Yanto Barker, from Devon is an ex professional rider in Team GB and National Champion, with 20 years international racing experience he founded Le Col in 2011. Le Col, makes cycling clothing designed in London and made in Italy.
What exactly is your business and how does it help people?
As a professional athlete, I’ve always been single minded about performance, and that focus includes my kit. Cycling is a competitive ‘technical’ sport, which means product innovation makes it possible to perform better. All our products have been developed and ‘road tested’ in the pro peloton, based upon thousands of hours in the saddle, in all conditions. That insight has been fed back into the development of pioneering and high performing products.
How did you come up with the idea for your business?
As a rider, there were many ways I believed I could improve the products on the market. I set out to design, and then source the manufacturing to deliver my ideas. Now, we own our manufacturing and produce, new and innovative designs, and ideas, each season. This is reflected in our simple but enduring purpose, ‘to create the best possible technical product to help you to perform at your very best on every ride’.
Where did you start your business? How long have you been trying to make it a success?
I started the business on the kitchen table, hand drawing design sketches. Since then we have employed over 10 people who now work full time in the business delivering all the processes from manufacturing, design, sales, admin etc.
Is there anyone you look up to as a business? Who inspires you?
Many people inspire me, not all well known business people but the obvious ones are Richard Branson and Steve Jobs, although the attitude and approach to be successful, and to exceed the common expectation of what is possible in the world, is demonstrated by many people I know and admire.
How did your friends and family react to you starting a business?
I would say 50/50 were supportive, others said “its tough you know”. I’m not bothered by hard work, I like a challenge, it is in my nature to want to exceed expectations, the more people say “it can’t be done”, the more I am inclined to prove them wrong. I translate “it can’t be done” into, “most people couldn’t do it, but I am not most people”, then I work out how I am going to make it happen.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
We were in a situation where we had to improve the manufacturing service we were getting, I had a couple of options, change our supplier or improve the service from the current supplier. In the end it felt best to pick the third option which was to buy the factory, own the process and set about improving that service from the inside. A second challenge we faced, was that we could not accelerate as fast as the market was growing, due to cash-flow restrictions, so I decided to work on getting some investment. We went through a modelling process and analysed the market to determine how much we should raise and what for, we then decided on the best way to access that funding. We ended up raising £1.1m on Crowd Cube at the start of 2017 and are now fully emerged in expanding the range of products as well as the brand internationally.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?
Get ready it is going to be a roller coaster ride of emotions and challenges. Don’t worry about knowing what to do next, start building your skill set to be able to recognise challenges early, catch them quick before they become too serious and you can correct the situation before it gets really bad. You have to back yourself to find the solution, whatever that is to whatever issue you might face. Be brave, be strong and enjoy the ride.
What is the best advice you have been given or have read?
Good question….. I need to think about that one. Probably the advice from our Chairman Lee, stay calm and hold your ground. He is very calm.
Where do you expect to be in a year?
At my desk working hard to deliver the best cycling apparel in the market 😉