How the Sustainable Model Beloved by British Royals is Supporting Underprivileged Kids

Rob and Paul Forkan misplaced their mother and father in the course of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. However they turned tragedy into inspiration, beginning Gandys Worldwide as a sustainable journey attire model that provides again to underprivileged kids all over the world. On this episode of Shopify Masters, Paul shares their journey from tragedy to ecommerce success, together with choosing the suitable charities to associate with, and the way to keep your superb revenue margins. 

For the total transcript of this episode, click on right here.

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Present Notes

How this brother duo constructed their mother and father’ legacy out of tragedy

Felix: The enterprise was actually born out of a tragedy. Are you able to share extra of your story with us?

Paul: Me and my brother, Rob had been pulled out of faculty at a younger age. I used to be 11 and he was 13. We had gone to India on vacation at Christmas. Once we got here again our mother and father requested us and our different siblings, “how did we discover the vacation?” We mentioned, “Oh, it was wonderful. An actual eye-opener. Probably the greatest holidays we had ever been on.” The tradition in India’s so huge, and the individuals are so pleasant. It is a magical place.

We went again to high school after our vacation, after which our mother and father mentioned, “We’ll cut back the worth of our home.” The home was at the moment being bought, they usually diminished it, after which inside a couple of weeks they mentioned, “Pack your luggage. We’re shifting to India.” Then I went into faculty and instructed my trainer. I mentioned, “Miss, I am shifting to India on the finish of the week.” This was 22 years in the past. She thought I used to be joking. 

It acquired to the tip of the week and I’ve my shirt all signed with signatures, and it was the final day. She mentioned, “What’ve you achieved to your shirt?” I mentioned, “Oh, it is my final day right now, Miss. I will India tomorrow.” She thought I used to be joking, so she rang up my mom, and he or she says, “Yeah, did he not let you know?” And that was that.

We packed one bag. We stopped off in Jordan, traveled round a little bit of the Center East. We had been going to go for six months, and it ended up being 4 years. 4 and a half years of dwelling like hippies and touring throughout. While we had been touring, we did volunteer work, we visited mosques, temples, and different issues. They homeschooled us for a bit. We went to high school for six months. We had this free-spirited life, dwelling on a seaside, touring round. My dad had a Lonely Planet e-book, and he would learn locations out, and we’d say, “Oh, yeah, that sounds good. Let’s go there.”

Sadly, 2004 got here and we had been in South India. He mentioned, “How do you fancy going to Sri Lanka?” Me and my brother–even to today–we love going to new nations and ticking them off, taking a look round and experiencing their tradition. We went over to Sri Lanka. We traveled for a couple of days and we settled in for Christmas. The following day, our life was turned the other way up. We had been caught up within the Boxing Day tsunami.

Rob and Paul Forkan the founders of Gandys International on a beach backdropped by mountains.
Taking care of different deprived youths, Rob and Paul began Gandys Worldwide as a enterprise with goal. 

I used to be fairly fortunate that my brother grabbed my arm and helped wake me up. I am not a morning individual. He saved my life. My mother and pa put my little brother and sister on their shoulders and acquired them out and mainly sacrificed their lives. Our mother and father did not make it.

I used to be 15, and had a little bit youthful brother and sister, on the time they had been 11 and 7. We had no cash or meals, and the trains had been down, as a result of alongside the coast all of the petrol stations had been worn out, and we needed to hitchhike all the best way again as much as Colombo, the capital, to get to the embassy and get stitched up.

We acquired again to London, and our older sister mainly adopted us. The rationale why we began Gandys was as a result of we love touring, we had been introduced up touring, and we did all this volunteering. We wished to provide one thing again to the people who helped us in Sri Lanka. Since beginning Gandys we have constructed youngsters campuses all over the world. We constructed one for the ten yr anniversary of the tsunami in honor of our mother and father and the 235,000 people who additionally misplaced their lives to it.

Giving again to the worldwide neighborhood by investing in kids

Felix: While you started to contemplate the way you’d like to provide again, what did that imaginative and prescient appear like? Did you intend out all these campuses? How did this concept take form? 

Paul: We love touring. We might all the time volunteer, even after the tsunami. We discovered that the issue would all the time be, we might go to a spot, we might assist for a couple of weeks or a month volunteering, after which we might return to work, and we’d really feel so unhealthy and responsible to be going again to work. 

