Nationwide kit from the back of a sports shop

PUBLISHED: 11:30 18 May 2006 | UPDATED: 13:27 04 May 2010

PRESSING MATTERS: Ben gets to grips with the shirt-printing equipment.

PRESSING MATTERS: Ben gets to grips with the shirt-printing equipment.

FROM the smallest acorns, mighty trees can grow. When Stephen Reid and Dave Braybrooke pooled £100 each of their own money to buy some football boots, it must have been hard to imagine the business they have today. Selling them from the back of a car to y

FROM the smallest acorns, mighty trees can grow.

When Stephen Reid and Dave Braybrooke pooled £100 each of their own money to buy some football boots, it must have been hard to imagine the business they have today.

Selling them from the back of a car to youngsters at Chatteris Town Youth Football Club turned out to be the first step in a business which is now known today as 3Q Sports.

From there, Stephen and Dave started using Trinity Hall in Ely to sell sportswear at weekends, before making an offer on their current Market Place premises in the summer of 2001.

"We were tired of the usual 9-5 stuff and Dave and I had one common interest - football," Stephen explained of his previous life as a stock controller.

Starting out as a general sports shop, they were looking for something different two years on, something which other shops couldn't match.

Stephen again: "We wanted something which would give us an edge over the competition. So a top sales director from Nike came to see us and suggested becoming a football specialist."

'Specialist' hardly does it justice. Stephen estimates that the shop adds up to only 20 per cent of their

business. The rest is teamwear and web orders.

3Q has about 2,400 teams on its books, for which it makes kits every season. They supply Portsmouth's training equipment, and one club they deal with in Hertfordshire has 28 teams.

In the summer, the shirt-printing business is non-stop. There are four heat presses, which are in constant use. In addition to shirts, 3Q personalises bags, pennants and just about anything you can get a logo on.

Dave is responsible for the design, which he draws on computer. Caroline Cowling then presses the logos onto the shirts, which is a full-time job in itself.

There are thousands of logos on the system, from McDonald's to the local builder, all drawn. There's even a 'Ben Jones, Ely Standard Sports Editor' logo on there now, which is comfortably the most expensive.

From placing an order, there is a seven-to-10-day wait for the shirts, and a courier comes each day to deliver the clothing to its destination. 3Q looks after teams from all points of the British compass, but locally Ely City and Soham Town Rangers are among the sides 3Q is linked with.

So I know who to go to when I want a Steve Bugg signed shirt, then. It's a known fact that Soham striker Bugg is among the greatest players ever to play the game, but if he's not your cup of tea, then you can always gawp at the signed Maradona and Pele shirts on display in the shop.

With all this business to fall back on, it is not surprising that 3Q is one of the top five teamwear specialists in the country.

For the last three years, they have been the fastest-growing as well. It's amazing to think that such a successful, nation-wide business is run from the back room of a sports shop, but then Brighton reached the Cup Final once, so stranger things gave happened.

A far cry from the early days, when boxer Dave 'Boy' Green opened the shop five years ago (coincidentally, his son now owns a hairdresser's two doors down, which the boys in the shop joked I should attend very soon, before my hairstyle becomes a lost cause. Apparently, lots of young, attractive women work there so I shan't grumble).

BEN JONES

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