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Couple started multi-million pound company from their garage

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It started in a garage in a quiet part of Gower and is now one of the fast-growing companies in the country with a multi-million pound turnover.

And like many successful ideas, it was also a simple one.

More than 10 years ago, when Karen Hewitt’s two young children started growing out of their clothes, she began selling them online.

She and husband Stephen soon noticed those featuring characters sold particularly well, which led them to start their own company – from the garage of their home in Three Crosses.

It has now evolved into a business whose sales hit £27.8million last year, having grown 62% over the previous 12 months – and seen them named one of the top 100 in the UK for fastest-growing sales.

Character.com now has licenses for more than 130 different brands, with a product range featuring the likes of Captain America lounge trousers to Star Wars Stormtrooper backpacks.



The couple started their multi-million pound company from the garage of their Gower home

Stephen said: “We had tried three or four things when Karen started selling the clothing on ebay.

“The character clothing sold very well, which led us to starting a company called Rascal Rags.

“We had some other projects on the go, which didn’t really happen for us, but this one gained traction early on.

“The big change came then when we changed from Rascal Rags to Character.com.

“It enabled us to negotiate products on license from the likes of Disney and Warner Brothers”.

After founding the business in 2009, the company now imports its manufacturing from countries including India, Turkey and China, and now has over 50 staff.

But like everyone else, the global coronavirus pandemic has had an impact.

“Covid has meant some challenges, and some rewards,” said Stephen.

“We have been limited in getting products in, and we have had to double our warehouse space to make it Covid secure for staff to work in, so they can have two metre space between them, and have had to have minimum staffing levels.

“But we have had growth this year also. We had enough headwind to balance our orders, and people buy our products online.

“We have not really been harmed by it.

“I think the real secret is we have a really basic philosophy; we have really good products, at a really good price. We get good customer feedback.”



Inside Character.com's warehouse

Inside Character.com’s warehouse

The couple divide their expertise with Karen responsible for buying and licensing, while Stephen takes responsibility for marketing and other aspects of the business.

“A lot of people have found they have had to work from home during the pandemic, but it wasn’t really a change for us” he said.

“We get on really well, as partners, and as husband and wife.

“If we have any disagreements we try not to take them home with us”.

This weekend, Character.com features in the 24th annual Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 league table, which ranks Britain’s private companies with the fastest-growing sales.

Stephen said: “It’s nice because it is not subjective. It is about sales growth over the long term, and this is the fourth consecutive year we have featured on it”.

The only other company in Wales to feature on the list this year is Hilltop Honey, based in Powys, which has grown sales 79% a year to £11.7m in the year to August, helped by consumers stocking up when the pandemic first struck.

It was founded by Scott Davies, 32, in 2011, who sources honey from around the world, with flavours including ‘Brazilian mountain’ and ‘Spanish lavender’.

The companies in Wales appear with businesses from around Britain, including BrewDog and fitness clothing brand Gymshark, both valued at more than £1bn.

Lohit Soundarajan

Founder , Editor Tech Guy #Voxguy

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