If we were to sit down and plan a business, it is safe to say that we wouldn’t have planned to do Morvélo. As two graphic designers myself, Oli Pepper and my friend and business partner Dave Marcar had not a single clue about clothing or running a retail business. We spent our working life designing for action sports brands, mainly in the surfing and snowboarding industries, and saw no need to change direction.
That was until we were hit by successive blows. The first was the agency we worked for went bust. So we picked ourselves back up and set up our own design agency focusing on the action sports we knew and loved. All good so far until the financial crisis of 2008 hit and almost all of the clients had their budgets immediately slashed or pulled completely.
We both were frustrated that long term clients could suddenly ditch you, so we made a plan to do something as a side line. Something we could build up over time and not have someone pull the rug out from under our feet. At the same time a friend of mine was ditching a TV presenting career to follow his passion for BMX and starting an online store. Inspired by this reckless but wonderful act, we thought about setting up our own online business. But for what?
I have always ridden bikes. From BMX in the 80’s, to the new fashion of mountain bikes in the 90’s, from XC to Dirtjumping and the early days of downhill. Over the years since road racing, cyclocross racing and track cycling have joined the mix so it’s understandable that our name stemmed from two words that represent this lifelong attachment. ‘More’ and ‘Velo’ and by simply removing ‘e’ on ‘more’ it was an easy to register URL. Job done.
Dave has spent his years skating, collecting, snowboarding, buying anything Star Wars related, absorbing pop culture like a sponge and being heavily involved in the action sports scene from it’s inception, working for the UK’s first action sports agency. Our ‘plan’ as such was to do something for cyclists but with an action sports ethos, combining both our passions and our experience.
If you have graphic design experience but no clothing experience, the humble t-shirt is the easiest and quickest place to start, so with £500 we designed six t-shirts and rocked up to sell them at a mountain-bike event we were organising - the Brighton Big Dog.
Taking the proceeds we then designed some lycra race kit, as I was racing in the growing 24hr mountain bike scene, and needed some for myself and team mates. We had to order 30 pieces of each and the team only consisted of four. Persuading local riding friends to buy the rest, we took the proceeds from this and created more, whilst also expanding the range of products to include other kit, such as gilets and jackets. Fast forward a few more years and we’re doing more designs on more (and better) products, each time taking the proceeds and putting it straight back into the company, helping fund the expanding range.
Starting Morvélo wasn’t so much a steep learning curve as a vertical cliff. Learning about production, fabrics, trim, supply chains, logistics, e-commerce, fulfilment, budgets, sponsorships and photoshoots all seemed to need to happen immediately. Needless to say we still learn new things everyday but the angle is now thankfully less steep!
Our passion and our focus hasn't changed a huge amount since we began. We're still independent, still small, and still first and foremost about having fun on bikes. It just so happens that we've ended up building a clothing brand that we're incredibly proud of, even if it was by accident.