Athlete Futures Network Newsletter - September 2019

Discovering Who I Am
By Emily Freeman

I remember the day I knew I was ready to retire from athletics. The irony was, I’d just run my first race after an injury-stricken four years away from the track. Training was going well, and I’d set my expectations high. I got to the track early for my well-rehearsed warm up. I was nervous as I set up my starting blocks, but that was usual for me – I was ready. There was a slight breeze, but other than that, conditions were great. The starting gun went. I won the race but didn’t run anywhere near as quickly as I’d hoped, which was a massive blow. I took comfort from those around me; they knew what I’d been through to get to this point, but they also told me not to make any rash decisions about retiring. I couldn’t hear this as I knew deep down that I had nothing more to give. The road back to form seemed like too much to climb and I’d worked so hard to even get to this point. I raced twice more that summer, improving on each run, but didn’t change my mind – I knew the time had come to move on.

I remember being both devastated and relieved. I would never run faster or feel the exhilaration of racing at a high level again, but I could stop pushing and striving so hard. I had spent over 20 years training and competing; I had been National Champion, competed in Junior Championships, Commonwealth Games and European Championships, made a final in a World Championships and semi-final at an Olympic Games. Yet in a lot of ways, I still saw myself as a failure; I’d dedicated so much of my life to the sport and had no medal to show for it. Walking away without one felt like I was giving up before I’d finished, and I struggled to come to terms with this for a long time. I had no idea how to fill the gap that athletics would leave.

I started running aged 11 at my local track and immediately loved it. I have memories of a dark, windy and rainy track. The weather can’t always have been bad, but I loved the feeling of battling the elements to be the best I could be. I loved the challenge and the feeling of hard work. I felt strong and powerful. I quickly set my ambitions high. I’d shied away from watching the Barcelona Olympics on TV in case I was never able to go.

When I was selected for Team GB in the 200m and 4 x 100m relay in 2008, it was everything I’d imagined it would be. I battled the elements again, this time in the heat and humidity of Beijing, as I ran the 200m. But as well as being the pinnacle of my career, the Beijing Olympic Games would turn out to be one of the hardest times too. In the 4 x 100m relay, the baton went down on my changeover. When I think about that moment, time stands still. Can we rewind? Please can we have another go? This isn’t what is supposed to happen. In the moments after, disbelief and a numb feeling set in as I realised the enormity of the opportunity myself and the relay team had just missed. With the potential medal in sight, my dreams shattered around me. I didn’t get that close to a medal again.

My identity was built on being an athlete. When I succeeded, I felt good about myself, but when I didn’t, I was pretty hard on myself. At the time, and for a long time afterwards, dropping the baton added to the feeling of failure. These days, I’m grateful for the lesson it taught me in resilience, and how to handle disappointments that life inevitably throws up. I know that I’m stronger for it.

I’d been hopeful that I’d make the team for London 2012 (I was even a sticker in the London 2012 sticker book!) but injuries meant that wasn’t to be. Around the same time, I lost the Lottery funding support I’d had, so my first taste of “work” had to be something to make ends meet. I’d thought personal training might be an easy win and although I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it, I really did. It wasn’t easy but I found it extremely rewarding – to help others work towards their goals, and learning more about themselves along the way was a privilege.

Personal training was fun, however I was helping others design the life they wanted but paying little attention to my own. This was my chance – what did I want to do? I’m a very visual and analytical person, so I drew a mind map of everything I could think of that interested me and tried to work out why each note was important to me. The recurring theme was around keeping girls interested in sport and exercise throughout their life. I had seen first-hand girls leave my sport and, as a PT, women coming back to sport and exercise wishing they had kept at it after leaving school. What was stopping them?

As a child I didn’t always feel that I fitted the mould of what a girl was supposed to be or do. I didn’t buy much make up and would choose New Scientist over women’s magazines; I didn’t get my nails done and on my wedding day chose a dress to fit with my muscly arms. It took me a long time to realise but I had been judging myself against certain standards all my life. Standards set by society’s gender stereotypes and on some level, it had stopped me being totally okay with who I was.

