Ethic Watches celebrated their third year of business at the 2016 Fort William World Cup. In between all the madness, Pete sat down with former World Cup mechanic and owner/founder of Ethic Watches, Andy Ward to see how he got the company to where it is and what plans are in the offing.
Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Andy Ward of Ethic Watches. 1. Who is Andy Ward?
Good question. Sometimes I don’t even know myself. I guess I could start with saying I am a well-travelled individual that has learnt some major life lessons and gained some valuable experiences in my 35 years. Oh and I am the founder/owner of Ethic Watches.
2. How did Ethic Watches come about?
How long do you want this interview to last? It’s a long story, but the simplified version is that I have always had a burning desire to work for a really cool brand. Having not gone to university I found myself in a situation where I couldn’t secure a job with a well-known brand, I was getting turned away for not having the relevant qualifications and experience. So I started my own brand.
3. What’s your background in cycling?
I grew up literally on the doorstep of Cannock Chase, so it was inevitable I would end up riding a bike. I started racing at 14 and used to compete at the Pearce Cycles Midlands series.
At 17 I started my mechanic career at Halfords around the same time as picking up my first sponsor with Mountain Cycle. I think I was one of only a handful of people you would find riding a Mountain Cycle Shockwave (that bike was way ahead of its time).
Many years and a few jobs later I found myself working on the World Cup Circuit as Head Mechanic with the Athertons, then Lapierre International and finally 4 years with the MS Mondraker Team. I also did a season with the Devinci Global Enduro team, helping Damion Oton win a round of the EWS in Italy and achieving a 2nd place in the overall standings.
I was responsible for the set up and management of the ‘Lapierre Cadets’ and ‘MS Mondraker Development’ race teams’. This is where I discovered the amazing talent of Innes Graham who became a close friend and my first official ‘Ethic Athlete’. Having worked with Innes for the last 4 years I still help him out and offer advice and mentorship.
4. Why watches?
I was looking for a product that riders didn’t really have as a sponsor. While working with Sam Blenkinsop at Lapierre International during the 2011 season, I always noticed he used to wear a bright coloured watch, one he would buy himself. So when I was thinking of producing my own products, watches were top of that list. I had a chat with Blinky and asked if he would be interested in wearing them, he was stoked on the design. He’s been wearing them ever since.
5. How did you choose where to get the watches made?
It was a long drawn out process, but after a bit of investigation and many samples later I found a factory that would be able to produce the watches to my specification and design and more importantly the right price.
6. How many people make up Ethic and what do they do?
Ethic is a small brand at the moment, with just myself running the show. In the short time the company has been operating I have had help from the likes of my girlfriend, younger brother and some close friends. I also have many brand ambassadors around the world that I feel have helped shape and make Ethic what it is today.
7. What did you have to sacrifice to get to this stage?
Running a business is not easy. Along with the uncertainty in terms of finances, you have to keep pushing forwards and keep yourself motivated. I have learnt to watch TV of an evening while sat in front of my laptop and sacrificed my downtime. Ethic as the names suggests is about how hard you work at something, whether it be in a sport, your career or ambition.
As much as my girlfriend would like to hear different, the last thing I think about before bed and the first thing on my mind in the morning is Ethic haha!
8. Did you have day jobs that you had to give up?
Being a mechanic on the World Cup circuit left me in a fortunate position. With the nature of the work being seasonal, it allowed me to run Ethic alongside it. The only downside to this would be when I was away during the season, sometimes a month at a time with the team. Thankfully I had people around me that could help send watches out during those times.
9. Are you working alongside to make ends meet?
I have a few projects that I am currently working on that allow me to make ends meet. Being an ex-World Cup mechanic has its benefits, to supplement my income I am now offering my services as a mechanic doing full services and custom builds together with a few other major projects in the pipeline.
10. How make or break is the company for you?
Its not about make or break for me, but Ethic is where my passion lies and I would really like to see it reach its full potential. It’s been amazing watching the brand grow over the last 3 years, I have had some loyal fans and athletes that have helped build it to what it is today. Hopefully with the right choices and support I can achieve my long-term goals.
11. How did you learn what you needed to know to get your own company off the ground and the watches in hand?
Running your own business is one massive learning curve, basically you’re always learning. I started this brand out of a passion to create something new, to be part of the industry I’ve lived and breathed since my teenage years. Ethic has been a work in progress; I’m constantly progressing day by day.
When I started Ethic it was with a huge risk involved, I’d invested a lot of money at the time, but sometimes you just have to use your gut instinct and go with it. My advice to anyone out there would be to use as much research as possible. I remember my first shipment of watches, I hadn’t factored in the import duty into my original costs, and this proved a costly experience.
12. How many samples did you have before getting to the production run?
I spent 6 months over the winter of 2012/2013 working on samples and prototypes. I think design-wise I had a dozen ideas that I narrowed down to the one single design I decided to use. I remember the final sample arrived just before a trip to Barcelona with the MS Mondraker team. The feedback I got from the riders was so important. I knew then I had the right product and hit the go button to start production. Two months later I had a garage full of Ethic Watches.
13. Beyond the samples, what form did your testing take?
The first people to get their hands on Ethic Watches were some of the best riders in the world, you cant get better product testing than that!
14. Where next for Ethic? How do you plan to go about getting extra helpers etc. etc.?
I’m not planning on stopping anytime soon; I have some awesome projects in the pipeline such as signature watches with key athletes, a brand new watch design, a full range of soft goods and potentially a range of riding gear. Alongside all this I will be developing my new Ethic Racing team too.
The last 12months has also seen us break into other markets, so not only are we used by mountainbikers, we have wakeboarders, snowboarders, rugby players and even sports fitness models wearing Ethic products. Ethic is gaining ground in becoming a stylish lifestyle product but with its roots firmly in the mountain bike world.
Just recently I have secured my first distributor out in Chile and I am excited to work with them, they are very enthusiastic and I’m stoked to have them on board.
15. Anybody to thank at this point in the Ethic journey? Long suffering spouses/parents/friends?
There are perhaps to many people to name individually really, but everyone who reads this interview and has had a part in the Ethic story so far, whether that be a rider or even a customer who wears an Ethic product then this is a thank you to them.
But some key people to thank would have to be Sam Blenkinsop, Troy Brosnan, Brook MacDonald, Innes Graham, the Specialized Gravity Team and Mudhugger for helping to push the brand within the mountain bike industry.
Of course I cant forget my family and friends, specifically my younger brother Chris for all his help and hard work with the brand, Martin Newhill for his moments of wisdom and then finally my girlfriend Vicky for putting up with me and my crazy ideas but also keeping me motivated and focused.
Massive thanks to Wideopenmag for this opportunity too!
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