I used to be dwelling in Australia, and even my brother would come again to London to work, and what might we do? We have to depart a legacy–at the least in honor of our mother and father. We considered doing these youngsters’ campuses. Within the growing world, our cash goes rather a lot additional, they usually want the cash essentially the most and the assistance essentially the most. That is why we selected to do our work there.

Felix: Are you able to inform us extra about what the children campuses? What is strictly the expertise of somebody that might be part of this youngsters campus?

Paul: They’re closely centered extra round preschool. Each campus is barely completely different as properly. We have one in Rio, in Brazil, that is within the Favelas. All of them have their completely different issues that we’re working in direction of to assist them. The one in Rio is close to a great deal of gangs and stuff, so we’re attempting to interrupt the cycle by giving the youngsters an training, so they do not find yourself going into that cycle.

Our venture in Malawi’s in a rural place in Africa. That is actually certainly one of our poorest initiatives, within the sense that folks actually wrestle for meals there. Our Sri Lanka one is in a rural area, however they are a bit extra developed than Malawi. The principle focus is to get their preschool, and get them in control in order that once they go to the larger faculty, they do not really feel like they’re behind different college students who get extra assist from their mother and father. We wish to attempt to train them the fundamentals in that. In any other case, if a child appears like they’re beginning faculty two years behind the opposite youngsters, they’re extra prone to go on and never do properly.

The campuses are used not only for faculty, however for a secure neighborhood place for the youngsters to go. They’ve IT labs, to allow them to go there and study IT. The sports activities are nice as properly, as a result of it provides them a spot to go. Not hang around on the road and find yourself taking place a nasty path.

We have now partnerships the place we assist among the older youngsters at among the campuses to get into college, or get a job. It is a factor we do to assist the neighborhood as an entire.

The logistics behind funding campuses all around the world

Felix: The place do you start, when you resolve to construct a campus like this? What are the start steps? 

Paul: I am fairly fortunate. We now have an enormous arrange round us however after we began, we began small. Once I was sleeping on my brother’s couch, and we had nobody working for us, the primary few months our purpose was to all the time construct a youngsters campus, however it took us a pair years to get the cash and to be taught. Our first venture mainly funded a nurse and a trainer for a couple of years.

We mainly did extra bits like that. We got here throughout a venture as properly that was mainly on the verge of coming to an finish. It was already a faculty that was present, they usually simply had no cash coming in. They could not afford to show the lights on. We mainly helped fund them for a couple of years. While doing that we had been studying how they function.

That then helped us after we constructed our campus through the use of the stuff that we noticed, and ensuring we try to get our initiatives to be as sustainable as potential. Our venture in Malawi has a meals program, so the youngsters can study farming and harvesting. We additionally then have much less cash to run them. That comes all the way down to electrical energy, every little thing. We attempt to be as environment friendly as potential, and having companions and stuff helps as properly.

Felix: You talked about you could have areas throughout. How do you handle these initiatives from a distance? 

Paul: We have one in Sri Lanka, which was our first one. We have one in Malawi, in Africa, and one in Mongolia. It was meant to be completed in November, however because of the pandemic that is going to be hopefully April/March time. Then we have one in Rio that opened this yr in March, and one in Nepal as properly.

Rob and Paul in a kids’ campus they’ve helped set up.
Supporting the neighborhood that helped Rob and Paul throughout their tragedy, the primary youngsters’ campus was inbuilt Sri Lanka. Gandys Worldwide

I’ve quite a lot of WhatsApp teams. I am on the cellphone each few days for every venture. We’re all the time getting movies, footage, updates and stuff round them. A few of them it has been a wierd yr for us. We might usually be serving to all the youngsters, however this yr we have been serving to the households, as a result of they’ve not been in a position to go to work.

Right here within the UK we’re fortunate. There is a furlough scheme. The federal government’s been excellent at handing out cash. Over there, the governments do not have the cash handy out, in order that they have lockdowns. Folks have been struggling for meals. Our youngsters campuses have became refuges. We have fed tens of 1000’s of individuals all through the pandemic in Brazil, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. They’ve modified how they had been working. A few of them have opened again up now, and we’re hoping that they now keep open. It is so vital for the youngsters to be moving into and bodily being there on the campus.

