Manchester-based activewear brand ASUNO creates functional fitness clothing while also collaborating with UK charities. Founder Ben Moreland talks to BQ about the inspiration behind the setting up the business.
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
Asuno is a Manchester-based fitness and yoga clothing brand, passionate about making an impact on the world. Our team designs beautiful, premium quality, functional fitness clothing that saves lives. Launched in July 2018, our mission is to bring charitable actions to everyday life by allowing consumers to help the world with every purchase.
Each clothing item in the Asuno range combines consciously-chosen, premium quality materials partnered with elegant British design to ensure our consumers are performing and feeling their best whilst they workout. More importantly, Asuno is unique due to its integration of charitable actions with every purchase, through collaborations with our three UK charity partners, Plump’d, Water For Africa and Toybox.
What did you do before you started this business?
Before launching Asuno, I worked in the oil and gas industry within the UK sector. This ad hoc lifestyle and unique way of working provided me with ample opportunities to discover ideas and look into the real-world problems that didn’t yet have a solution.
The role also provided me with fundamental experience and expertise in engineering, design, logistics and, most importantly, personnel and brand management – all of which have been invaluable in my current position and getting Asuno from concept to commercialisation.
What inspired you to start up?
Creativity has always been a key factor in my professional life, creating solutions to problems and improving on those that have already been created. It was this thought process that inspired Asuno, seeing the tangible link between fitness and charity in events such as marathons, triathlons, and mountain climbs, the base was already strong for a company to make charitable giving a daily opportunity for all these eager philanthropists who push their limits in the name of helping others.
Having participated in fitness and gym-based activities for 10+ years, this was an area I felt very comfortable building a brand in, and having strong emotions to charity myself, seeing first hand some of the great work that is being done already, inspired the Asuno brand.
How would you describe your business to your grandma?
We create gym and yoga clothing that saves lives. When you purchase any item of clothing you help a person in need, providing them with either food, water or an identity.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
I have been privileged to meet many people who have created brands, started charities or built themselves up as a person of interest in the business world. Listening to their advice and learning from their mistakes (and my own), keeps me working hard and moving forward.
I’ve also had great support from friends and family that are always available for advice, support and the extra hand now and then.
I follow many influential and aspirational individuals on the internet and social media, who provide a wealth of useful information for free and help with forming the correct mentality.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
Funding for ASUNO has come from two areas; the initial funding was personal investment built up during my time working offshore – building a house deposit, that soon became a brand deposit. The second source of funding is coming from crowdfunding.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Our biggest achievement so far is that we have nailed our brand brief and can honestly say we are so proud of where ASUNO is as a company. When we started out, we defined a brand brief which stated we would be a brand that produced superior quality clothing, supported charities that we truly believed in through quantifiable actions, and made a change in the world that we can share with everyone.
Seeing where the brand is currently, we could not be happier. We have three amazing charity partners, our clothing is truly the go-to gym and yoga wear, and we support three phenomenal causes that are making such a difference to the lives of those they affect.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
Entering into an industry that is growing and evolving so proficiently brings its own set of challenges, and the requirement to stand out and be unique when so many are also being creative in that sector is difficult.
Our USP is and will always be the charitable link to our brand, which all future clothing lines will support. Our aim is to change a million lives with our clothing, and once there, we’ll aim to change a million more. With charity ingrained into the roots of Asuno, we hope to be the go-to UK brand for fitness and yoga clothing.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
I love it, but it’s not for everyone. There tends to be this vision of ultimate work freedom and choosing when and where you want to work. But unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, you don’t have to ask permission anymore or be told what to do, but in trade for that you have to take full responsibility, and if you make the wrong decision it’s you that pays for it.
It’s also very much hard work, working lines become hazy… it’s commonplace to be putting in 16-hour days, both weekdays and weekends. Your phone is never off, especially communicating with Asia and the rest of the world who are on different time zones, and if something goes wrong, you’re the one who needs to solve that problem which, believe me, there will be plenty.
Where do you see your business in five years' time?
We aim to be making a huge impact on the world and inspire other brands to follow suit and improve their social responsibility instead of always looking at what is in it for them.
Once we have built up the brand in the UK we will be looking to expand worldwide into particularly the European and North American markets, involving more charity partners and creating not only a clothing brand but a community of like-minded individuals that are keen to change the world for the better.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Believe in yourself, be willing to always put in the extra work and do your research.
If you know your market and find that niche, get to know your customer, and create a brand brief that you can build from.
Most importantly, connect with your consumers rational and emotional side, let them see both the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of your company.
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