Even after having landed a high-paying job in journalism as a fresh graduate, Tamara Hill-Norton continued to have a strong inclination to start her own business. So when lingerie supplier Knickerbox offered her a position as a buyer, she accepted, knowing that that path would lead her closer to her entrepreneurial dream.
Hill-Norton purchased sportswear and swimwear for Knickerbox, and it was during her work with the company that she developed her own business idea. She decided to focus on sportswear fashion, as she was active herself and noticed that there was a gap in the market, with most large retail stores allocating only a small area at the back for women’s sports apparel. Additionally, the staff were all men.
“Of course, on things like buying a sports bra, he didn’t have a clue,” Hill-Norton says. “I thought I’d love to set up a female-friendly and fashion-focused sports boutique, with really knowledgeable staff.”
Hence, Sweaty Betty was launched, with its first shop opening its doors to the residents and visitors of Notting Hill in 1998. At that time, the area had a bit of a shady reputation, so customers weren’t exactly pouring in. But after the film of the same name was released, the public’s view of Notting Hill began to change. Sweaty Betty was later featured in the Evening Standard, which helped boost the company’s reputation.
Now, more than 13 years later, Sweaty Betty has become synonymous with innovative yet feminine workout clothes. In addition to 27 boutiques across the UK, the company also has concessions in popular department stores Selfridges & Co. and Harrods.
With a mission is to “inspire women to find empowerment through fitness”, Sweaty Betty offers gym wear for all types of sports and activities, from yoga to running to skiing to swimming. Since its inception, Sweaty Betty has won several industry awards, including Sports Retailer of the Year 2001 and Drapers Etailer 2011.