Two friends who set out to put Hebden Bridge back on the map as ‘Trouser Town’ have secured a £125,000 loan from NPIF – Mercia Debt Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF), to help expand their menswear business.
Brant Richards and Ed Oxley established HebTroCo in 2016 to supply high-quality products from British manufacturers. The idea arose from a conversation in a local pub about the history of Hebden Bridge, which in its heyday made 20,000 pairs of trousers a week.
The two men set up a crowdfunding campaign to sell 176 pairs – a week’s production from the town’s last remaining trouser factory. After the entire batch sold in five hours, they quit their jobs to set up their clothing business.
Brant, a former head designer with Planet X bike company, and Ed, a former massage therapist, didgeridoo instructor and mountain bike guide, now design and commission products from factories throughout the UK.
The range includes Yorkshire wool jumpers, blankets woven in Huddersfield, jeans and jackets made in Lancashire and Leicestershire, socks from Aberdeenshire, T-shirts and sweatshirts from Greater Manchester and shirts and shorts from Greater London.
Where possible, the company also sources raw materials from the UK. It supports local charities and uses only recycled, plastic-free packaging, with goods dispatched to the local Post Office on electric bikes.
HebTroCo has established a loyal customer base, with around 50% of all sales coming from returning clients. Customers include TV presenter and author Adrian Chiles. The company has had a four-fold increase in turnover during the past two years to reach £1.2m in the year to the end of January. It is on course to achieve a further 20% increase in the current financial year. Having recently moved to larger premises on the Topland Country Business Park, the funding will enable it to create three new jobs, buy additional stock and further expand its product range.
Brant Richards said: “Over the last six years we’ve grown the business and have proved there is a huge appetite for well-made British clothing. This funding will let us expand the depth and breadth of our product offering, growing our business, employing people locally and also supporting jobs in our supplier factories all over the UK too.”
David Wright of Mercia added: “Ed and Brant have built a great business that showcases British design and puts sustainability at the heart of its operation. HebTroCo has been growing steadily but has now reached the stage where it needs external funding to continue its growth. It is great to see this loan supporting growth as the business expands its range and sells more British-made products.”
Sean Hutchinson at British Business Bank, said: “Since its launch in 2017, The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund’s impact on businesses has been wide-ranging, providing funding to launch new products, employ new staff, enter new markets and acquire new facilities. We are pleased that NPIF is continuing to unlock the North’s growth potential by supporting small growing businesses like HebTroCo with vital investment.”
The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.