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Responsible outdoor brand Passenger joins forces with Richard Harpin’s Growth Partner and Steve Hewitt, former Gymshark CEO, to drive international expansion.

The consumer-specialist investment firm, Growth Partner, which is backed by HomeServe plc Founder and Chairman Richard Harpin, has invested £15 million to acquire a minority stake in Passenger. Steve Hewitt, former CEO of Gymshark invests alongside Growth Partner and joins Passenger as Chairman, as it continues its journey to becoming a leading global outdoor brand.

Passenger, one of the UK’s fastest growing consumer businesses, is a responsible outdoor clothing brand founded by Richard and Alexa Sutcliffe in 2012. Whilst travelling the remote wilderness of British Columbia, they found their purpose and defined their mission, to Inspire Meaningful Escapism.

Escapism, a constant desire to get off grid, to wander, to travel, to connect with people and nature. These elements have been at the heart of Passenger from the beginning. Many look to escape, whether it’s the 9 to 5, cold winters or escaping our daily routines, even if it's just for a short while or a weekend adventure.

Today Passenger is a brand rooted in nature, connection and wellbeing. For every order they plant a tree and over 90% of the product range is made with lower impact materials like recycled cotton, recycled polyester, hemp and organic cotton. To date, Passenger has planted over 500,000 native trees and protected 28,000,000 sqm of rainforest through their charity partners, The Rainforest Trust and Trees For The Future.

Richard and Alexa were joined by founder of Surfdome, Justin Stone as Executive Chairman and Jon Lane as CEO in 2019 and has since experienced exceptional growth. In 2022, Passenger was #2 on the UK’s Growth 100 list, with a 345% revenue CAGR over 2 years. In the last 12 months, Passenger has scaled to over £33m in sales, selling over 700,000 items. 25% of the business is now outside the UK, with 40 staff based in their New Forest HQ and a further 25 staff in their Yorkshire based distribution centre.

Richard Harpin, Steve Hewitt and Growth Partner have extensive hands-on experience building successful, customer-led businesses in the UK and internationally. Their wealth of knowledge, combined with shared values for Passenger’s commitment to wellbeing and the environment, makes for a great partnership.

Rich Sutcliffe, visiting recycled and organic cotton supplier in Morocco, April 2023. Passenger T-Shirts, Hoodies and Sweatshirts are made with a 50% Recycled and 50% Organic cotton blend. Passenger garment dyes its cottons to further reduce water usage.
About Richard Harpin

Richard Harpin is one of the UK's most successful entrepreneurs, founding and leading as CEO of HomeServe for over 30 years to become a FTSE 100 company, and recently selling it for £4.1bn. Richard is passionate about business, entrepreneurship and giving back. He believes in mentoring and sharing his experiences with others growing their businesses. He formed his investment firm, Growth Partner, in 2017 to put his own money into backing great entrepreneurs with exciting, proven, and profitable businesses.

Justin, Jon, Richard and the wider Passenger team have successfully created an agile, exceptional growth, purpose driven brand that truly connects with its customers. I’m excited to share my experience and support the outstanding leadership team as Passenger expands into new markets”.

Richard Harpin, Growth Partner

About Steve Hewitt

Steve Hewitt joined direct-to-consumer fitness brand Gymshark in June 2014 as an external advisor, before becoming CEO the following year and overseeing the company's growth from £4M to £400M turnover in his 6 years in role. Under Steve’s leadership, Gymshark went from being a start-up to a global brand with customers in more than 178 countries. In August 2020 Gymshark was valued at over £1bn and joined the exclusive list of British companies to achieve “unicorn” status.

Steve recently founded the Whanau Advisory to work alongside entrepreneurs and senior leadership teams to scale SME organisations with international aspirations. Whanau donates a percentage of profits to charity partners, exclusively focused around young people. 

“Passenger has been ahead of the curve with ESG and at the forefront of promoting a responsible business position with its international customer base. The consumer's desire to reconnect with the outdoors and find moments of escapism couldn’t be more relevant today and I’m very excited to be a part of it, working alongside Richard, Justin, Jon and the wider team at Passenger. There’s a significant opportunity to reinforce the core UK business and continue to scale the brand in key international markets.”

Steve Hewitt, Chairman, Passenger

Steve Hewitt, former Gymshark CEO, now Passenger chairman in the New Forest, close to Passenger head office May 2023
Future

Passenger is bucking retail trends, achieving sustained triple digit growth year on year since 2019 while being profitable and continuously increasing its investment into ESG initiatives. Runner-up in the 2022 FEBE Growth 100 awards, Passenger is now on track to achieve £50m in sales this year. 

“At Passenger we’re delighted to be partnering with Richard and Steve, two outstanding business leaders. As we head into the next stage of our journey we’ll continue to reinforce our vision and values around being a truly responsible business.”

Jon Lane, CEO

About Passenger

Passenger is a responsible outdoor clothing brand founded by Richard and Alexa Sutcliffe in 2012. Whilst travelling the remote wilderness of British Columbia, they found their purpose and defined their mission, to Inspire Meaningful Escapism. Headquartered in the New Forest, UK, Passengers' product blends style, quality and sustainability at an attainable price point. This enables more people to spend time outdoors following their passions, recharging and connecting with nature.

  • Founded in 2012
  • For every order they plant a tree
  • Passenger has planted over 500,000 native trees
  • Over 90% of the product range is made with lower impact materials like recycled cotton, recycled polyester, hemp and organic cotton
  • Patrons of The Rainforest Trust
  • Passenger has protected 28,000,000 sqm of rainforest
  • Charity partners, The Rainforest Trust and Trees For The Future
About Growth Partner

Based in Yorkshire with offices in Newcastle and Manchester, Growth Partner invests in founder-led consumer-focused businesses. It is backed by Richard Harpin, founder and Chairman of HomeServe, the former FTSE 100 home services business which was taken private in a transaction valued at £4.1bn this year. Growth Partner has backed several high-profile entrepreneurs and businesses to help them achieve step change growth in their business. This includes award-winning entrepreneur and BBC’s Dragon’s Den star Sara Davies, founder of North East based business Crafters’ Companion.