Felix: Is there quite a lot of pink tape concerned in establishing a campus, by way of legalities or governmental laws? 

Paul: We do not bodily open them ourselves. We use a small charity on the bottom who’s already registered within the nation, due to the pink tape. If we had been to show up there, some nations would cost us an arm and a leg to do stuff, and we’d get caught out on a couple of bits. Whereas, somebody that is been there years is aware of it off the again of their hand, and each nation has completely different guidelines and laws.

We wish to piggyback off their experience, and their community as properly. We’ll go to them and communicate to some charities within the nation, and even within the continent. We have now a couple of issues across the standards of the initiatives. An enormous one for me and my brother Rob is ensuring that the venture’s going to nonetheless be working in 20 years time. We do not wish to open a venture up and shut it down in a pair years as a result of it is not run correctly.

We’re fairly strict on all of that, and the charities and stuff that we work with are all vetted, and we do background checks on them as properly. Our trustee will exit and go to yearly at the least, and so will me and my brother.

Discovering a company that aligns together with your core values

Felix: I feel quite a lot of our listeners are fascinated about giving again via their companies. For somebody who’s by no means achieved this earlier than, how do you go about vetting certainly one of these charities?

Paul: There’s a couple of of us that make the choice. We get them to do a pack for us. We purpose to fulfill them a couple of occasions, communicate to their trustees and people who have labored with them over time. It is like if somebody was in search of a job, you get a reference on them, and also you see that they labored someplace for a couple of years. It is the identical with the charities. We’d like to ensure they have not simply popped up within the final 12 months.

One other factor that is fairly huge for us as properly is we do not like working with huge charities, or charities that do not want us. We like being on a journey with somebody that is actually enthusiastic about what they do, and serving to and saving the world. A charity that basically wants us, and we all know that each penny that we give them will go into their trigger serving to their individuals.

A pair of models in Gandys clothing on a beach setting backdropped by mountains.
Deciding on charities that align with Gandys Worldwide’s values is vital to discovering the suitable associate. Gandys Worldwide

Felix: How costly is it to run one thing like a youngsters campus, or any type of campus? What sort of assets and capital would somebody want to start this course of?

Paul: Africa would in all probability be rather a lot cheaper than among the different locations. In Sri Lanka, the land may be fairly costly. Africa’s very needy. It additionally relies upon the place as properly. However you would look someplace actually, actually tiny. It relies upon in case you get volunteers to run it as properly. We have now academics that run them. 

You possibly can begin off with constructing a very, actually tiny faculty classroom for round 25,000, 30,000 kilos, then it relies upon if you wish to make it larger. You possibly can go all the best way as much as 150 000. You possibly can go as much as across the couple hundred thousand pound mark. Rio’s fairly costly.

Felix: An annual price, or simply the preliminary begin up?

Paul: That may be the preliminary begin up price. Then yearly, it relies upon what number of academics you could have. Meals, remedy. You possibly can spend round 30,000-40,000 pound per one working it as properly.

Funding your philanthropic ambitions with an ecommerce model

Felix: Okay, so let’s speak in regards to the precise enterprise that funds these campuses. Inform me about the way you determined what sort of enterprise you’d construct to maintain them.

Paul: We began off with flip-flops. We had been promoting them on our web site, and thru department shops throughout Australia, Thailand, Europe, Germany, and the UK. The rationale why we began with flip-flops was we used to stay in flip-flops as kids, and we thought, “What’s a common product that everybody can afford, that may assist clear up a common downside of creating certain everybody has an training?” That is why we selected flip-flops.

I do not know in case you’ve been to the UK, Felix, however you solely get two weeks of summer season a yr. So we stopped making flip-flops, and we branched out into jackets and luggage, and we have now develop into a full way of life model.

Felix: How did you get entangled with these retailers all around the world?

Paul: I went to commerce reveals, checked out shopping for administrators and CEOs on LinkedIn and acquired distributors as properly. If I used to be beginning a enterprise now, that is nonetheless so old school. The long run is doing it on Shopify, and reaching the shopper your self, and proudly owning the shopper versus utilizing a third-party.