My business partner Nat and I knew each other vaguely from the gym, but first got chatting properly on a mutual friend’s hen do. By the end of the weekend we were starting a business and changing the world. Before we met, Nat had taken herself from not running at all to running a marathon in six months. She too had many women say to her “I wish I could run”. What seemed to be holding them back wasn’t physical capability but having the mindset to support and believe in themselves. We wanted to put things into the world to mix all the physical things you’d need to start running, with the confidence boosting mindset training that would take what we taught with running and apply that to the rest of our lives.

Our company is called Totally Runable. We named it in Nat’s kitchen. Five years on, we have a team working in schools across Yorkshire, using running as the tool to build confidence in sport, exercise and life. Our courses mix running with mindset training showing that we are often capable of more than we think.

As well as our work in schools, we campaign for gender equality. We founded the #SeeSportyBeSporty campaign and petition calling for sport in the media to be more gender equal, which now has over 1,300 signatures including Olympians, Paralympians and World Champions. Over 75 schools nationwide have signed up to the Girls and Sport Pledge we launched following that campaign. This is a project recognising schools doing more to fight the stereotypical messages girls (and boys) are often sent about sport, and helping those who’d like to do more. We talk about the importance of equity not just equality for girls in sport. We are also supporting individual schools and multi-academy trusts in delivering their PE, sport and physical activity strategies.

Starting your own business is hard. There is no set way to do things and you have to trust yourself a great deal. Like athletics, you have to put your all in to something that may or may not be successful and be okay with that.

Having been through what I went through in my athletics career, and knowing now what I didn’t know then, I think it’s hugely important how you define success. That has changed for me over time. I still aim high and strive for excellence in everything I do with Totally Runable. I want the business to grow and have a positive impact on as many people as possible. Our growth plan includes employing current and retiring athletes, supporting them to be role models for others and in their development as people. What I have learned is to be much more appreciative of the journey. I enjoy the process – the bits that go well and the bits that don’t go as well as I’d hope. What can seem like a massive failure at the time can lead to bigger and better things, or not, and both outcomes are okay.

Looking back, had I had a better perspective on my performance in athletics I’d have been more relaxed, taken things less seriously and maybe the outcome would have been different. But then I wouldn’t be who I am. It’s taken some time to get to this point. Time that I’ve needed to heal and reframe how I see my experiences. I now feel immensely proud of my athletic achievements and the person my sport has made me become. On the track I had to push myself, think outside the box and be relentless in my efforts. I use these skills every day at Totally Runable to inspire those around me and bring my best self to the children and staff we work with.

For me, transition from elite sport has been a long process, and one that still isn’t over. I am happy to have found a place where I understand myself a lot better – and just in time too. Earlier this year, I gave birth to my first child and I want to pass on the things I have learned to this tiny human that depends on me for guidance. Whether they want to pursue a career in sport or not will be completely up to them, but if nothing else, I want to pass on what I’ve learned about enjoying the journey; advice I’ll need to remember myself as I embark on my own next chapter over the next few months.

Taekwondo and Beyond
By Ben Haines

Ben Haines is a former GB taekwondo athlete who has recently taken on the role of an Athlete Rep. But he has come a long way from starting the sport aged 10, and been through many ups and downs in that time. Here, he gives a very open and honest account of the struggles he’s faced and how he’s come out the other side.

I think the majority of athletes who leave a world class set-up find it hard to adjust to an everyday routine. Finding a job, making new friends, moving back home or moving into your own place, all whilst coming to terms with leaving a sport which has been your life for a long time. As an athlete, you live and breathe your sport; whether retiring is due to an injury or just because it’s time to move on, it definitely takes some adjustment.

When I decided to retire from taekwondo, I was lucky enough to be supported by my governing body. But as well as this, I think it’s important to continually develop new ways of supporting athletes who leave the World Class Programme. Athletes dedicate their lives to sport, often giving blood sweat and tears to achieve their goals, and retiring brings many challenges. For me, the biggest was, and still is, dealing with depression, which I’m sure a lot of athletes can relate to, and I wanted to share my story with you.

I joined a local taekwondo club when I was 10 years old. I lacked confidence and self-esteem and my parents thought it would be a good idea to try the sport. I enjoyed it; it was disciplined, and in the controlled environment, I found I had a knack for kicking people in the head! I went on to then join a World Taekwondo club and concentrated hard on the sport. The club felt like a second family to me, and I went from strength to strength. I had the chance to progress in something I really enjoyed, and for me this was enormous.

