A FORMER marketing manager has invested £20,000 to launch a new sports and team wear shop in Darlington.

Mark Hunter, 46, from Darlington, has launched ‘mysportswear’ with his partner, Theresa Mason, from a retail store on Morton Park.

The specialist retailer offers personalised clothing for sports clubs and teams, schools and colleges and corporate clothing that requires personalisation.

Mr Hunter said: “I’ve always been heavily involved with grassroots sports and have been working with local football teams on a coaching level for several years.

“One of the main problems I’ve encountered has been sourcing cost-effective and good quality team kit that not only fits the different sizes required but offers real value to the team.

“Mysportswear came about as a direct result of these experiences as there just isn’t any other retail outlet offering the kind of personalised sportswear we wanted in the local area.

“We realised there was a gap in the market for a retail outlet that could offer a more direct service to customers for an array of different sports organisations from football and rugby to dance and karate.”

The store offers well-known sporting brands including Macron, Joma, BLK, Mitre and Stanno and a broad range of accessories including team bags, training equipment and winter clothing.

Mr Hunter worked with TEDCO Business Support to help get his idea ready for investment through the Virgin StartUp business loans programme.

He said: “We knew quite early on that even though we had found the right premises to trade from, there would be significant costs involved with renovating the space to create a retail showroom for the kind of quality stock we offer.

“With this in mind, we approached Mark Johnston at TEDCO Business Support to discuss ways in which we could raise the necessary capital to fund the renovation costs.”

He helped them obtain a £20,000 business loan from Virgin StartUp which helped to fund the fit-out of the premises.

Mr Hunter said: “We couldn’t be more grateful to Mark for his help and assistance in supporting us both with advice on the day-to-day requirements of running a business – even pointing us in the direction of seminars to help develop our knowledge in everything from accountancy to commercial premises.”

Mr Johnston said: “Both Mark and Theresa have operated within the grassroots sports field for several years and so know their target market inside and out.

“They have thought through their business in a great deal of detail so I was able to help them more with the unknown aspects of running a retail business to ensure they get off to the right start but also with applying for the Virgin StartUp funding to help fund their plans.

“I wish them both the very best of luck and look forward to continuing our relationship as the business progresses.”