Felix: So that you began with flip-flops, realized it wasn’t the proper match, and determined to pivot. When did you understand you need to discover different merchandise within the catalog? What made you’re taking that leap? 

A flatlay featuring a notebook, Paul and Rob’s book along with items from Grandy’s.
Initially beginning off with flip-flops, Gandys quickly expanded to produce other product classes. Gandys Worldwide

Paul: It was about two and a half years. We had bought a couple of hundred thousand pairs. We thought it might simply kick off then go, however it did finish. The rationale why, when it, we realized the flip-flops we had been making had been actually good high quality, however they had been those that you do not spend a great deal of cash on. Form of the fundamental rubber fashion. 

By the point you pay a distributor, after which the division retailer takes cash as properly. We additionally used a manufacturing unit that produced for large company corporations. By the point everybody took their cash for being concerned within the technique of our flip-flops, we had been like, “Oh, there’s not really a lot cash left for ourselves.” After all the onerous work, the advertising, we had actually so many celebs, Richard Branson, this was when One Course was huge, they had been all in our flip-flops. Royals, we actually had Kate Middleton, Prince William. Richard Branson was giving them to everybody who stayed on his island, and he was sporting them.

We had been it and we had been going, “Okay, we have to take a look at our enterprise mannequin.” I am glad we did. As you’ve got seen, the pandemic sped up the collapse of the excessive Road. The long run is on-line, and for the final type of three or 4 years, that is what we have been working in direction of.

The transition from brick and mortar to direct to client

Felix: Okay, so that you transitioned from retail to direct to client. That was an enormous second. It sounds such as you additionally had this realization across the enterprise mannequin itself, particularly the worth level. Inform us about that.

Paul: Yeah. We’re bringing flip-flops again this yr. We have now a rule that we wish to purpose for, which is a 60% margin on our merchandise. We’re not the primary to do it, however by not utilizing any division retailer or retailer, we will do the 60% and our stuff’s nonetheless priced actually competitively. We are able to undercut a great deal of our rivals. Every time we’re making a product we take a look at, can we undercut our competitor with a greater product at a greater value?

Felix: What adjustments to your product are you able to give attention to to just be sure you are ticking each of these packing containers; which you could cost much less, but in addition supply a superior product?

Paul: It comes again to a great deal of rivals on the market making out of doors attire. A great deal of the massive ones that you simply see individuals sporting on daily basis promote in department shops or different retailers, in order that they should put their value up with a view to make margin on their merchandise. By solely promoting on-line, we do not have to pay any lease. We do not have to pay any lease or landlords, and we do not have a associate who’s after margin for themselves. It makes it fairly straightforward to undercut them with a greater product. 

Felix: What does your product growth course of appear like? 

Paul: Me and Robert are very, very concerned within the product growth, and we each love design. We have now a signature map print that we put inside the liner on our merchandise, it is fairly vital. When you take a look at a few of our merchandise and canopy up our emblem, you understand that it is from us, as a result of it is acquired our signature lower. We have now our personal signature colours as properly and we keep on with them. We do not use a great deal of colours.

All of our stuff, after we’re designing them, it’s vital to us that it’s timeless. We would like you to have the ability to get it again out of the wardrobe in 5 years time, and it would not really feel prefer it’s dated. It must be onerous sporting, long-lasting.

We’re not 100% sustainable. We attempt to make every little thing we will with sustainability in thoughts. We do not use feathers from stay animals, as a result of we expect that is flawed. Regardless that corporations say it is ethically sourced from them, to take a feather off an animal just isn’t moral in any method in anyway. You shouldn’t purchase a jacket with it. I communicate to our suppliers, and our suppliers say, yeah, they’re getting these certificates that they are from someplace moral, however they’re like, “We have been to choose feathers up, and the place they’re coming from just isn’t moral.”

We’re all the time trying into that. Utilizing cloth the place stuff’s produced from recycled plastic, plastic bottles. Customers–particularly youthful customers–that is their solely catch, attempting to purchase sustainably. All our merchandise should be distinctive, fascinating, and completely different as properly to our rivals. We’re making jackets, so we’re all making the identical stuff. We’re not reinventing the wheel, however we all the time be certain it is distinctive, fascinating, and defendable as properly. We make it so good, and one of the best. Nobody could make a jacket, or a rucksack that’s higher than what we do.

