After almost 10 years as Direct Print & Promotions, family-run company We Do Workwear celebrated reaching a decade in business with a significant rebrand, new website launch and a fresh focus on kitting out local businesses with high-quality customised workwear. To congratulate them on the milestone, unLTD headed down to Sheaf Bank Business Park with a bottle of bubbly to speak with director James Smith about the company’s journey from spare bedroom project to cutting-edge clothing and merch enterprise.

James, congratulations on hitting the 10-year mark. How did your business journey begin?
Me and my dad started the business as Direct Print in 2014. It initially grew from a spare bedroom in my parents’ old house. Initially, we didn’t have any equipment and were buying and selling various print-related items, from phone cases to printed t-shirts.

It didn’t take long to realise that when you’re relying on suppliers, they can let you down. So, we purchased a heat press to start printing our own products: t-shirts, hoodies, phone cases, etc. My dad has a business background with a strong knowledge of the merchandise industry, and I was able to help out with the graphic design side of things.

We Do Workwear

Did the business grow quickly from there or was it a slow-burner to begin with?
Quite quickly! After about a year or so, we realised that we couldn’t have big deliveries coming to the house every other day. We moved into our first premises at Sheaf Bank Business Park, a small 400-square-foot office to begin with. We added an embroidery machine which provided a new service for us to offer, and then we started growing our staff, bringing in people for production and sales. This helped drive things forward and two years later, we upsized again, moving into a larger unit at the business park, adding more staff and machines as we grew.

It all sounds like fairly organic growth. What’s the secret?
Yeah, we’ve never really done massive amounts of marketing. We picked up plenty of customers off the back of word of mouth and referrals, which just comes down to looking after your clients. If you do a good quality job, provide a great service and ensure that prices are competitive, the customers are going to return.

Let’s talk about the rebrand. You’ve kicked off the New Year with a new name and website. What inspired the change?
I think during the Covid pandemic, we reflected on where we were at as a business and realised that we were trying to be too many things to too many people. Under Direct Print, we were doing everything from paper prints to signage. However, we see our forte as in-house embroidery and printing onto a range of clothing and workwear. We’ve invested in our equipment, become more specialist in our niche area and We Do Workwear is the result.

The amount of online retail taking place with brands during the pandemic also highlighted the need to improve our web presence. We’ve rebranded our social media and the new website is live, so we feel that we’re in a really good place on that front now.

James Smith We Do Workwear
James Smith, Director of We Do Workwear

Fundamentally, we used to do a lot of work on personal use printed products – stag and hen dos, birthdays, gifts, etc. We Do Workwear is now focused more on a business-to-business model, working with customers on a more regular basis and dealing with larger orders.

Was streamlining the business’ services an easy decision to make?
There’s always an aspect of it being a gamble on these types of decisions, but we’re confident in the quality of the products we can provide, the speed we can deliver them out and we think that we’re offering a better, more focused service this way.

Which industries do most of your customers tend to come from?
It’s a fairly big pool, but we work with a lot of colleges and universities, charities, local retailers and a wide range of tradespeople. Our product offering is predominantly anything you can wear or accessories we can get on our machines – from gilets and hoodies to hats and bags.

What sort of challenges are facing the industry at the moment?
Coming out of Covid was initially quite problematic. With so many events cancelled, we’d lost a lot of orders almost overnight. We found that a lot of factories had pulled back on clothing production and were moving into face masks and PPE, so there was a lot of pivoting and our stock situation was a bit of a nightmare at first. Thankfully, manufacturers have started going again and that situation has improved.

But the main issues are the sort of things facing a lot of industries at the moment. Rising energy costs and high fuel costs for our customers, especially those in the motor industry, can have problematic knock-on effects. Luckily for us, though, we’ve kept our prices down and managed to grow despite the odd knockback.

We Do Workwear

What helps you to stand out from competitors?
Our USPs are reliability, speed of turnaround and friendly, straightforward customer service. Being a Sheffield-based company means all our local deliveries are free of charge, which is another bonus for lcustomers. But fundamentally, being a family-run business, we like to treat all our customers like they’re part of the family. We’re always at the end of the phone if needed, and we like to think that nothing is too much trouble.

What does your day-to-day role tend to look like?
There are four members of staff working downstairs in production, and four working upstairs in the office. Me and my dad will work on sales, my mum does the accounts and Tom looks after the IT. Generally, my role will be working on prospecting, quoting and confirming orders before passing on to production.

As you’ve said, it’s a proud family business. How is it sharing an office with your parents?
It’s alright! We’re quite good at leaving the family side of things at the door when we come to work. There might be the odd heated discussion, but we all get along fine. To be honest, we live and breathe it. Both of my parents have business backgrounds, and we love what we do. I think you need that passion to get to where we’ve got to.

Now that you’ve reached the decade milestone, what’s the next step for the company?
There are always annual targets, but in terms of more wide-ranging changes we’re wanting to take advantage of our investment in new staff and equipment. We’ve significantly invested and increased our capacity for what we can do, and now we just want to continue growing, bringing new customers on board and working locally with people. The foundations are all in place now, so it’s just a case of cracking on.