Tamara Hill-Norton and her husband Simon, the founders of Sweaty Betty, started the business in 1998. Pictured: Tamara won Entrepreneur of the Year in 2001
Tamara Hill-Norton – the real-life Sweaty Betty – had been made redundant when she had a thought – ‘women’s sportswear doesn’t serve women’. She had seen a gap in the market.
Sportswear, typically, had previously been designed for men and then sized down and recoloured for women – ‘pink it and shrink’ as it was known to those in the industry at the time.
But what if there was a brand that made women’s sportswear, specifically for women?
The concept of Sweaty Betty was born. After six months of pulling together a business plan and raising money, Tamara launched her first store in Notting Hill in 1998.
She had always been an entrepreneur at heart and, as a kid travelling around the world with her father in the Navy, she dreamed of running her own business.
‘Even as a kid, I was just like, “I don’t want to work for anyone else, I know what I want to do, I want to run my own business!” I always had that streak in me,’ she said in a background piece on the Sweaty Betty website.
After finishing university she launched into a fashion career, originally as a buying assistant with a start-up firm called Knickerbox.
It was there she noticed the gap in the market that would become the inspiration behind her soon-to-be multi-million-pound businesses.
But it would take a redundancy for her to have the time to develop the idea into a solid plan, with the support of her management consultant husband and business co-founder Simon.
After launching the first store in 1998, their business quickly grew and in 2001 it was named the Sports Industries Federation ‘sports retailer of the year’.
After launching the first store in Notting Hill in 1998, their business quickly grew and in 2001 it was named the Sports Industries Federation ‘sports retailer of the year’
By 2003 the brand had expanded to five boutiques. And three years later the company was opening a concession in upmarket Selfridges and later in Harrods.
The firm continued to boom, despite the arrival of big-name rivals, and by 2016 the company had more than 40 boutiques around the UK, six in the US, four concessions in major department stores and a successful UK and US online store.
It has since branched out into Asia, with 60 stores in total across world and concessions in 99 Nordstrom stores in the US.
And the brand has built a loyal army of fans, including A-Listers such as Hollywood actress Reese Witherspoon and UK names including the Duchess of Cambridge’s sister, Pippa Middleton, both of whom have been spotted in Sweaty Betty gear.
The business wasn’t the only thing growing either. Back at home, in the leafy west London suburb of Acton, where the couple own a million-pound semi-detached townhouse, Tamara and Simon’s family was expanding too.
Tamara and Simon have three children, including eldest Daisy, 21, who is running her own fashion business using reworked denim
The couple now have three children, including eldest Daisy, 21, who is running her own fashion business using reworked denim.
Daisy regularly posts snaps in sun-soaked locations around the world and has even posed in Sweaty Betty items with her friends.
She also shares surfing pictures in West Wittering in West Sussex, where the family have a £1million weekend home.
Tamara told the Telegraph in 2017: ‘At the weekend we get away to our house in West Wittering as much as possible.
‘We live a very active lifestyle, so we’ll often do water-sports or go for a run down the beach.
‘I then like to relax at home with food from my husband’s amazing vegetable garden and a home-made Negroni.’
Their other children are Honor, 18, who is an art student, studying in Brighton, and their youngest is, Luke, 14.
According to a profile on the company’s website, Tamara’s favourite exercise is to run down the Thames from Acton to Hammersmith Bridge.
She also cycles half-an-hour from her home to the company’s office in Putney three days a week and regularly takes part in group runs with her staff.