Tuesday 27 June 2017

Bondings: Thinking outside the box (ers)

After working with his father for years, Rob Galvin has started his own business selling menswear staples online, writes Andrea Smith

Rob Galvin and his father Michael, who runs the family business Galvin for Men. Photo: David Conachy
Rob Galvin and his father Michael, who runs the family business Galvin for Men. Photo: David Conachy
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

The only complaint Rob Galvin has about his dad Michael is that he walks "ridiculously fast." "I have to jog when I'm walking with him," he groans. "Aside from that, he has a great personality and sense of humour, and he's very genuine."

Having worked with his father for years in the popular family business, Galvin for Men in Mullingar, Rob had plenty of experience of trying to keep up with the genial Michael. They worked together until last year, when, much to his dad's disappointment, Rob left to start his own business, Stor.

"I was very sorry as he was great to work with and very hard-working and focused," says Michael. "We can both be strong-minded, but no one is perfect, and I like his positive attitude and good humour. He's a genuinely nice guy."

Michael's late parents, John and Della, opened the menswear store Galvin in Tullamore, and he was involved in the shop from a young age. He left school to join the business full time at 16, as his father was expanding. Looking back, he's happy that it was the right decision.

He met his wife Hilary at 17 and was 23 when they got married. She became very much part of the business too. "We were delighted to be blessed with four kids," he says. "Our eldest was Jill, now 36, and Rob, 35, came along within 12 months so it was almost like having twins. Peter is 31 and Emma is 25, and we moved to Mullingar to run the business my father bought there."

The original store in Tullamore is now owned by Michael's brother Paul and his sister Teresa is involved too. While the two stores run separately, they join forces on different things and have a close relationship.

Michael remembers Rob as a lovely child who was full of beans - he recalls getting phone calls from the bank in the town telling him that Rob and Jill were playing on the roof of the shop. "All my memories as a kid are around the shop," says Rob. "We used to live over it and myself and Jill were very close in age, and she spent an awful lot of time getting me into trouble. We were always in the town getting up to all sorts, and then we moved out to the country after that, which was great. Dad was pretty easy-going, because while he was strict if you were really bold, he was always good at putting things into perspective and wouldn't get stressed over something trivial."

Rob went to UCD to do a BComm, and worked part-time in the shop. He became involved in fashion buying quite young, and was a great help to his dad in buying for young people in particular. He did a bit of travelling and then went back to the business full time, and worked his way up to become buying director.

His brother Peter was also part of the business, before moving to the UK where he now works for menswear brand G-Star RAW. Rob always had a great interest in e-commerce and, having done some courses in digital marketing, he left Galvin last year to set up his own business.

"He was a great buyer and could pick a brand before it even took off," says Michael. "Emma is an architect and Jill works in HR, so I hope Rob and Peter will come back to the business some day because I'm 60 now and won't be around forever. We're a very close family, and we discuss business and brands, so, indirectly, I still feel like Rob is involved."

The two men go for a monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) pint to catch up, and play golf together. Rob likes that Michael keeps a calm perspective rather than getting stressed, something he has tried to emulate.

It was while Rob was attending the Springboard Plus course at UCD's Innovation Academy that Rob came up with the idea for his new company, Stor. He felt the course was excellent, giving him constructive guidance to help develop his emerging vision.

His previous experience told him that, while men need staple products such as boxers, socks and T-shirts all the time, they don't necessarily like to buy them, and this was where his idea for a subscription service came from. The subscriber receives a box of stylish staples made from sustainable, comfortable fabrics such as organic cotton and bamboo, on a monthly (€19.95) or quarterly (€39.95) basis.

There are also options to buy one-off boxes online. Having completed pilot testing, Rob realised that, while men sign up for themselves, women also sign up to have the boxes delivered as gifts. "The products are made from sustainable fabrics, as we saw great companies upcycling waste products like plastic bottles and fishing nets and turning them into fibres," he says. "I loved the idea of using things that were thrown to the side and making them into something amazing."

Rob is married to Emma, who works in marketing in Dublin, and he is also on a New Frontiers programme with Enterprise Ireland. He has just become a father -Emma gave birth to their son Luca on March 7. "I was nearly giving up hope that we would ever see a grandchild," says thrilled grand-dad Michael.

"Yes, so I'm just trying to get him used to the idea of babysitting now," says Rob, laughing.

See www.stor.supply for more on Rob Galvin's business, Stor. Visit www.innovators.ie for information on the Springboard Plus programme at the Innovation Centre, UCD

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