From My Garden Shed To $100m Business Empire! “That Letter Was The End Of Represent” - George Heaton

From My Garden Shed To $100m Business Empire! “That Letter Was The End Of Represent” - George Heaton

Intro (00:00:00)

  • George Heaton, founder of Represent, a global fashion brand, shares his journey from starting in a garden shed to building a $100 million business.
  • Represent's rapid growth led to a realization that business success doesn't solely depend on personal expertise.
  • The company faced a major setback when they received a letter, marking a low point in their journey.
  • Despite challenges, Represent's YouTube channel has gained 5 million subscribers in just over 3 years, surpassing expectations.
  • George promises to raise the bar in 2024 with a surprise for subscribers, including production changes, more prominent guests, and global stories.

What is the mission you're on? (00:02:40)

  • George's mission is to be the best version of himself and to perform at the highest level in everything he does.

What made you obsessed with winning? (00:02:50)

  • George's father had more material possessions than others in their town, which made George feel proud and want to emulate his father's success.
  • His father was a role model who showed up for his family, worked hard, and was disciplined, which influenced George's own work ethic.
  • His mother was very supportive, affirming his work and art, and talking about him to her friends, which gave him confidence.

What was your brother Mike like? (00:04:37)

  • Mike, George's older brother, was more reserved and kept to himself as a child.
  • George expressed himself more within the family, which may have led his mother to see him as the "carrier" of the family's success.

What did your parents do for a living? (00:05:04)

  • George's father sold minibuses in a family business with his father.
  • George and his brother observed their father and grandfather's business partnership and similar demeanor, which influenced their decision to go into business together.

Did you always grow up wanting to be in fashion? (00:05:28)

  • George had sensitive skin as a child and was particular about how his clothes fit and felt.
  • His grandmother, a tailor, would alter his clothes to his liking and educate him about garment composition.
  • This early interest in clothing quality and construction influenced George's approach to building his fashion brand.

The influence your older brother had on you (00:06:12)

  • Michael looked up to his older brother, who was talented in art and had a unique style.
  • His brother's interests in heavy metal, rock, California, surf, and skate influenced Michael's own style and taste.
  • Michael admired his brother and wanted to emulate him until his early 20s.

When was the idea of Represent born? (00:07:09)

  • During college, Michael had a project to create something sellable from his art.
  • Inspired by his brother's success in selling his drawings, Michael saw an opportunity to make money from his artistic skills.
  • He was motivated by the desire for financial success and wanted to achieve a lifestyle similar to his father's.
  • Michael noticed the rise of social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube and saw potential in selling graphic t-shirts like artists on the West Coast.
  • The college project provided an opportunity for him to experiment with this idea.

Where did that chip on your shoulder come from? (00:09:38)

  • Michael acknowledges having a chip on his shoulder, which he believes is partly self-inflicted.
  • He feels a need to prove himself and prove others wrong or right.
  • Michael is aware of the costs associated with this mindset but is willing to bear them.
  • He has been driven by this chip on his shoulder for 13 years and feels that Represent is just getting started.

What was his shedding phase like? (00:10:11)

  • People around him thought his business was a joke.
  • Comments were made about his car being bought by his father.
  • He was determined to prove his doubters wrong.

Starting Represent in 2012 (00:12:07)

  • Represent started in 2012 while George Heaton was in college.
  • Michael joined a year later to help with graphics.
  • The business grew slowly in the first few years.
  • In the third year, they turned over about half a million pounds and decided to make it a limited company.
  • George didn't take a salary for seven or eight years.
  • Despite doubts from others, George was determined to make the business work.
  • Success was defined as seeing products sell online and gaining more followers and customers over time.

Why don't people start? (00:14:37)

  • People hesitate to start due to the fear of failure, self-doubt, and time constraints.
  • Starting a side project can be challenging when balancing work, family, and personal commitments.
  • It takes time and dedication to achieve success, often requiring years of learning, experimenting, and refining.

