'There's lots of change rebuilding a business': CEO of one of Gloucestershire's most successful workwear firms talks self-belief, ambition and growth

Having re-built his business from the ground up during the pandemic, it's fair to say the four years since have been pretty successful for the owner of Cotswold workwear specialist Penguin Uniform, Jared Wilson — with SoGlos catching up with him to hear how business is booming in 2024 with a 16-strong team, renovated premises and expansion into new sectors.

By Jake Chown  |  Published
The owner of Cotswold workwear firm Penguin Uniform, Jared Wilson, has seen his business grow from a one-man operation to a 16-strong team over the past four years.

From successfully breaking into the horse racing sector to the completion of its new purpose-built working environment, Andoversford-based workwear firm Penguin Uniform is a Gloucestershire business firmly on the up — with annual turnover increasing by more than 800 per cent since 2020.

SoGlos speaks to owner Jared Wilson about how it all started, what's new in 2024 and what the future holds for the company.

Jared, tell us about yourself and how you came to start Penguin Uniform.

The business was actually created as a partnership in June 2016, off the back of me wanting more than the position I had held for several years as a sales and store manager in the sportswear industry. I craved and had a desire to build a career and carve my own destiny, as opposed to it being led by others. My naivety caught me and I entered what I thought would be a successful partnership, setting up Penguin Uniform with the owner of the previous company I had worked with.

Unfortunately, I found myself no further advanced after three years and eventually it led to a relationship and trust breakdown in late 2019. Disagreements around the viability of the new venture and the direction it was heading meant a decision was required: either we close the business, it be swallowed up by my partner's, or they leave and I take sole ownership.

I wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t the latter, but in essence in its first three years, the company didn’t actually participate in much business activity and certainly no marketing efforts. We put up a sign outside the shop and it was pretty much word of mouth and passing trade from our site at Barnwood Point.

In 2020, I began the year alone as a single person operation in a unit that far exceeded my requirement but I had huge belief that I could make it work. Of course that was short lived, with the pandemic taking full hold and forced everything to close. With large overheads and zero trade I took the decision, like many, to close the store and head home.

The past four years has been a period of rapid expansion for the company, what’s changed in that time?

There has been lots of change, as you can imagine when growing a business from the ground up again. Initially you're doing everything from sales, marketing, ordering, supplier relationship, social media, unpacking, production, shipping, quality control and delivery — I in fact hand delivered in Gloucestershire most Thursdays — to now having a team of 16 awesome team members each with a more focused role within different sections of the business.

So the biggest changes made include growing to a team of this size and without a doubt the footprint of the operation. Going from my 2m x 4m garage to 6,000sq ft, purpose built premises means we have a footing to grow — but sadly I can no longer walk across the garden to work!

What are your main markets and how have you branched out in the past few years?

In terms of markets, you will be amazed that we haven’t laser focused in on any particular sector (yet). The main reason is that building a business, especially when you're very busy, is difficult. Our main focus is our customer-centric service, so whether you are a hobbyist who likes dog walking, for example, or a large organisation needing to cover uniform across a variety of areas, such as an office team, warehouse staff and health and safety equipment — we have options for all.

This year we entered into the horse racing sector with some local yards — an area I am looking to expand on. Furthermore, we have some exciting plans to enter into the promotional sector via events and merchandise. It’s a certainly an exciting time to be part of Penguin Uniform.

Tell us a bit more about the range of products and services you offer.

There are several offers we have, our core being embroidery work; decorating a wide range of garments, ensuring each logo or design we work with is sewn to a high-quality finish and to the customer's liking.

Similarly with our print technique, we work with some of the latest machines on the market, again applying logos to the highest quality finish we can. We are looking to introduce a wider range of print options in the sublimation and UV ranges.

What are your plans for the future of Penguin Uniform?

Our plans have always been to continue to grow our service offering, as well as our awesome team whilst of course maintaining our high level of service.

As an ambitious business owner, I will continue to push; I have just completed a six-month build project, converting a shell of a warehouse into dedicated sections of the business to further enhance our ability to perform. We've also recently implemented a brand-new website.

I have the 'bit between my teeth' and being backed by an amazing team makes coming into the office everyday a delight. 

Finally, talk us through the name – where did the inspiration come from?

As the business was developed as a partnership, it was a group session and multiple design templates were considered before landing on the penguin.

We initially discussed an animal and the penguin was an early front runner for three main reasons: penguins are easily identifiable for their appearance in their relevant types — they are unified; the colours of a penguin (an emperor in particular) are suited to the brand appearance of yellow, black and white; penguins are a generally happy animal and I am almost certain (you can’t ever be) that people can’t hate a penguin.

Initial designs were an angry looking cartoon penguin, but that doesn’t sit with the behaviours of a penguin. So then it became incorporating the penguin within the text; our penguin is linked into the 'u' in uniform and it’s something we loved from the start. Every zoo visit with my kids — the penguin area is a particular highlight!

In partnership with Penguin Uniform  |  penguinuniform.com

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