting your business all over again.

What tools, people or services would you recommend to others locally as they look to grow across multiple markets?

I can’t stress enough how important it is to talk to people who have already tried (and even failed) – learn from their mistakes. Go to relevant networking events, meet people, see who you can help, and who can help you!

Amazon is a great way to trial selling products, new and old, and even internationally – just be aware to set clear milestones/and checkers before you start selling, otherwise you could convince yourself in the middle of it that 2 sales in a year is great! Also, use the government, there are plenty of grants, and free advice you can get when opening up to new markets and countries.

This content originally came from our friends at the Scale up Generator. They’re a partnership by Engine Shed and the West of England Growth Hub, which provides a window into the activity, community and opportunity that exists for fast-growth, scale up companies locally.  

Briony Phillips

Briony is Scaleup Lead at Rocketmakers, a software development agency that designs, develops and deploys technology for startups, scaleups and corporations. Briony champions the scale-up business ecosystem and works with partners across the public and private sector to deliver content, events and resources that help to overcome challenges faced by fast-growth companies such as access to investment and office space availability.