How do you feel now about the old products you used to make in the shed? (00:17:04)

  • Some of the early products were great, while others were terrible.
  • There were challenging moments, such as receiving a poorly made collection from China that caused distress.
  • The process involved learning and experimenting with different aspects of the business.

What do you say to people who want to start their business? (00:17:49)

  • Starting a business requires dedication and hard work, with a long-term mindset of 10 years.
  • The initial years may be challenging and not always enjoyable, but persistence is key.
  • Focus on scaling the brand and making it sustainable over time.

Trying to scale the business (00:18:35)

  • Represent's revenue plateaued at $6-7 million per year from 2015 to 2017.
  • The founders believed they had reached the ceiling for the brand.
  • They realized that continuing on the same path would lead to failure.
  • The founders did not receive the advice they needed at the time.
  • The advice they should have received was to:
    • Completely restart the business.
    • Refocus their efforts.
    • Build a new team.
    • Capitalize on their existing knowledge and capabilities.
  • The founders were not:
    • Focusing on their consumers.
    • Asking their consumers what they wanted.
    • Engaging with the Represent community.
    • Providing their consumers with what they wanted.

Hiring people (00:19:48)

  • George Heaton, the founder of Represent, built a $100 million business from his garden shed.
  • Heaton initially hired only his close friends, but later realized the importance of hiring the right people, even if they didn't fit the typical mold or seem like a perfect fit for the brand.
  • He advises young founders to hire fast and fire faster, and not to be afraid of hiring people who are more experienced than they are.
  • Bringing in exceptional people, even if it means paying a higher salary, can kickstart the growth of a company and provide valuable knowledge and experience to the team.
  • Heaton emphasizes the importance of seeking knowledge and mentorship from experienced individuals to achieve significant growth.
  • He criticizes the idea of purchasing courses to build a brand, stating that authentic and practical guidance is more valuable than theoretical knowledge.

How do people get the answers they need to take them to the next level? (00:25:51)

  • Research and learn from others' experiences.
  • Be authentic and transparent online.
  • Seek advice from people who are willing to help.

What made you step out of the CEO position and hire a CEO? (00:26:44)

  • Felt stuck and limited in knowledge and direction.
  • Wanted to rebuild himself and gain more experience.
  • Experienced a period of demotivation due to negative feedback and challenges in the business.
  • Decided to take a hard look at the business and make necessary changes.

A phase where you didn't like yourself (00:29:05)

  • George Heaton was unhappy with himself and his life.
  • He hated the way he looked, came across on social media, and interacted with others.
  • He was shy, unconfident, and had anger issues.
  • He had a negative outlook on everything.
  • He decided to change himself and recreate his brand.
  • He started by drawing a picture of the person he wanted to be.
  • He was 25 or 26 years old at this time.

How did you know you wanted to change? (00:30:53)

  • The speaker was going through a difficult time in his life.
  • His girlfriend had broken up with him, and his brand was not doing well.
  • He felt like he had reached rock bottom.
  • The speaker's best friend wrote down a set of principles that helped him transform his life.
  • The speaker did something similar and still has those reminders pop up on his phone every morning.
  • He found a book called "75 Hard" by Andy Frisella, which included a mental toughness challenge and a lot of working out.
  • The speaker started doing the 75 Hard challenge and saw crazy results in his life.
  • He learned how to structure his day better and plan his time more effectively.
  • He started reading 10 pages of a book every night.
  • He became obsessed with seeing the changes in himself and kept going.

Creating those next steps for the business? (00:33:56)

  • George Heaton achieved remarkable physical transformation through fitness and hard work, challenging the idea that genetics or steroids are the sole factors behind success.
  • In 2018, Heaton and his team reinvented their business by shifting from wholesale to a direct-to-consumer (DTC) model with weekly product drops, significantly improving their margins.
  • James, the chief product officer, played a crucial role in the business's reinvention by spearheading the shift in production and introducing new graphics that transformed the brand's image.
  • Heaton and his team revamped their website, deleted social media content, and introduced new collections, resulting in a dramatic increase in sales.
  • Heaton emphasized the importance of being open-minded, listening to others, and acknowledging that one doesn't have all the answers.
  • The company's rapid growth brought challenges in managing the increasing revenue and necessitated hiring more staff.
  • Despite external perceptions of success, Heaton recognized areas where the business could still improve.
  • The company developed a mission statement and core fundamentals, fostering a strong sense of purpose and commitment among the team.

