Take On The World: 7 Lessons From An Athletic Apparel Startup

The sports apparel industry is seriously competitive.

Breaking into the field is notoriously difficult and the barriers for entry are built as high and wide as they are strong and deep.

So how can an athletic apparel startup from New England take on the industry heavyweights such as Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour?

YORK Athletics Mfg. are trailblazing their own path as they look to become the newest member of the already stellar athletic footwear and apparel field. In order to do that, they’re building something that goes beyond products or a brand; it’s about initiating a movement, establishing a mindset, and creating a family.


(c/o YORK Athletics)
Although the company was founded back in 1946 as Indian Head Shoe Company (where they made custom cleats for professional athletes such as Football Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas) the company recently relaunched where they’ve combined the historical values of the brand with contemporary design.

Here at TSMP we delved into the world of YORK Athletics to understand how they plan to succeed. So whether you’re looking to launch your new startup, disrupt an entire industry, or get inspired to chase your dream, these 7 lessons from YORK Athletics will leave you ready to take on the world!



1. Be Smart

All the enthusiasm in the world can render your efforts futile if you don’t have a clear objective and strategy. YORK Athletics wants to be a successful athletic apparel brand, and it’s building its strategy around its historical roots, footwear. In addition, it has a supporting line of basics and accessories including duffel bags, hats, and t-shirts, and a thread of minimalist simplicity, high-performance, and comfort connects their products.

YORK Athletics Starter Kit, Limited Edition (c/o YORK Athletics)
Beyond their product lines, they’re creating a vault of inspiring content on their digital journal, Out of Step. Here they showcase stories from the YORK Athletic family, a group of misfit individuals who are connected by their characteristics of creativity, hard work, passion, and a fighting spirit that will never quit.

Takeaway: Define what it is you exactly want to achieve, and then create a battle plan about how you’re going to get there.


2. Start A Revolution

No matter your mission, getting people to believe it is not enough; you need to get them to live it!

To do that, you need to issue a call to arms. A rallying cry to the people who will advocate what you stand for. You alone will not succeed. You need others. You need people who will not just cheer you along your journey, but who will walk with you. Every step of the way.

YORK Athletics are “calling on the lone wolves, the underdogs and the fighters to join our family and a new healthy living movement…” They celebrate the individual and are bringing them together, for success will never be achieved alone and it will never just come knocking at your door; you must go out into the world and all work damn hard. Every day. For when you come together is when you give yourself a chance.


Takeaway: Be brave. Be bold. Go out there and shout your message from a mountain top. Identify those who will not just believe in you, but who will help you get there. Start a revolution!


3. Create A Family

This is a third generation family business and maintaining that feeling has been key to the brand’s relaunch. It’s a prominent theme across their communication and indeed the first thing you see when entering the YORK Athletics website is a large banner image reading “Welcome To The Family”. Their Social Media icons are not under the title Follow Us or Connect, but under the call-to-action “Join The Family”.

A screenshot of the YORK Athletics Home Page. (c/o YORK Athletics)
The champions of YORK Athletics are the individuals, the misfits, the odd-ones-out. Once upon a time they were the black sheep of the family; now they are in the family of black sheep.

Takeaway: So you’ve started a revolution, but you must instill a sense of belonging and membership to ensure brand loyalty in the long-term.


4. Be A Storyteller

YORK Athletics doesn’t tell stories about its shoes. It tells the stories of the people who stand in them.

But you won’t find anything overproduced, any pro athletes, or the extravagance you might come to expect from a athletic apparel brand.

What you will find are the authentic and down-to-earth stories of those who followed their passion in order to forge their own path. These include a Latin Professor who runs his own tattoo studio, a fashion stylist who is also a runner, and a skateboarding science teacher. Go to their website and you’ll see one subtle design feature that towers above all; a “FOOTWEAR FOR FIGHTERS” banner than sits at the top of all their pages.

We are all athletes. Whether you’re an artist, scientist, musician, or boxer, it doesn’t matter. And all of us have our own unique story.

Takeaway: What is it that your offering enables your customers to do? Get them to tell their story and share it with the world. Others will then follow.


5. Perfect Your Offering

Perfection is the ability to provide exactly what it is your consumers need. Without that fit, you will fail.

YORK Athletics have built a collection of athletic apparel that is pure and simple. It has been stripped of the unnecessary. There is no excess. What is left is a clean and minimalist product line that combines the high-performance and comfort to allow you to do whatever it is you need to do; it’s a perfect fit.

The Henry Mid. (c/o YORK Athletics)
Takeaway: Understand what your core audience’s need is and build the best damn offering possible to address it.


6. Build An Awesome Team

The YORK Athletics team is made up of four members, two brothers from the York family and a husband and wife duo with almost 30 years combined experience in the sports apparel business. Travis and Kyle York were part of the co-founding team and it was their Grandfather, Henry Spaulding, who originally established the company in 1946 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Elizabeth McGarry is Creative Director, whilst her husband, Mark McGarry, is CEO. Between them they’ve worked with Puma, Nike, Reebok, New Balance, Tracksmith, and Volcom to name but a few, and as a team they have all the ingredients needed for success; skills, experience, and most of all, passion.

Elizabeth & Mark McGarry. (c/o McGarry&sons)
Takeaway: Map everything you need for success and then create a team that has everything covered.


7. Hustle

Above all things, YORK Athletics stands for passion and hard work.

Do what you love. And work damn hard at it.

Every day.

Never give up. Keep believing. Live your dream.

For only then will you succeed.

Takeaway: What are you waiting for; get out there and take on the world!



All images and videos c/o YORK Athletics / McGarry&sons.




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