When I was 19, I was lucky enough to be accepted into the GB Taekwondo Academy and my whole life changed. I had a dream laid out in front of me and my life became my sport, both on and off the mats. I lived with my team mates and had an independence I’d never experienced before. The training was hard, but I enjoyed every minute of it. There were ups and downs, including the odd injury, but the team were behind me all the way, and I was doing well; my dream was starting to become a reality.

In May 2016, I competed at the European Championships in Switzerland. I didn’t medal but I put in a good performance and felt proud of myself. Things were going well, but not too long afterwards, I was hit by a car whilst out jogging. I sustained damage to my meniscus, and it felt like things were tumbling down around me. Eight months and one operation later and I was back to the sport, ready for the Dutch Open and this time I came away with a silver medal. I was over the moon, especially after my injury. But sadly my knee didn’t hold out and I had another operation which I just couldn’t come back from.

I was let go from the Academy in September 2017, and I was devastated. Even though I was still going through rehab at the time, it was a shock. I felt like my whole life had been destroyed and I didn’t know where to go or who to turn to. I ended up back at home, some 200 miles away from where I’d been living with my team – with my friends. I struggled to come to terms with everything and a further blow came when I was involved in a major motorway crash a month later. I felt like my life was going downhill fast and depression well and truly set in.

During 2018, I started a job with an organisation called KIDS, working as a young carer. It was a role that gave me great pride and something to look forward to; I also related well to the kids. Previously, some of my volunteer appearances for UK Sport had been with Stockport Young Carers, so this was the perfect follow-on to that. But I still desperately missed my sport and this continued to hurt.

Living at home became harder, especially as I had another operation to “look forward to”, which finally happened in January 2019. With another 12 months of rehab ahead of me, I knew I would never go back to the sport that was once my life and dream. A few months into 2019, my depression got worse; I felt like I’d had hit rock bottom and the stress at home was becoming overwhelming, not just for me but for my family too. I decided to move out and am now living in Runcorn with my girlfriend.

The UK Sport Athlete Investment Team have really helped me during this time. They took an interest in me and what it was like for me to lose everything, wanting to understand how the athlete experience has affected me to be able to help others. Just talking to them helped enormously, and they were good with putting me in touch with the right people. I also received support from EIS Performance Lifestyle Advisor Natalie Vickers, which was invaluable. It’s important not to bottle things up and I would urge all athletes to use the services available to them.

I’ve recently had the chance to be involved in taekwondo as a coach, which makes me feel like I have a purpose again. No matter how hard things become, it’s important to remember there are always other avenues you can take, and doors that will open… it might just take some time. Not only am I looking forward to starting a new job soon (with kids again!), but in May, I was voted as the World Taekwondo Athlete Rep. This was voted for by other athletes, which means a lot. I’m really looking forward to the role, which will allow me to be involved in the sport I love whilst carrying on as a coach and also with my new job.

An athlete’s journey will rarely be a smooth one, and I may have had more downs than many. But if you use this knowledge to prepare for whatever the future might throw at you, and take all the advice and support you can get, you will always come out the other side.

The Road Ahead
By Peter Speight

Achieving highly at anything means constantly channelling your energy, attention and resources towards one single thing for a prolonged period of time. It got to the point where doing this got too much for me and I slowly realised it was time to move on from freestyle skiing.

I was 17 when I made the decision to give competitive freestyle skiing a proper go. At this point, I would say I was average at the sport. I’d faired OK in some international events and was in the mix in the UK for my age group, but I knew if I really put my mind to it, I could go further and become a real competitor on the international circuit. And, if the sport went that way, compete at an Olympics. However, I also always knew that it wasn’t going to be forever. I wasn’t going to dedicate my whole life to skiing or performance sport. It was a challenge I decided to take on because, why not? I love action sports; I’d been lucky enough to be introduced to freestyle skiing at the Sheffield Ski Village dry slope in my teens and somehow had really taken to it by the time I left school. It wasn’t the obvious path for me as I was far more academic than sporty, but it was a path of adventure and I decided to go for it.