Creating a solid company culture (00:40:29)

  • The company culture emphasizes people over profit.
  • The CEO, Spenny, promotes transparency and open communication within the leadership team and the entire business.
  • Employees are given the resources and support they need to succeed, while still being expected to work hard.
  • The company is considered a great place to work.

Self-awareness (00:41:24)

  • Many successful founders develop a high level of self-awareness and focus on their strengths.
  • George Heaton believes in this approach and recognizes that he is not a businessman.
  • He brings in talented individuals who are better at certain aspects of the business and allows them to excel in their roles.
  • This approach helps the company grow and reach its full potential.
  • The company culture at Represent attracts talented individuals who are passionate about their work and enjoy the workplace environment.

Staying in touch with the business side of things as a creative (00:42:42)

  • Building a successful brand requires reinvesting in the brand rather than just expanding the company's size.
  • Hiring a CEO to manage the business and stepping out of that role can significantly improve a creative founder's life and energy levels.
  • The business side of things can drain a creative founder's energy, making it challenging to maintain focus on creative work.
  • It's important to stay informed about the business but also to protect oneself from negative feedback that can impact creative work.
  • Keeping the creative and business aspects of the company separate can be beneficial for both the creative founder and the business.

The letter that nearly ended Represent (00:46:23)

  • Received a letter from another company called Represent in Europe claiming ownership of the trademark in Europe.
  • The letter demanded Represent to cease trading and pay all their money.
  • This caused uncertainty and stress within the company, with only three people (George, Mike, and James) knowing about the situation.
  • Represent had the UK IP and worldwide rights, but the other company owned the trademark for clothing in Europe.
  • Negotiations with the other company were unsuccessful, causing constant worry and anxiety.
  • The trademark issue compounded the existing business stagnation during this period.
  • Represent spent months figuring out how to rebrand if they lost the Represent name.
  • They couldn't post on social media to avoid showing the other company the brand's success.
  • Legal advice was consistently negative, adding to the stress.
  • In March 2020, Represent reached an agreement with the other company and regained the trademark.
  • The cost of acquiring the trademark was in the millions.
  • The lawyers representing the other company were unresponsive and caused additional stress by responding only on the last day of negotiation periods.

Company lawsuit (00:50:38)

  • The lawsuit caused significant stress and impacted George's mental health and sleep.
  • George used the lawsuit as motivation to push forward and succeed.
  • The lawsuit threatened the financial stability of the company and its employees.
  • George initially felt hatred towards the person who sent the cease and desist letter.
  • After the settlement, George realized the lawsuit was a catalyst for the company's growth and rebranding.
  • George's parents were aware of the situation but he didn't share the full extent of the stress it caused him.

What his experience of it was at that time (00:53:39)

  • The speaker shares his personal experience with anxiety for the first time when he had to fire the managing director of their New York office.
  • He describes the intense anxiety he felt leading up to the meeting, but acknowledges that the actual experience was not as bad as he had imagined.
  • The speaker emphasizes that the imagination and anticipation of a difficult situation often contribute significantly to anxiety.
  • The speaker states that he has generally been mentally strong and focused on his goals.
  • He acknowledges that he experienced a period of anxiety related to a specific situation, but it was not debilitating.
  • The speaker now views anxiety as an opportunity for learning and growth, as it provides relief and experience for future similar situations.
  • He mentions that he still experiences anxiety, particularly before certain events like podcasts, but he manages it by being well-prepared.
  • The speaker emphasizes the importance of preparation in reducing anxiety, such as knowing the reasons for firing someone and having a clear plan for the conversation.

What makes Represent special? (00:55:55)

  • Represent is unique because it was founded by two brothers from Manchester who challenged the fashion industry norms and created a successful brand.
  • The brand has a strong community aspect, with the Owners Club hoodie serving as a symbol of belonging and connection among customers.
  • Represent feels like a family business, with a close-knit team and a focus on exceeding customer expectations through high-quality products.

