How three friends turned their passion for running into a fast-growing business.
Four years ago, Rob Martineau, Tom Stancliffe and Guy Hacking ran the Marathon des Sables, the world’s toughest foot race. The equivalent of six marathons in seven days across the southern Moroccan expanse of the Sahara Desert, the race had been the dream of the three friends, for whom running was a passionate pastime.
“But we got to the end,” says Martineau, “having loved every moment of the adventure, and thought, ‘What next?’” They hatched a plan for a 1,000-mile race, to be run in a month, for a cause they believed in. They settled on Love 146, a charity fighting child-trafficking in Europe. Their race, Run For Love, would take place in some of the countries with high rates of child-trafficking – Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria – and take in nine countries overall.
“We wanted to weave our story in with the stories of the people on the ground doing something about this problem,” says Martineau. Money and awareness was duly raised, but Martineau, Stancliffe and Hacking began a project of their own, almost by accident.
“What brought the project to life for us unexpectedly,” Martineau says, “was that we published the run schedule online and said to people they could run with us for 10 miles or 1,000. It was an open-source running project, and we ended up having several hundred runners coming out at various stages. On the last day we put a half-marathon on and got 250 people. It was a real Forrest Gump crew of runners.
We’ve made mistakes, but when we’ve stuck to our guns, we’ve come out with the right result
“Having built a community,” Martineau continues, “and felt how amazing it was to be part of a group of people like that, we wanted to take that forward in a more sustainable way.” The three friends founded Tribe, a natural sports nutrition brand and running community. (Unhappy with the refined sports nutrition products that dominate the market, they had run the Marathon des Sables only with wholefood-based nutrition.)
“It took a while to build the idea, get the confidence to launch it,” says Martineau. “We all gave up good jobs [Martineau trained as a lawyer and worked in the City and corporate intelligence in Africa]. That was a big step, but we believed passionately in the idea and what also appealed to us was a challenging lifestyle and doing what we love.”
The first Tribe run was in July 2015, and since then 5,000 people have attended running events, with many more having signed up to the online community. Thousands of their runners receive Tribe Packs, deliveries of their natural sports nutrition. “It’s a huge learning curve and we’ve made mistakes,” Martineau admits. “But on the big picture stuff, when we’ve stuck to our guns, we’ve come out with the right result. Growing as fast as we have creates big pressures operationally, but it’s all part of the experience. This last six months has been the most challenging in my life, but I love it. It’s growing fast, and there is a lot of growing to do, but it’s an exciting journey.”
Rob Martineau is co-founder of Tribe: wearetribe.co