Almost ten years later, I have now retired. I’ve competed in 15 World Cups, two World Championships, an Olympic Games and won the British Championships twice. Some of the highs include travelling and meeting people all over the world, which has been amazing. But there were also some huge lows. I don’t regret the time I spent committed to skiing but when I finally decided to stop competing, it was a huge relief. I felt free to be able to do whatever I wanted and start saying yes to anything. I probably could have carried on to another Olympic Games and quit at the age of 29, but I felt the time was right for me. There are so many other things in life I want to achieve and experience, and ultimately, I was happy with the level I had achieved. Despite all this though, I did have to work at finding the courage to make that big retirement decision.

Alongside skiing, I studied history at the University of Manchester, so I had other interests and some idea of what I might want to do next, but this doesn’t mean it’s been easy. I tried lots of different things; I said yes to every opportunity that was sent my way; and I started to do some research. I attended events, such as an Athlete Futures Roadshow in 2018, I networked, and I took advice. The Roadshow was a really positive experience for me. It was useful to hear stories from other athletes and gain advice on how its possible to transfer sporting skills into the wider world. The best tip I took away from the event was to think and talk positively about what you’re hoping to do next. It made me realise in many ways that deciding to retire means you’re at the start of something new and exciting. I think the more proactive you can be, the better.

There’s no denying it’s overwhelming deciding what steps to take after retiring. However, by looking at the skills I have, the things that interest me and asking myself what contribution I want to make to the world next, it’s been easier to narrow things down. I’ve also always given myself multiple options; for example, I tried an internship for a few months whilst keeping the door open to return to skiing. I think it’s important to go through whatever steps are necessary to make sure you know it’s 100% the right time to move on. When you decide that time has come, it’s scary, but you the best thing to do is jump without hesitating!

I’m now working at a strategy and sustainability consultancy in London. I’ve started at the bottom of the pile but in a sector that really excites me. I’m using a lot of the skills I learnt throughout my time in sport; it didn’t take me long to work out that if you’ve been through an elite sporting journey, you are placed in an extremely strong position to achieve whatever you put your mind to. Sport was much tougher than I ever expected, and the challenges still haven’t stopped; I don’t know how well I will adjust to life outside of freestyle skiing, working a 9-6 job and with much less time spent outdoors. And I don’t know if I will ever experience the same thrill as dropping into a halfpipe whilst millions of people are watching!

Staying committed to freestyle skiing until the age of 26 gave me moments of depression, extreme injury, tears and severe anxiety. I am lucky that after the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang I felt I had fulfilled my potential, which made it easier to walk away. I knew I was lucky to have experienced those incredible highs, but it was a relief to know I didn’t have to put up with the lows anymore.

I want to emphasise how amazing sport is and how privileged I feel having taken so much from it for so long. In my opinion, it is always worth chasing your sporting dreams and ambitions. However, I was motivated to write this piece because elite level sport, and retiring from it, is also full of tough challenges. I’m hopeful that athletes reading this will think about what I’ve said and take on board some of the points, rather than perhaps finding things out the hard way. Or at least, by reading articles like mine, athletes can be prepared and also know they are never alone on this journey. I think it’s so important to have perspective when you begin your journey in sport by keeping the door open for other things and being aware that your time in competitive sport won’t last forever. It’s never too early to prepare. When the time for big decisions comes around, try to be brave enough to go after whatever makes you happy. This will be different for everyone, so there is no right answer, but follow your heart and know that you will make mistakes or wrong decisions along the way. It’s all part of the process.

Achieving in sport means being dedicated to one thing for a long period of time. But if you can keep things in perspective and balanced at the same time, you won’t just have the incredible experience of being an elite athlete - you’ll also have a better chance of being happy and fulfilled once you decide to retire.

Gaining Experience Whilst Competing
By Ellen Buttrick

Ellen Buttrick is a Para-rower in the PR3 Mixed Coxed Four and is training towards selection for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

I joined the GB Para-rowing Performance Squad in June 2018 and three months later, our boat won a gold medal at the 2018 Rowing World Championships in Bulgaria.

