Can you tell us a bit more about yourself, Gary?
I’m a first-time entrepreneur at the age of 55 who loves golf and everything it stands for. No surprise then that my home backs onto a golf course and that I set up a golf related business…
After finishing my Engineering Degree from Manchester University, I spent 34 years in the IT and Communications industry climbing the corporate ladder. I came up with the idea of a proper watch for golfers and decided to set up the business called ETIQUS when an opportunity to move on from a corporate role to something new came about … definitely more interesting and personally rewarding as well.
ETIQUS is a British brand of beautiful, well-crafted timepieces for golfers that feature Swiss movements as standard. If you are into golf – and there are over three million golfers in the UK alone - and want to be recognised as a golfer, you can wear an ETIQUS timepiece, which has many subtle design details influenced by the sport.
I also believe in giving something back to the sport, which is why ETIQUS donates £5 from each purchase, and supports other charitable events, to raise money for The Golf Foundation, which gives children and young people the opportunity to experience golf and the life skills it has to offer (www.golf-foundation.org).
Why did you start ETIQUS?
My watch broke whilst I was on holiday in the golfing paradise of the Central Algarve and my daughters helped me choose a new one for my birthday from a shop in Vilamoura. Unbeknown to me, the funky looking watch we bought was from a diving range. When I ran into a few friends later that day, I was mistakenly identified as a ‘diver’ simply by the new watch I was wearing. It was then I realised that there wasn't a proper watch for those who wanted to be recognised as a golfer. This sparked a 12 year journey to create ETIQUS.
I invented a bezel that can allow a golfer to keep an eye on his or her Pace of Play, for which I have a patent including the UK and the US, as I originally wanted to license it to watch manufacturers. After several meetings with top watch brands, I realised I was the only person who had the real passion for the idea and the product, so I decided to find an investor and bring the product to market by launching my own brand.
So, you like golf then?
As a child I met a schoolmate who was a golfer as were his family. They had a driving net in their back garden and a snooker table in the house. As you can imagine, he was good guy to be friends with! His father kitted me out with some golf gear and then they took me for a game at Tinsley Park municipal course in Sheffield. I loved it and that’s when my lifelong passion for the game started. I play golf whenever I can and even my wife has taken up the game -she now plays more than I do and her handicap is improving faster too.
You’ve been trading for almost a year now. What has been the greatest challenge?
The fact that we are new, relatively unknown and exclusively available online in a market dominated by big brands is of course tricky. Building brand awareness and driving traffic to the site is a challenge – as it would be for most new start-ups. However, we know that our customers love the product and their word-of-mouth recommendations on social media are helping us to spread the word about ETIQUS.
You set up your business at a time other people would be looking at taking early retirement. Any regrets?
No. If anything, the timing was perfect! My job with a major mobile operator was coming to an end and with the recent changes in Pension Laws it was good and timely opportunity. Some would say, it was almost meant to be…
What is your mantra in business?
Look after your customers and they will look after you.
What is your advice for other budding entrepreneurs?
Build the end-to-end process that your business will depend on from product development through to after-sales service and test it robustly. The customer journey through your business is the experience that will define your brand. If possible, don't forget to give something back to society via a charitable beneficiary.
What do you do in your spare time?
You may have guessed already… play golf!
What plans do you have for ETIQUS in the future?
We have patents in the US as well as UK/Europe so the intention is to grow ETIQUS as a global brand. There's approximately 60 million golfers in the world so it seems a good goal to get one of my watches on the wrist of every one of them.
If you could choose a business mentor – anyone in the world – who would it be?
I found the autobiography of the late Steve Jobs the founder of Apple fascinating. The three core principles upon which Apple was founded - Focus, Empathy and Impute - give a great framework to guide the development of your business.
Click here to head over to Etiqus and find out more.