What is it about Represent that we don't see? (00:58:09)

  • George Heaton believes Represent's success is due to their innate desire to be the best in everything they do, from pop-ups to garment quality and delivery speed.
  • The effort and attention to detail put into Represent's work is often unseen by customers.
  • Michael Heaton, George's brother, is heavily involved in the design process and works closely with the graphics team.
  • The entire Represent team, including logistics, production, and content creation, is dedicated to the brand's mission and creating something phenomenal that will last.
  • Visitors to Represent's office are often amazed by the level of commitment and passion displayed by the team.

People stealing Represent's designs (01:00:08)

  • George used to hate it when people copied Represent's designs, but now he sees it as a sign that their designs are good.
  • He believes that copying is inevitable and that the most important part of a brand is not the design, but the essence and lifestyle that it represents.
  • Represent's revenue grew from $8 million in 2018 to $100 million in 2022.
  • George tries not to think about how much money he is worth.

How do you view money now? (01:02:38)

  • George Heaton believes money is not the sole driver of his actions, but acknowledges its importance and universal appeal.
  • He emphasizes the desire for wealth and generational wealth among individuals, including billionaires.
  • Heaton expresses his aspiration for Represent to achieve billions in revenue and for everyone involved in the business to attain extreme wealth.
  • He questions whether having a billion pounds would increase his happiness, suggesting that happiness is not solely determined by financial wealth.
  • Heaton finds joy in various activities such as designing, running, and accomplishing challenging tasks, rather than solely focusing on money.
  • He acknowledges the positive impact of money but argues that it does not necessarily lead to increased happiness.

What it's been like trying to create a life outside of the business (01:04:23)

  • George Heaton does not have a clear exit strategy from Represent as he is passionate about the brand and finds fulfillment in his work.
  • He questions the need for a billion dollars in his bank account and expresses contentment with his current financial situation.
  • Heaton emphasizes his strong identification with Represent, stating that everything he does revolves around the brand, including his fitness journey and the 247 project.
  • He values the knowledge and personal growth gained through interactions with athletes involved in the brand.
  • Heaton sees no reason to move into something else or sell the business since his identity and profession are closely tied to Represent.

The brand being linked to your self-esteem and identity (01:05:39)

  • The brand's success is intrinsically linked to one's self-esteem and identity.
  • Failures can impact self-confidence but also serve as learning opportunities.
  • It's important to maintain a personal life outside of the brand.
  • George admits to neglecting his personal life for a long time, prioritizing work over everything else.
  • He realized the importance of having a life outside of work, especially during weekends and holidays.
  • Despite feeling lonely at times, he filled the gaps with unnecessary work.

How important is it that you surround yourself with the right people? (01:09:34)

  • The environment you build around yourself has a significant impact on your personal and professional success.
  • Negative influences, such as people who engage in unhealthy behaviors or waste your time, should be removed from your life.
  • Surround yourself with people who inspire you and align with your goals.
  • Clearing out negative influences can help you stay focused and motivated.
  • George Heaton had to unfollow some people on social media because their content was not aligned with his goals.

Romantic Relationships? (01:11:01)

  • George Heaton, the founder of Represent, built a $100 million business empire from his garden shed.
  • Heaton initially avoided romantic relationships due to his work obsession and lack of self-awareness.
  • He believes he might have an avoidant attachment style.
  • Heaton struggles to balance his personal life with the demands of his successful business.
  • Despite feeling guilty about taking time off, he recognizes the importance of work-life balance and is currently in a relationship.
  • Heaton values the support of his family and brother and emphasizes the importance of prioritizing personal fulfillment.

Opinions on work-life balance? (01:15:40)

  • George Heaton believes that achieving great success requires full commitment, dedication, and hard work.
  • Heaton discusses the risk of a brand losing its aspirational value due to popularity, but he believes Represent's small size and core customer base mitigate this risk.
  • Represent's luxury status and focus on practicality help maintain its appeal.
  • Heaton suggests tiered product offerings, like Nike's, to maintain appeal across different market segments.
  • The company has a clear understanding of its market position and price points, and it prioritizes organic growth and focusing on key business aspects.

