Matt Bird is the founder of We Are Gntlmen, a menswear label for the modern day man.
“The power of your network was always something I’d underestimated before moving to Manchester. Having a solid backing of people who will help you, tell you the harsh truths and just be there for you is so important.”
We Are Gntlmen is on a mission to re-invent the true gentlemen. With a background in music before menswear, Matt always knew he wanted to build a brand and not just start a company. Matt has grown the brand from his bedroom to having customers all over the world and working alongside some of the biggest names and companies in the retail world. Originally established in 2013 and relocated to Manchester in 2016, We Are Gntlmen has built a reputation of quality across all fronts.
What makes Manchester a great place to start a business?
I initially started the business in my spare bedroom in a little town in Shropshire, about 60 miles from Manchester. Within 18 months, I knew I had to be surrounded by more like-minded people and businesses to help me grow. I commuted every day for about a year before finally moving the business and myself here full time in 2017. The business community and the creativity of the city and the people in it has really helped us with our growth. Manchester has a rich fashion heritage and has a lot of great fashion businesses here, so we never have to look far if we need any help. I’ve found the majority of people really supportive of what we do and we’ve built a good reputation and customer base around the city who all champion our brand.
What makes a great startup in 2018?
I think there are a million and one things that can make for a great startup. Obviously, one that embraces technologies or understands customer behaviour will have a bit more of a straightforward time. Our habits as consumers change all the time and so from a business perspective, sometimes it’s hard to keep up, but I think doing something that people find value in or can relate to helps. While technology is important, I think it’s really important to not let it take over the whole businesses. I want to build a brand with a voice, a personality and I think with our audience, that’s just as important as the ways we sell our product.
What inspired you to start the business?
The brand concept came after catching an episode of a well-known reality TV show based in Essex. As funny as it sounds, it literally made me think ‘Whatever happened to being a gentleman!?’. The characters on there weren’t portraying themselves as gentlemen and I could really see the influence that they were having on people around me. From there, I thought clothes would be a good way to go about telling this story and beginning the quest to reinvent the true gent! I’ve always known I wanted to be independent and build something of my own. I was never a great employee as I just had opinions and frustrations on how things could have been done better (well, so I thought).
What makes your business stand out from the crowd?
From a product point of view, I genuinely think that we offer a better shirt than our competitors. Our fit, fabric choices, attention to detail and pricing are superior to other brands we compete with. It’s easy for me to say that, but our customers tell me the same thing. We’re a brand that stands for something more than just a shirt on your back and we’ve actually got a story to tell. We do things a little bit differently with our content, our events and the way we sell our items. I think we create a personal connection with our customers, which is really valued, so combine that with a product that works and hopefully that continues to help us stand out in the very noisy crowd!
What surprised you the most when setting up your business?
Quite a lot! The time it takes, the money it takes and the endless challenges, but it actually surprised me how much enjoyment I’d get out of trying to solve them. The power of your network was always something I’d underestimated before moving to Manchester. Having a solid backing of people who will help you, tell you the harsh truths and just be there for you is so important and something I wish I’d started building earlier.
What keeps you motivated?
I think the distance we’ve yet to go keeps me feeling motivated. I know where I want to take this and I know how much more we can do with this brand in the future and that excites me. I motivate myself. I don’t want to pin that mindset on anything other than me and I’m not necessarily doing this for anybody else. I want to experience the feeling of building something of value and achieving the things we want to achieve. Being surrounded by so many driven people, achieving great things certainly helps with this too.
How does your business help give back to Manchester?
We’ve started actively giving back to a charity in Manchester. We designed and made a shirt for Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity, and named it Humphrey after their mascot. The shirt features our penny farthing logo and their Humphrey logo. We donate 100% of the proceeds of the sale to the charity. The work they do really is amazing and the impact the charity has on the hospital is phenomenal.
What are your business goals for the next 3 years?
I’ve got so many, we’d be here all day. I want to be more established as the menswear label of choice. I want a community of brand champions and I want to have lifestyle retail hubs to enhance customers’ experiences of the brand. All of which are already ongoing, so watch this space!
Our first annual ‘Manchester’s 20 Hottest Startups’ feature is our pick of the most inspiring startups and stepups in our city. If you’d like to be featured in 2019’s ‘Manchester’s 20 Hottest Startups’, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.