Wild ideas make smart businesses
Something as simple as a weekend away with good mates can change your life – at least that’s what happened for Gregor Lawson and brothers Fraser and Ali Smeaton when they set up their fancy dress business Morphsuits.
The three young entrepreneurs have created a whole new category of fancy dress costumes after being inspired by a polyester and Lycra costume they saw while on a stag weekend in Dublin. After putting their business acumen to work and researching the fancy dress market, the three friends invested £3,000 and launched their all-in-one spandex suits that cover the whole body from head to toe, dubbing them Morphsuits because ‘we noticed that everyone who wore them morphed into a more fun version of themselves’, says Fraser. Morphsuit wearers can breathe through the costume, see through them, drink through them, while still remaining incognito – perfect for a party, festival, or sporting match.
Getting started on the road to fancy dress world domination took one simple click to Alibaba.com. "We knew of a website called Alibaba.com and were aware that the site allows businesses to source goods from around the world," says Fraser. Using the site, the ambitious business partners found three companies who could make prototypes and dedicated themselves to working closely with those partners on how they wanted the suit to look and feel. “The real challenge was to get the right mix of polyester and Spandex so the wearer could see through it without anyone being able to see their skin,” explains Fraser.
After working carefully on the prototype, they placed their first order with a factory in China. Then on 8 May 2009, the trio donned their Morphsuits-branded costumes, with the website cheekily stamped on their bottoms, and went to watch a rugby match. Orders starting flooding in as a result with the business partners managing sales growth by putting all of their profits back into the business.
The three business partners continued with their day jobs for the first year, selling £1.2m worth of Morphsuits before the success of the business made it clear that they would have to commit full-time to their fancy dress dream if they wanted to see it continue to grow. All three now work full-time for Morphsuits and have recently launched another branch of their business, Foul Fashion.
The business received a major boost last year when US retail chain Party City placed a large order for Morphsuits during the run-up to Halloween. The trio secured a £600,000 loan from Barclays which allowed them to pay their manufacturers in China to get started on the massive order.
For the financial year ending May 2012, the Morphsuits posted revenues of just under £12 million. Fraser commented: "We have a huge amount of ambition. Over the past year-on-year we have been growing by 300% - and we want to continue that growth trajectory. We believe we have the tools to do just that, both with going into new markets, new types of suits and new countries."
Morphsuits website: www.morphsuits.co.uk