Gymshark founder who launched a £1.25 billion empire in his parents’ garage, awarded MBE – The Guardian

The 30-year-old founder of sportswear brand Gymshark has been awarded an MBE on the New Year’s honor roll, – just one of many business people recognized for their services to commerce and economics.

Ben Francis, who started his £1.25 billion empire sewing his own gym clothes in his parents’ garage in Bromsgrove, near Birmingham, in 2012, is the youngest of those honored for their services to the businesslife.

He owns 70% of Gymshark, which was valued by the Sunday Times at £1.25 billion earlier this year, giving him an estimated fortune of around £875 million – making him the 191st richest person in the UK and the third richest person aged 30 or younger.

Francis dropped out of Aston University, where he studied international business and management, to focus on Gymshark – his third business venture.

“As a child I was obsessed with football, but when I realized that I would never be good enough to make a living from football, that obsession shifted to computer-based projects,” he said.

“I was never great at school (something I learned later had more to do with application than anything else), until I took an IT class at age 17. This IT class was unlike anything I had done before, as it was all about learning and applying real skills – not just writing about them.”

Around the same time, Francis joined a gym and noticed that many of the other bodybuilders had modified their own gym clothes, as none were available that fit just right.

He asked his grandmother, a curtain maker, to teach him how to sew before investing in a machine to make his clothes.

Gymshark secured an investment from US private equity firm General Atlantic in 2020, boosting the value of the brand to £1bn and prized status of a “unicorn” startup.

Other business people also on the roll of honor include Alison Rose, the CEO of NatWest and the first woman to run one of Britain’s largest high street to be awarded ladyship. Anita Frew, chairman of Rolls-Royce and one of only 18 female board members of Britain’s largest publicly traded companies, also received top honours.

Ivan Menezes, the boss of the liquor company Diageo, was knighted for services to business and equality, while Johnnie Boden, the Eton-educated former stockbroker who founded the Boden clothing company, received a CBE.

Rose, who joined the bank as a graduate 30 years ago and climbed through to take the top job in November 2019, said: “It is a tremendous privilege to become a lady on His Majesty’s roll of honor for the New Year and I am immensely proud to lead an organization that plays such a positive role in the lives of people and families in the UK.

Liz and Charles Ritchie, the parents of a young man who committed suicide after becoming addicted to gambling and launched a campaign to tackle gambling addiction received MBEs for their services to charity. Gillian Wilmot also received an MBE for services to the prevention of gambling addiction.

Leave a Reply