Meet the Birmingham entrepreneurs whose fitness phone vest has been endorsed by the Beckhams, Paul Pogba and Mason Greenwood

Business Leader recently caught up with former Aston Villa youth player Jack Dyer and former Walsall FC goalkeeper James Wren, who founded Freetrain, a Birmingham-based fitness company who have created an innovative alternative to phone holder armbands to give fitness enthusiasts the freedom to train smart and train free. The pair talk about their innovative product and its celebrity endorsements.

Can you give an overview of the company?

Freetrain is a new, up and coming innovative company created by two ex-professional footballers, who originally created a product to make their own training experiences better. Over the last year the team has grown from the two founders to a customer service unit and a creative team. Just over one full year in and Freetrain and we are continuously looking for new ways to make our mark in the health and fitness industry.

What was the inspiration behind setting up the company?

Early on as professional footballers, we realised that the career is much shorter than you originally think with so many variables that can change your career in an instant. As we travelled to and from training we began to think of alternatives to football, as time progressed we began to think of many different ideas ranging from property products to fitness apps. Once we spawned the idea of the V1 we knew we had something to create a business around.

What innovative products do you offer?

At this point we have tried to equip outdoor trainers with everything they need. Our flagship products are the V1 & VR which are our running vests designed to make carrying those small essentials with you whilst you train. It’s USP is the centrally located phone pouch, equipped with a hinge so that you can seamlessly access your device to check your maps & progress, change song or even answer calls or texts. Our G1 water resistant gloves were created due to the necessity for a streamlined glove that can stand up to extreme weather conditions and still keep your hands warm and dry. Continuing on with that theme, we have our Therma Run hat and our Illuminate LED’s which give you visibility during low light training.

What separates you from the competition?

Ticking as many boxes as possible. Our process when it comes to creating products is not to create something what is already out there, but to assess the needs of everyone from the elite trainer, to the beginner which has allowed us to create products that a vast array of people love. For example, when it comes to the V1 and VR, our competition consists of armbands and waistbelts which in their own right have given people ways in which to carry their phones, but not given them the complete accessibility as we feel the V1 has done. Although, we still have a desire to innovate what we already have.

How have you achieved the levels of growth you have?

In all honesty, our products have done a lot of the talking. We have found that attention to detail and not settling for anything other than the best has been the one thing that has helped us achieve step changes. For example, we constantly analyse our products, service and social media. We realised that the “that’ll do” approach will get things done slightly quicker and easier, but the meticulous, nauseating high standards are what have seen the obvious step changes. As our social media has improved it has attracted more and more high-profile athletes and personalities which is only great exposure for the brand.

What challenges have you had to overcome growing the business?

Being able to create and stick to our high standards without financial firepower in the beginning. When we first launched the majority of the budget went into ensuring that we had a top-quality product, which meant that the marketing budget was minimal. We took that risk because we believed in how good the idea was. Ultimately that paid off, but when we look back at our original marketing content, it consists of old school friends and team mates! The other massive hurdle is exposure, the product hasn’t drastically changed in the last year, but the demand for the product has drastically grown. Word of mouth has been everything, success has bred even more success.

How has COVID-19 impacted the business?

Luckily for Freetrain, COVID-19 became a positive. As we have a nimble workforce and we have always worked from home it didn’t really affect our operational side of things. With the Premier League on pause and gyms closing and the need for people to go running outside our product was suddenly the perfect product to get them through lockdown.

How did Paul Pogba and other sports stars help grow the brand?

Another group of people who needed to stay fit during lockdown were the nations professional footballers who immediately recognised the products qualities. As they started to wear the product regularly it gave us a real platform which culminated in Sky Sports showing Paul Pogba wearing our VR. To have some of the world’s most elite athletes wearing the product organically gave the perfect seal of approval.

What are the future plans for the company?

Growth! Our first aim is to take let the world know that this product exists and our second is to keep innovating and inspiring by raising the bar with solutions to training problems and products that make people feel like pushing their own limits.