The important thing to a profitable product launch? Small market exams

Felix: How do you do product testing earlier than manufacturing with a view to be certain it’d have demand? 

Paul: Me, my brother, and a great deal of individuals within the product division would take a look at. We did a polo jacket this yr, and it flew out and bought out. We introduced a small quantity in, we noticed that it acquired learn, after which we backed it with much more. We’ll dip our toes. To anybody beginning out, I feel it is actually vital to start out off small.

Once we began, we did some stuff the place we had been like, “Oh my God, we have ordered a lot inventory, an excessive amount of inventory.” It is vital to do stuff slowly, take your time, and develop organically, and do not overstretch or push your self.

“We’ll dip our toes. To anybody beginning out, I feel it is actually vital to start out off small.”

Felix: While you determined to make this pivot on-line reasonably than going via retailers, what was that transition like?

Paul: We began off promoting on to customers. While doing that, we had been getting ourselves stocked in retailers as properly. It wasn’t new. Ever for the reason that begin it has been fairly cool. You get a relationship with the shopper, whereas in case you do it the opposite method you do not get a relationship. The client simply picks it up once they’re in that retailer or on that different individual’s web site.

It is fairly cool, with the ability to e-mail them, and you are able to do the notify as properly on the Web, on Google. With social media, it appears like you could have a continuing relationship. It is fairly wonderful, how one can Insta story of a product, after which it is simply fully bought out.

An orange Gandys backpack along with a flask is backdropped by maps and a compass in a flatlay.
Working with content material creators allowed Gandys to have the visuals to have the ability to transfer on-line. Gandys Worldwide

Felix: While you made the transition on-line with none retailers, what had been you doing to drive consideration and consciousness to the web site, to the model?

Paul: We labored with quite a lot of content material creators all over the world, as a result of it is onerous for us to go go to all of those wonderful locations, nationwide parks, vacationer hotspots and so on. A few of these content material creators may have a whole bunch of 1000’s, typically a couple of million followers. We might mainly need them to supply us some top quality content material that we will distribute to our neighborhood. And as soon as we share it to our neighborhood, they might additionally submit it to their neighborhood. That helps convey individuals via the door onto our web site, and that is the place our visitors comes from.

Key issues when approaching influencer advertising

Felix: A number of influencer advertising. How do you resolve whether or not a creator goes to be match for the model? 

Paul: Have a look at their wall usually. If their fashion is extra of a wanderlust vibe. In the event that they tick the packing containers of that and what we’re after, then we all know that they’re going to work for us. Typically it is not about gross sales. Typically they could have a couple of hundred thousand followers and do not get many gross sales from it, however you get some actually good content material. That’s good for us, and we then promote to our neighborhood.

It isn’t all the time in regards to the gross sales. I’ve spoken to individuals who have began out, they usually assume if they will get a couple of Instagramers with 1,000,000 followers, it is simply going to ship their web site loopy, and they are going to make a great deal of huge gross sales. It’s a must to simply do as a lot as potential, take your time and never take into consideration the gross sales. The gross sales will come later.

“It’s a must to simply do as a lot as potential, take your time and never take into consideration the gross sales. The gross sales will come later.”

Felix: Is there any method that you simply’ve been in a position to decide whether or not a relationship with a selected content material creator goes to result in gross sales? 

Paul: Yeah. You possibly can take a look at their viewers, who’s commenting and stuff. You may get actually granular. We get ones that work properly for us, Individuals and the Canadians, after which the British, German, and Irish do properly. The South American influencers, for instance, do not do properly. A number of the ones in Asia for us do not do properly. A few of that’s as a result of they will get merchandise cheaper the place they stay, with much less obligation and costs. We use primarily UK influencers, as a result of it is cheaper for us to submit merchandise out to them with no import obligation tax. Usually most of their followers are in their very own nation. By utilizing British influencers, we all know that we will ship it to them mainly without cost the subsequent day.

Felix: You’re trying geographically the place their followers are situated. Do you simply assume that based mostly on the situation of the content material creator, or do you employ any instruments that can assist you decide the place their particular person followers are situated? 

Paul: I am unsure what my social media guys use. Once I used to do it, there have been software program instruments on the market. A few of them had been charging like 500 pound a month. However I discovered you would just about inform by trying on the content material creators web page. 