Before I became a full-time athlete, I studied at Northumbria University where I graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Geography in 2017. My course included a ‘Year in Industry’, during which I worked for a local authority. Following graduation, I completed two internships - one in London for another local authority and the second in Prague at a political think tank. I then returned to the UK in order to invest more time in my training.

I started a role with the Refugee Council Resettlement Programme in Leeds and the same week began training as a member of the GB Para-rowing Development Programme, which included multiple intensive training camps throughout the year. The Refugee Council were very understanding, and I found that being open from day one about my rowing aspirations meant everyone was on the same page when it came to time off for training camps, competitions and eventually handing in my resignation when I was invited to train full-time.

My role at the Refugee Council was perfect to go hand in hand with the start of my rowing career. I worked three days a week and was able to fit training in before and after work. There were also great development and progression opportunities; I enjoyed taking on extra responsibilities and expanding my skill set, and even joined the nationwide Equality and Diversity Board. This provided me with the opportunity to network with senior colleagues in roles that I might one day like to take on.

If you’re interested in an organisation or role, trying to find relevant work experience opportunities can help you to decide whether it’s going to be right for you. Talking about something and actually doing it can be very different and they’re likely going to give you two completely different perspectives. You want to be able to make an informed decision when you’re considering something as important as your post-sport career.

I’ve always tried to gain as much work experience as possible and most recently, I completed a 12-week voluntary internship with the British Red Cross in their Community Fundraising department. Being involved with two similar organisations at the same time gave me an opportunity to compare them and also gave me the chance to see what type of role I might enjoy. Each internship I’ve completed has helped me obtain the next, and I’ve been able to complete so many because I take advantage of these opportunities.

I’m fortunate enough to have an idea of the sector I would like to work in when I finish rowing, and hope I’ll be in a position to continue my career in the third sector. My aim is to reduce the chances that, just because I’ve chosen to be a full-time athlete, I will hinder my future career; I’m trying to take full advantage of the opportunities on offer to develop now and prepare for the future. This includes accessing my Personal Development Award through UK Sport, which I am using to improve my foreign language skills. I also attend many of the events and workshops that are offered to me by UK Sport and the EIS, around employability but also lifestyle management.

I’m now building on the skills I gained at the Refugee Council by volunteering for a similar local organisation where I now live and train, in Henley-on-Thames. I’m a support worker for homeless refugees and asylum seekers across the Thames Valley. They place people short-term with hosts who volunteer spare rooms in their homes, and I’m there to provide orientation to the area and advocate between guests and hosts. A voluntary role is great because you’re able to take on only as much responsibility as you can manage. Dependent on where I am in a season, this can vary greatly. I enjoy focusing on an activity that isn’t performance-related once or twice a week, and as a bonus also develops my future employment opportunities. I find high performance sport very all-consuming, so taking a few hours away from it each week enables me to gain perspective and helps with my mental wellbeing, which actually makes me a better athlete.

On top of this, I attend local Amnesty International meetings in Reading, and am about to take a more active role in the group by managing their social media channels. This position will help me learn how to engage with an audience and to share campaigns with the wider public, something I’ve not had experience of before. This role will enable me to develop a new skill and with it being online, I can do it during recovery time at training or even whilst on training camps. I also volunteer during term-time with Girlguiding UK at a local Brownies group. I have been involved with Girlguiding since starting Brownies myself, 17 years ago, so fitting it in my routine has always been a priority for me.

I guess all these things can sound like a lot to fit in, but they are all causes I really believe in and enjoy working with. I try not to overstretch myself and keep up good communication with my managers/coordinators at each organisation, so they understand how and when I am able to support them. If you’re finding it hard to develop personally, try scheduling some time into your training programme. You wouldn’t miss a training session so why would you miss this?

Life as an athlete is different to being a full-time student or working a 9-5 job, and it can be difficult to see friends and family gaining momentum in their careers whilst we, even though successful in our own field, remain on the starting blocks of a “conventional” career. An athlete’s journey at the top of their professional game can often end a lot earlier, and sometimes with much less notice, than many of us would like, which is why it makes sense to be as prepared as possible. The advantages we have over non-athletes is the time now, during our sporting career, to develop. It isn’t common to have so much time and opportunity to become the best in the world at something and subsequently a much more employable individual at the same time.