Advice on how to run a clothing line (01:20:27)

  • Create and maintain a strong brand DNA that is visible and consistent.
  • Ensure the brand's DNA is based on personal preference, what you and your team like to wear, and what you feel good in.
  • Build the brand over time by creating products that you feel are missing or that you want for yourself.
  • Hard work is essential for success.
  • Don't be discouraged by the idea of burnout; it is possible to come out the other side stronger.
  • Hard work can lead to finding different ways to make something successful.
  • There is a lot of negativity around working hard, but it is important to remember that hard work is necessary for success.

How to get the motivation to go do the thing (01:24:13)

  • Motivation is fleeting and can last only a short time.
  • Discipline is more important than motivation and involves consistently taking action regardless of feelings.
  • Discipline is like an instruction manual that guides individuals toward their goals and desired outcomes.
  • Creating a clear vision of what you want to achieve and embodying certain principles and values can help maintain discipline.
  • Habits become principles and shape a person's identity.
  • Many inspiring stories of personal transformation are available through various media.
  • Personal change requires significant time and effort.

What have you learned from hiring? (01:25:14)

  • Doubts and uncertainties are common, especially in business.
  • Concerns include potential loss of revenue, popularity, or competition.
  • The key to business growth is ensuring its sustainability and adaptability.

What if Michael decided he wanted to stop? (01:26:43)

  • George says he would try to figure out why Michael wants to quit and try to get him back.
  • If Michael is determined to quit, George says it would be difficult for him to continue the business without his co-founder.
  • George emphasizes the importance of having a co-founder to share the journey and provide support.
  • George believes having a co-founder is massively important.
  • A co-founder provides companionship and someone to lean on during difficult times.
  • George says he would never put pressure on Michael, but he appreciates having someone to share the responsibilities and successes of the business with.

What is next for George? (01:30:05)

  • George discusses the importance of choosing the right business partners and employees.
  • He emphasizes the need for open-mindedness and adaptability in a growing company.
  • George mentions that different people have different capabilities and contributions to a company's growth.
  • He highlights the challenge of managing the egos and comfort zones of existing employees when bringing in new talent.

What is the next goal? (01:31:37)

  • George plans to expand the brand by introducing womenswear and opening three physical stores this year.
  • This marks a new venture for Represent, as they have not previously had any physical stores.

What are you good at? (01:32:57)

  • George Heaton discusses the success of Represent, his $100 million business empire.
  • He emphasizes the importance of finding the right places and being in the right space for success.
  • Heaton highlights the advantage of Represent during the pandemic when they expanded their online presence and built strong relationships with factories.
  • He explains the concept of creating physical stores as community hubs for the brand, allowing customers to experience and connect with Represent more deeply.
  • Heaton mentions plans to expand the 247 range and open gyms, as well as the development of a new brand called Cadence, an electrolyte drink.
  • George Heaton's goal for Represent is to make it a lifestyle rather than just a brand.
  • He wants Represent to be unconventional and more than just clothes.
  • Heaton believes that no one has truly achieved this yet, despite many talking about it.

The next guest's question (01:36:06)

  • George Heaton, the founder of Represent, believes entrepreneurship is about the journey and making a difference, not just financial gain.
  • Successful entrepreneurs are passionate about their mission and live it wholeheartedly.
  • Contrary to popular belief, business expertise is not necessary for business success.
  • Heaton finds the possibility of extraterrestrial life intriguing and wonders about its potential impact on society.
  • He is fascinated by technological advancements like AI-generated text-to-video capabilities and contemplates the potential for indistinguishable simulations and the possibility that our reality could be a video game.
  • Heaton praises Represent for its unique design, quality, and authenticity, and admires the founders for their genuine and humble nature.
  • He emphasizes the importance of authenticity and following one's unique vision in business, seeing Represent as an inspiration for others to pursue meaningful endeavors.

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