You additionally get quite a lot of influencers as properly the place they’ve poor engagement in that typically, as a result of they’ve purchased a great deal of followers that are not actual. It is vital to examine all of that. You possibly can see in the event that they’re getting good engagement frequently.

We did stuff as properly. We took wonderful footage of landscapes, after which we might give them the product. They might be based mostly within the UK, for instance, however once they do their footage, you would not actually see our product. They’re so distant within the panorama. In these circumstances, there isn’t any level gifting them, although you’ve got acquired pretty content material. To us, it was a balancing act, as a result of it’s good to be sustainable. You possibly can’t simply reward everybody in case you’re beginning out.

I do know some individuals which can be beginning out, they usually cannot actually afford to provide a lot of individuals free merchandise. They’ve a excessive value level product. It is jewellery or one thing and also you’re beginning a jewellery enterprise, that makes it actually onerous to do, as a result of you possibly can’t actually give them the product.

Optimizing movie star standing and repurposing consumer generated content material

Felix: You talked about there’s a lot of worth within the content material itself, not simply the publicity that you simply get via the content material creator’s followers. What do you do with the content material that they produce for you?

Paul: We might then apply it to our social media. Typically it may very well be became adverts as properly. It provides us artistic belongings that assist convey individuals onto our web site.

Felix: What number of do you usually work with at a time? 

Paul: We in all probability have about 50 a month which can be producing stuff for us.

Felix: You had additionally spoken about quite a lot of movie star endorsements. How do you get in entrance of those celebrities to showcase your work? 

Paul: We’re fairly fortunate, as a result of now we have product and now we have ethos with what we’re doing with our youngsters campuses. A number of the celebrities, you simply say to them, “Would you wish to put on certainly one of our merchandise?” In the event that they’re sporting one other out of doors model, they are going to use the one which does the great, as a result of it additionally seems good on them. We’re fairly fortunate in that sense. Even with that, a few of them are nonetheless onerous to succeed in and to get a product on. I would say that is what’s actually helped us, is having a mission in addition they really feel enthusiastic about.

A model wears an orange Gandys jacket.
Turning content material into social posts and adverts permits Gandys to make use of visuals a number of occasions. Gandys Worldwide

Felix: Do you could have any methods or ideas for getting your merchandise in entrance of those celebrities? 

Paul: We have achieved some wacky stuff to come up with some. We have achieved music festivals the place we have had a stand at them, and it has been raining the entire weekend, however then you definitely managed to get a celeb, an enormous musician, after which they arrive into the model, and each six months or one thing our stylist will get a name like, “So and so’s after some product from you.”

We have simply managed to get out of claiming sure to every little thing, be at a great deal of occasions and stuff, and we have been actually fortunate after we’ve pushed ourselves to try this. It’s helped us, and led to collaborations. Each movie star, or influencer–each little bit of labor you are doing to construct your web site and your product and enterprise–it all the time results in one thing.

The primary few years had been a few of our favourite years, as a result of everybody was new and we had been buzzing. It is so easy, however it’s so robust, and it is fairly scary. We stored going and going and going, and every time that led to one thing else.

Felix: Are you able to inform us about among the instruments and apps you’d advocate that assist you to run the enterprise? 

Paul: We do our e-mail on Klaviyo. That may very well be one for listeners. I will go along with simply Klaviyo for now. The perfect factor about working with Shopify are all these apps, it is infinite. Whereas on our previous earlier web site, Magento, there have been hardly any apps, no apps. We was once on MailChimp, however shifting to Klaviyo our open charges and e-mail conversion has gone up, which is nice. We use one other app for our inventory administration, referred to as Stocky, that is actually good as properly.

Felix: What do you assume has been the most important lesson that you have discovered up to now yr that you simply wish to apply shifting ahead?

Paul: Effectively, it has been a wierd yr, with COVID. It is taught us that we do not have to be within the workplace on daily basis. We used to do extra photograph shoots ourselves, however now we’re utilizing extra influencers and folks all over the world.

As an alternative of paying for these huge photograph shoots, we’re now placing the cash in direction of extra individuals all over the world, so we’re getting extra content material again than what we might get. We have landed on a brand new method of working, which is sort of cool, and we’ll be saying that may now be instilled in us without end.