I’m sure the experiences I am having now, and will continue to have, will set me in good stead post-rowing and I urge other athletes to do the same.

Why Recruitment is a Fantastic Career for Athletes
By Katie Alder

This article is aimed at you, the fantastic current or former athletes reading this newsletter. The hardest working, most dedicated, focused, competitive bunch of people I’ve been lucky enough to work with. I want to tell you, in no uncertain terms, that what you’ve achieved in sport, and the effort you’ve put it, can see you excel in the world of work and, in particular, in recruitment consultancy.

Having worked with athletes (professional, semi-pro and amateur) for the last four years, not many have considered recruitment as a career option. This article is designed to highlight the transferable skills between sport and recruitment, outline what a career in recruitment looks like, and why it’s such a fantastic long-term career option for athletes.

One of the biggest hurdles athletes face in getting into recruitment is knowing that is exists, and what it actually is! Recruitment is one of the fastest growing industries in the UK, currently valued at over £35 billion. Ultimately, it’s a sales-based position, whereby you help match candidates with suitable job opportunities, and manage the end-to-end recruitment process. From pitching your services to new clients, to headhunting candidates and negotiating contracts, you are solely in charge of your diary and how successful you can be. It’s fast paced, competitive (internally and externally) and no two days are the same. It’s a highly incentivised industry where you earn a basic salary plus uncapped commission, with top billers earning £100,000 by year three. Company ‘top performer’ trips include New York, Ibiza, Barbados, Miami, Marbella, Vegas and many more – all rewards for excelling in what you do! Ultimately, it’s an environment full of driven, competitive, sociable and fun-loving people who are motivated by success and achievement.

So what makes athletes good recruiters? There are a lot of myths about what you need to get into the recruitment industry; degrees, a background in sales, HR experience or qualifications… but these are NOT required to start your career. Almost all our recruitment clients have identified that their top performers have a certain set of attributes that have made them successful. And guess what? Athletes possess them all.


No-one knows hard work better than athletes. To reach the very top of your game in any sport requires pure graft and hard work. Early morning sessions, weekend games, fitness testing, thousands of repetitions and huge sacrifices are just a few of the things you experience. The key here is that recruitment is no different. If you are willing to work hard – harder than your colleagues and your competitors – and this kind of attitude is second nature to you, you will be successful.


Recruitment is a meritocratic environment, where success is heavily rewarded. If you enjoy the thrill of competition, love the buzz of winning, and being second simply spurs you on to hit that number one spot, this is the career for you! And let’s be honest, when was the last time you met a non-competitive, successful athlete...?

Drive and ambition

Recruitment isn’t easy. Just like playing sport to a high level, if it were easy, everybody would be doing it. You’ve got to really want it to succeed. Recruitment has the ability to genuinely change lives; people earn £300,000+ annually, relocate internationally, start their own recruitment businesses and work remotely from beaches all over the world. But you’ve got to be someone who focuses on a goal or outcome and does what it takes to make it happen. Athlete 101.


Recruitment is a numbers game, and you’ve got to be willing to go again, and again, and again to get the results. Sound familiar? Athletes are renowned for being resilient and not giving in when times are hard, but rather they dig deep and keep going until they get the results they want. How many times have you been dropped, lost a game, came last in a race, lost by 0.3 of a second? And how many times have you let it stop you? If you transfer that same level of resilience into recruitment, you will watch your career rocket.

There are a whole host of reasons athletes make the move into recruitment. Having asked the athletes I’ve placed, the six most common reasons are as follows:

  1. Opportunity to build a successful, long term, and stable career
  2. Uncapped earning potential
  3. Surrounded by competitive, driven, likeminded people
  4. Sociable work environment
  5. Perks - Company holidays, incentives, lunch clubs, sports days and much more
  6. Enjoyable work place

Athletes are incredible. They dedicate their life to achieving their goals within their sport and then so often end up feeling lost when they retire. To find a career that matches the thrill of competing as an athlete can seem like an uphill struggle and in many cases, it might be.

However, recruitment consultancy is a career that breaks the mould.

Just like a life in sport, recruitment demands the best in order to be the best. Through hard work, drive, resilience and that competitive edge, a career in recruitment can provide countless benefits. What’s more, the writing’s on the wall; athletes are typically some of the most successful recruiters in the business and in my opinion, you’d be hard-pressed to find a career path more suited.

