18 Jun 2014
I met the owner of Progress Jiu Jitsu, a new UK based fightwear brand, at the Chelmsford Open and we got on really well. I asked James Tighe if he would be kind enough to spare some time for an interview. Here it is:-
Q: Hi James, tell me about you, your BJJ background etc?
Hi Seymour, I'm 32, born and bred in Salford on the edge of Manchester. I love all sports and I own a hairdressing salon in cheshire as well as running the brand. I started training in September 2009 after seeing my friend tap another friend out who was at least 3 stone heavier than him. I couldn't believe what i'd seen and googled 'BJJ in manchester' the next day. I train at Stealth BJJ in Oldham, Manchester and I am a blue belt under 2nd degree black belt Steve Campbell and I absolutely love club. All the guys are really cool and the competition team is very strong. I also train Catch wrestling at MSW with Kameron Atakuru when I get chance.
Q: Tell me about your clothing brand, what was the thought process behind starting it up?
I fell in love with Jiu Jitsu pretty early on and decided I was going to do it forever. I thought if I can start some sort of business relating to the sport I might be able to quit my job one day and do it full time. At the time I was not enjoying my job and the phrase 'choose a job you love and you'll never have to work a day in your life' was resounding with me so I thought just go for it, life's too short. I also thought there was an opportunity for a more 'laid back' BJJ brand. At the time a lot of gi designs were quite aggressive and messy. I hated them and wanted to make something a bit easier on the eye. Today I work on the brand with my nephew Sam, who looks after graphic design and photography.
Q: Why the name?
The name took a loooong time to come up with. At the time it was me and my friend Graham form Roger Gracie's and we were on the phone and Skype to each other everyday for a month brainstorming ideas and it was getting us down. One day I think I just said 'what about Progress' It's a word that every Jiu Jitsu practitioner in the world can relate to and it is at the heart of the sport. It represents the brand perfectly. I'm really happy with it now but it caused a lot of sleepless nights!
Q: What kind of things do you have now and what are you planning for the near future that customers can hope to see?
We specialise in lightweight kimonos for sport jiu jitsu and competition. We have the full range of gear from rash guards, gis, shorts, T-shirts, and some cool accessories like Iphone cases. We are working hard on our next kimono. It will be called 'Be the change' and colour scheme will be navy blue and grey. Samples are awesome so should have it online in around 8 weeks all being well.
Another exciting product we are launching is our Progress 'home mat' we have just tied up a deal with a manufacturer to produce roll out mats for your home or garage. They are going to be around 6ft x 10ft and 4cm thick, so 1cm thicker and softer than the Zebra home mat. We are really excited about the mats, we have got a load at our offices and they are amazing! We haven't told anyone that yet so you've got the exclusive Seymour! haha.
We will continue to support Jiu Jitsu competitions around the UK. In July we are lucky enough to be sponsoring some very good competitions; the Surrey open, Grapple Nation 2 in Manchester and the next Subf15teen event in Middlesborough. In August we are sponsoring the 1st 08/20 invitational tournament in London with the best hand picked -80kg purple belts from around the UK.
You can also expect to see a lot more photography and videography from us over the next 6 months. We recently filmed the next instalments of our Progress 'introducing' series which are mini bios/highlights of our sponsored guys. It's something we love doing. So yeah, we have a got quite a bit going on haha.
Q: How easy or hard was the process of starting up for you?
To be honest it was generally not too bad. It's obviously takes a hell of a lot of hard work and dedication to grow a brand from scratch but I think loving the sport and the Jiu Jitsu Lifestyle has massively helped. The main stumbling blocks we faced has been overseas manufacturing. Its quite expensive and time consuming finding a high quality, reliable factory. We have probably changed manufacturers 6 times in 2 years. Luckily now we are working with 2 factories that have outstanding reputations and they produce incredible stuff for us. It also helped training at such a good gym. I could give my team mates gis to wear and they would generally go out and win major comps and superfights. That really helped put Progress on the map.
Q: How would you describe the brand style?
We are a genuine Brazilian Jiu Jitsu lifestyle brand. A lot of people claim to be a lifestyle brand but I think they just say it without really understanding it. To me a good lifestyle brand inspires and motivates it's customers. This is something we are always trying to do and improve on. We make cool clothing, products, films and photos about Jiu Jitsu. The kind of stuff I like to see from the brands I respect. If that helps us grow then thats brilliant. If it doesn't we won't be changing our brand values to chase sales, that's just the way it is.
Q: Any shout outs James?
I'd like to thank a few people for helping me with the brand so far? Steve Campbell and everyone at Stealth BJJ, All our sponsored athletes, everyone who has ever bought anything from us, Dan Lewis from Eatfilms, Graham Anderson from Roger Gracie Cesar Lima, Jake Cross from Grapple Nation, Marty and Sean from Subf15teen, Jack from 08/20, Sam Tighe (my Nephew) and Denis Tighe (my dad). Hope thats ok, there are loads more! Thanks a lot.
Progress Jiu Jitsu Website