A business set up by Northumbria University student Jessica McCarthy is celebrating a decade of success despite two relocations, the birth of her first child, and a return to her native north east.
In establishing Garbeau in 2008, Jessica has demonstrated that entrepreneurial success is possible with the right balance of flexibility. She has been able to manage the juggling act of spending time with her family whilst running a sustainable business.
Garbeau is a leading brand for luxury tailor made men’s shirts, suits and accessories which provides a personal made-to-measure experience available to every man, any shape, age or size.
The ‘mum economy’ is thriving in the UK and growing at an unprecedented rate. Statistics predict that by 2025 mumpreneurs will generate £9.5 billion for the UK and create a total of 217,000 jobs.
Jessica established Garbeau as part of her final year dissertation project at Northumbria University. Identifying a gap in the market for tailor made shirts for people such as sportsmen who often cannot find shirts to fit because of their body shape, Jessica sourced fabrics and tailors in the far east to make garments to customised measurements and 2018 marks the tenth anniversary for the business.
The range of products has expanded to meet the demand of existing customers. Shirts for weddings have become very popular and the styling options mean that they can be matched to fit a colour theme. Personalised messages can also be embroidered on the inside or outside of the collar. Other items include suits, jackets, waistcoats and a range of accessories including bow ties, cravats and hankies.
Jessica said: ‘Being flexible has allowed my business to thrive. All I need is my laptop and a wifi connection so when I am taking measurements in London, Newcastle, Dublin or Galway, I am still able to respond to customers and make arrangements. Once Garbeau has your measurements, existing customers can re-order easily via email, phone or WhatsApp, it’s that simple.
‘It is important for me to keep the balance between work and family life. When I became pregnant with my daughter I made sure that my existing customers were looked after whilst taking a step back from promoting the business in order to prioritise my family. Today, I continue with this mindset as I prepare for the arrival of my second child. I’m keen to expand my business in a controlled and structured way so that it can be managed whilst I raise my family’.
Garbeau has many high profile customers and especially appeals to rugby players who often need tailor made garments being tall men, with large necks, wide shoulders but slim bodies. Clients include Mike Ross, Devon Toner, Shaun Cronan, Jack McGrath, Jonny Sexton and of course Mike McCarthy, Jessica’s husband.
Jessica’s vision for growth is to see her business develop into the women’s market. This would require careful sourcing of manufacture. She has used the same manufacturer in China for the last nine years because of their reliability however, their expertise in women’s shirts would have to be tested as they are much more technical to make. Also, there is the possibility to expand via a franchise or have agents in different areas of the country to take the measurements of the customers.
As a graduate of Northumbria University, Jessica has been able to take advantage of the excellent support offered through its unique Student and Graduate Enterprise Service. This provides free enterprise skills training and start-up support for the university’s students and graduates. Experienced mentors have provided legal, financial, marketing and public relations support
Since 2012, the graduate start-up programme has successfully supported more than 120 entrepreneurs whose companies employ over 1,000 staff and have a combined annual turnover of £80m. Northumbria University is ranked first in the UK for graduate start-ups (HEBCIS 2015/16).
Northumbria University Student and Graduate Enterprise service is supported by the European Regional Development Fund.