All About Franchising
By Grace King


Do you know what a franchise is? It’s an industry that has grown 46% in the last ten years and can offer a speedy and flexible route to a viable business. Many top high street names are run as franchises – McDonald’s, Costa, Spar and Anytime Fitness are just a few. An incredible 97% of franchisees run in profit and over half declare an average turnover that exceeds £250,000. There are many franchise industries, so it will be easy to find one that suits you. They can range from pet sitting to organic veg delivery, cash converters to cleaners, and swim schools to restaurants.

The MR. Barbers franchise knows all about the value an athlete can bring to a business. Amongst their franchisees are two former footballers who now own five successful shops between them.

Michael Morrison (ex-Leicester City and Charlton Athletic) and Darren Ambrose (ex-Newcastle United and Crystal Palace) both became involved with the MR. Barbers franchise while they were still playing, knowing that life as a professional footballer wouldn’t last forever.

Impressed with MR. Barbers co-founders Karl Foster and Sam Prior’s flexibility and clear business model, they chose a great time to join the men’s grooming industry. Hair salons, barber shops and beauty salons generated over £8.5 billion for the UK economy two years ago and the industry continues to flourish.

Male hair grooming is now one of the fastest-growing retail sectors. In London alone, the net increase in barber shops between 2013 and 2018 rose by 31%. As the industry continues to boom, so does MR. Barbers.

Karl and Sam have worked together for over 25 years. Starting as Saturday boys and “sweeper uppers”, they have literally taken on every role in a barber shop at some point! After years of learning the trade, entering competitions and building a strong client base, the pair opened their second shop in 2000. Hard work and determination saw this shop flourish and gradually, their shop count rose to three.

In 2014, having experienced the highs and the lows of being barbers, they decided to launch the ‘MR.’ brand. They rebranded their then four shops to ‘MR.’ and a new chapter began. Their own experiences in the industry led them to create a business that was all about the barbers. Family is extremely important to the brand and the aim was to bring that into the work place, wanting all their barbers to feel part of something bigger. They have always kept things simple and lived by one formula: “Happy Barbers + Happy Clients = Happy Barber Shop”.

Now with 28 shops and over 25 years of experience, the MR. business has a proven model that works. With experience in opening, owning and running barber shops, the business model has been extremely fine-tuned; the mistakes have already been made and learned from.


Opening a MR. Barbers franchise has never been easier. With so much experience at hand to support you in finding the right premises, recruiting the right barbers and marketing in a cost-effective way, we can set you up for success from the word go. From day one, we provide full training on how to run your barber shop before your doors are even open. The training covers a variety of topics: Managing staff, how to use operating systems, finances, accounting, recruiting, marketing, social media, customer service and upselling.

By the time you’re ready to open your shop, you’ll feel totally prepared and confident. You will also have the security of knowing that there is a huge network of people behind you to support you and your business. Often, new shop owners feel isolated and alone with no one to turn to, but with MR., we have you covered.


As the MR. brand continues to grow they have launched their MR. Education Academy in Cambridge. In partnership with West Suffolk College, they deliver widely recognised qualifications and teach apprentices, full-time college students and anyone who shares the same ambition and drive as them. They help them learn and push the boundaries of one of the fastest growing, most exciting industries out there.

Like our shops, the MR. Academy is for everyone, whether you’re a complete novice or a veteran. We have courses that will help you grow as a barber, as an artist and as a person. All MR. Academy courses are designed and run by our in-house education team, which is made up of internationally experienced, practising barbers, and each course is designed to give as much real-life, hands-on training as possible.

If you would like to find out more about training to be a barber or taking the first steps to owning your own franchise, please get in touch with Grace King, Marketing and Education Coordinator at MR. Barbers, for further information. Contact

Also, look out for MR. Barbers at our 2020 Athlete Futures event.

Funding Partners
  • DCMS
  • TNL partners
Official Partners
  • BAES logo
  • BUPA
  • IHG logo
Strategic Partners
  • British Olympic Association
  • Paralympics GB
  • Sport England
  • Sport Northern Ireland
  • Sport Wales
  • Sport Scotland