Responsible outdoor brand Passenger has agreed two significant partnerships to continue to drive its fast growth. The UK-based company has announced that it has joined forces with Richard Harpin’s Growth Partner and Steve Hewitt, ex Gymshark CEO, to sustain and enhance its international expansion.
The consumer-specialist investment firm, Growth Partner, which is backed by HomeServe plc Founder and Chairman Richard Harpin, has invested £15 million to acquire a minority stake in Passenger clothing. Steve Hewitt, former CEO of Gymshark is investing alongside Growth Partner and joins Passenger as Chairman, as it continues its journey to becoming a leading global outdoor brand.
Founded by Richard and Alexa Sutcliffe in 2012 and based in the New Forest, Passenger is a responsible clothing brand that makes products for the outdoors that blend style, quality and sustainability at an attainable price point. The brand has achieved triple digit growth year on year since 2019, while being profitable and continuously increasing its investment into environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives. Passenger is on track to achieve £50m in sales this year.
Today, Passenger is a brand that is rooted in nature, connection and wellbeing. For every order that the brand takes, it plants a tree and over 90% of the product range is made with responsibly sourced materials like recycled cotton, recycled polyester, hemp and organic cotton. To date, Passenger has planted over 500,000 native trees and protected 28,000,000 sqm of rainforest through its charity partners The Rainforest Trust and Trees For The Future.
Richard and Alexa were joined by founder of Surfdome, Justin Stone, as Executive Chairman and Jon Lane as CEO, in 2019, and Passenger has since experienced exceptional growth. In 2022, Passenger was number two on the UK’s Growth 100 list, with a 345% revenue compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over two years. In the last 12 months, Passenger has grown to over £33m in sales, selling over 700,000 items, with 25% of the business now being done outside the UK. Passenger has 40 staff based in the company’s New Forest HQ and a further 20 at its Yorkshire based distribution centre.
Richard Harpin and Steve Hewitt have extensive hands-on experience of building successful, customer-led businesses in the UK and internationally. Their wealth of knowledge, combined with the values they share alongside Passenger’s commitment to wellbeing and the environment, represent a formidable partnership.
Richard Harpin is one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs, founding HomeServe and leading as CEO for over 30 years, as it developed into a FTSE 100 company, and was recently sold for £4.1bn. Richard is passionate about business, entrepreneurship and giving back. He believes in mentoring and sharing his experiences with others growing their businesses. He formed his investment firm, Growth Partner, in 2017, to put his own money into backing great entrepreneurs with exciting, proven, and profitable businesses.
Steve Hewitt joined direct-to-consumer fitness brand Gymshark in June 2014 as an external advisor, before becoming CEO the following year and overseeing the company’s growth from £4m to £400m turnover in his six years in role. Under Steve’s leadership, Gymshark went from being a start-up to a global brand with customers in more than 178 countries. In August 2020, Gymshark was valued at over £1bn and joined the exclusive list of British companies to achieve ‘unicorn’ status. Steve recently founded the Whanau Advisory to work alongside entrepreneurs and senior leadership teams to scale SME organisations with international aspirations. Whanau donates a percentage of profits to charity partners, exclusively focused around young people.
Jon Lane, CEO of Passenger, comments: “At Passenger, we’re delighted to be partnering with Richard and Steve, two outstanding business leaders. As we head into the next stage of our journey, we’ll continue to reinforce our vision and values around being a truly responsible business.”
Richard Harpin of Growth Partner comments: “Justin, Jon, Richard and the wider Passenger team have successfully created an agile, exceptional growth, purpose driven brand that truly connects with its customers. I’m excited to share my experience and support the outstanding leadership team as Passenger expands into new markets.”
Steve Hewitt, Chairman of Passenger, comments: “Passenger has been ahead of the curve with ESG and at the forefront of promoting a responsible business position with its international customer base. The consumer’s desire to reconnect with the outdoors and find moments of escapism couldn’t be more relevant today and I’m very excited to be a part of it, working alongside Richard, Justin, Jon and the rest of the team at Passenger. There’s a significant opportunity to reinforce the core UK business and continue to scale the brand in key international markets.”