There are numerous growing alternatives to mainstream fast-fashion for those looking for a wardrobe built on sustainability. Yet, sourcing environmentally-friendly training gear can be more difficult for those looking for athletic wear.
Now, a Welsh brand has launched to supply runners with kit that looks and feels good and is good for the planet.
Abergavenny-based Dryad has been supported through the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme (AGP). The AGP provides targeted support for ambitious growing firms. The programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government.
Here, co-founder Matthew Thomas tells the story of Dryad and the sustainable ethos which underpins everything it does.
Tell us about Dryad
Sustainability, sustainability, sustainability. That's the core of the business.
When Joby and I came up with the idea for Dryad, we wanted to provide something genuinely sustainable, the antithesis of fast fashion in a market that was sorely lacking choice.
We founded the company in 2020 and launched it in December 2021.
What do we offer? We have a range of women's trail running gear made from second-life fibres. When we founded the company, we wanted to create a sportswear brand with several goals:
- To make the best sustainable women's sportswear possible.
- To be as transparent as possible, with a fully traceable value chain ensuring that everyone in the supply chain is treated fairly.
- To allocate a proportion of profits to increase participation in sports for girls and women.
- To provide local employment by bringing high-tech garment manufacturing back to Wales.
- To showcase our beautiful surroundings in the Brecon Beacons.
We wanted to counteract the traditional approach for women's brands, the conventional approach of 'pink it and shrink it', where brands are created for a male audience before being adapted for women.
I'm a keen athlete myself, but my career background is in sustainability, focusing on supply chains. After spotting the similarities in inequality for women throughout supply chains and sport, we came up with Dryad to create a sustainable sportswear brand that puts women first.
What are your proudest moments in business so far?
We're really proud to have launched – starting a business in itself is hard, and the additional barriers of Brexit and Covid to contend with wasn't easy.
We are proud of the small community we've built up to date and are looking forward to meeting more like-minded people.
We worked with a design agency to create the first range of running wear with sustainability and circularity at the core of the design ethos.
To minimise impact and ensure transparency within our value chain, we sourced amazing sustainable fabrics from innovative textile mills and arranged manufacturing in one of Europe's best factories.
The brand launched its first trail running range at Christmas. It features six items in two colours, including tops, shorts and running tights.
What challenges have you faced in business?Both Brexit and Covid have impacted massively on our business. We've been establishing ourselves through two seismic social and economic events, but the delays we have faced have provided opportunities too.
They've meant we've improved our website and had more time to understand the complexities of importing goods into the UK. There were complications with supply and manufacturing caused by Brexit and Covid, but they are complications that we used to our advantage.
If you were starting again, what would you do differently?
I'm thrilled with the products and the brand identity we've created, but the main lesson we've learnt is that this doesn't matter if no one knows that your company exists.
In hindsight, we would have put far more effort into creating brand awareness earlier. Growth has been steady and organic so far, but it would have been nice to have established a more extensive community when we launched.
How has support from Business Wales AGP helped your business?
We launched with the help of the Business Wales AGP, and we've been supported through the TownSq Accelerator programme and with general business advice and guidance.
We've had invaluable marketing support and strategic delivery mentorship through Business Wales AGP.
It's all helped strengthen our young company, and I'd urge anyone in a similar position to seek out the brilliant advice and support that's available.
What advice and guidance would you give other businesses starting out?
- Keep going! It can be tough at times, but even small steps take you forward.
- Use your resources wisely – most start-ups have a limited budget; see this as an opportunity to think more creatively; the more you can do yourself, the more you will understand your business.
- Don't be afraid to make mistakes; it's inevitable, so just learn from them.
- Start creating awareness for your product/business as early as possible; building a community takes time.
- Don't be afraid to ask for support; it's hard to start a business, and people who've done this know what you are going through.
To learn more about Dryad, visit here.
Further information on the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme.