Two Scottish entrepreneurs who quit promising careers to turn their passion for pole dancing into the world’s top polewear resale website have won the Business of the Year award at a major industry event.
Pole World Festival, which recently took place at the UWE Exhibition and Conference Centre in Bristol, is the biggest UK event of its kind. Individuals and businesses are recognised for their contribution to the pole dance and fitness community in a range of categories – Pole Junkie beat a shortlist of six other companies to take home the Business of the Year award. The accolade is a culmination of almost three years of growth for the Glasgow-based business.
Kirsten Fairlie (27) from Arbroath and Heather Laughland (25) from Bridge of Allan, launched Pole Junkie in January 2015. The idea was born over coffee when the pair vented their frustration with the high shipping costs, customs charges and delivery times associated with buying from their favourite polewear brands located overseas.
Deciding to take things into their own hands, the duo made an investment of £20k with the majority spent staggering large orders of their favourite brand, US-based Bad Kitty. Starting out of Kirsten’s spare bedroom expecting to sell mostly to friends in the Glasgow pole community, the website unexpectedly took off. In year one, Pole Junkie had a turnover of £235,000, an increase of 1,075% on the entrepreneurs’ initial investment, and the business’ growth has shown no signs of slowing down ever since.
After this early success, Kirsten and Heather left their full time jobs to focus fully on turning Pole Junkie into a global force. The business is now the world’s leading reseller of polewear offering a huge range of active and performance clothing from international brands, importing from countries including the US, Greece, Australia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.
Since launching, the entrepreneurs have acquired over 11,500 customers and delivered more than 23,000 orders. In the last six months, 55% of sales have been to outside of the UK with Pole Junkie’s top five export areas being Germany, the US, Switzerland, Sweden and Italy.
During 2016, the business went through a major rebrand and the girls acquired an office and warehouse at Charing Cross to store and distribute their growing stock. Exactly 12 months later, they expanded further, doubling the size of the warehouse and hiring a full-time employee.
This year they have also been involved with design, collaborating with Greek brand RAD and Bad Kitty to create exclusive Pole Junkie collections. In the future, they plan to create their own line and are always on the lookout to work with emerging designers.
Kirsten said: “To see just how much Pole Junkie has grown over the last three years is overwhelming. Glasgow is a hotspot for pole fitness with around 13 studios running classes, so we were sure people would like the concept of popular polewear brands being more accessible and affordable to them. We had no idea, however, that Pole Junkie would be so successful outside of Scotland, to the point where we were able to quit our day jobs to focus fully on its success.
“It’s taken Heather and I to a lot of exciting places – we’ve just returned from connecting with our suppliers at Pole Expo in Las Vegas, the biggest conference in the entire industry. We’ve also been lucky enough to work with some of the biggest names in the pole world.”
Heather added: “Our route to reaching this point has been an unusual one. Kirsten and I met at an actuarial careers fair while studying maths at university. We both initially followed a career path in the finance industry but found ‘normal’ jobs not for us. We recognised there was a gap in the market to sell polewear with fast delivery times and easy availability. Other than that, we just had to trust our passion for pole and take a leap of faith!
“Pole dancing is a fantastic hobby that’s good for the mind and body, helping people develop confidence while boosting physical strength – I would encourage anyone to give it a try. The pole community is such a supportive group of people, both locally and internationally and we are very proud to be part of it.”