The Ipswich chaps teaming up with Premier League footballers and bloggers to sell their gentlemen’s products
- Credit: Archant
“Chaps don’t really grow up, their toys just get bigger” reads the message featured on a framed picture made by Ipswich-based company Chatham Chaps. Another reads: “Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy. But the Bible says love your enemy.”
These might sound like the sort of amusing quips a young man might post on Instagram - and that’s sort of the point. “We created Chatham Chaps because we were fed up of seeing lots of brilliant quotes on Instagram that were gentlemanly and classy, but nowhere to buy them from in the form of framed prints, phone cases and other merchandise,” explained the company’s co-founder Jordan Holder, a 22 year-old who juggles his business with his day job as enterprise coordinator at the Career and Enterprise Company in Ipswich. He founded Chatham Chaps two years ago with 21 year-old Brad Singleton, a fellow Ipswich resident who works in insurance, in order to plug that gap in the market. “We use well-known quotes, but the majority are created by us - albeit with a helping of gin to get the creative juices flowing,” Mr Holder admitted.
Chatham Chaps is only marketed via social media, “because that’s where the market is”, and its founders rely on influencers with large online followings to review and post about their products.
Current influencers Chatham Chaps work with include Tyrone Mings (AFC Bournemouth), Tom Howard (The Gentleman Racer) and Shaun Whiter (Previous footballer and soon-to-be Paralympian). “We have many more in our sights,” said Mr Singleton.
Chatham Chaps takes an evidence-based approach to content posted online.
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“Using data to be more effective when posting content means our audience is more interested in what we’re posting, and we can make it more relevant react to demands,” said Mr Holder.
Part of the learning curve has involved “understanding not be afraid of putting your hand up and saying you can’t do something.” Mr Singleton explained: “With our first prints, we ordered frames from one company, ordered the prints from another, purchased packaging from another one.
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“When we got an order from a stockist and he didn’t think they were up to scratch, but still offered to purchase them, we said no. We then proceeded to throw out thousands of pounds of brand new stock – this was our wake-up call. We now partner with a company who fulfils our orders and every single product is made from scratch in the factory in Surrey.”
The two men have just taken on an investor, Peter Basford, who has just left his post as Area Director for SMEs with Lloyds Bank, and they admit having another body on board has “ramped things up a notch.”
“When the only people you’re accountable to is you, you tend to be a little more lenient and relaxed,” explained Mr Singleton. “His mentoring and support has been astonishing - we’ve accomplished so much since his arrival.”
But Mr Holder admits that bringing Mr Basford on a shareholder wasn’t easy at first. “Not only is the paperwork a challenge, but letting someone else into your business that you have built is quite daunting and we’re still learning,” he said.
As well as holding down his day job, which involves connect education and business in Ipswich to improve social mobility for young people, Mr Holder is also a governor at Copleston High in Ipswich.
How does he find time to run the business?
“Most of mine and Brad’s evenings and weekend are spent working on the business. It ultimately comes down to a matter of priorities and time management. Now the business is formed, and we have the right systems in place, it’s all automated, and behind the scenes, it’s quite a slick operation. All products are made to order in England, so we hold no stock and print on demand for our customers.
Chatham is based on the Chatham House Rule. Chatham House is the home of the International Affairs Committee and the Chatham House Rule means that participants are to use the information received under the rule, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker, nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.
“We did this to keep a layer of anonymity and discreetness behind the brand”, explained Mr Holder. “And the chaps bit? Well, me and Brad run the company.”
The chaps have just revamped their website – www.chathamchaps.com and their stock is sold at ‘The House in Town’ in Ipswich.