Case study

Fashion brand co-founder — Paul Forkan

Inspired by their unique upbringing and education, Paul and his brother set up the fashion brand Gandys London and have since opened several retail stores - determined to use their profits to open orphanages in memory of their parents

Tell us about your education

My parents took my siblings and I out of school at a young age to travel the world. We learnt on the beaches of India, and attended small schools there, as well as being educated by our parents. My brother and I are both dyslexic, which meant that we preferred this style of education, as it was more practical. After the tsunami we returned to the UK and attended college. Since we had such an exciting upbringing, we were more desperate than ever to get out and see the world, to further our education that way.

How did the idea of Gandys come about?

My brother, Rob, went to a festival, and woke up with a mouth 'as dry as Gandhi’s flip flops'. This sparked a thought in his head, as he wondered whether there had ever been a flip flop brand set up around this idea. I was living in Australia at the time, and my brother flew out to surprise me for my birthday. He pitched me the idea, and I flew back to London to start Gandys.

What's a typical day like for you?

I spend most of my days in the head office, overseeing the press and marketing team and the work that they're doing. I have a lot of meetings with journalists and magazines, whether that be for interviews or product features, which is something I really enjoy.

At the end of last year, we opened three permanent stores in London (Covent Garden, Camden and Richmond). I work closely with our operations manager who deals with recruitment, to make sure that we have some great staff working in-store. We want to make every store a warm and welcoming environment for everyone who wants to come in and be a part of our journey.

What do you enjoy about your job?

We use a percentage of our profits to open homes for underprivileged children across the world. We have opened two so far, in Sri Lanka and Malawi, and are now working on our third in Brazil. Knowing that we are making a difference to the lives of many children is rewarding, but there is definitely more work to be done.

What are the challenges?

As we were orphaned in the tsunami on Boxing Day 2004 during our travels of the world, Gandys has a huge place in our hearts, as we're opening the children's homes in memory of our parents. We have grown from it being just me and my brother working, to now employing nearly 50 people to help us. It can be difficult letting go and trusting that others can do a job that you would otherwise do yourself. Gandys is very close to my heart, and so it can be difficult to switch off at times.

In what ways was not having a degree difficult?

Before working at Gandys, my brother and I had a few jobs before. When we employ people now, we are not too concerned with their qualifications, but rather their energy and work ethic to see how well they will fit into the Gandys family.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

When we began Gandys, it was just me and Rob, selling flip flops from our bedroom. Everything has changed hugely since then. Although we're still a relatively small team, we now have a couple of people working across customer service, design, press and our wholesale accounts, as well as all our store staff we employ and train. It can be difficult overseeing all the teams, but my brother and I work together to make sure we're still having our input.

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