What is the founder(s) background?
Dave has spent most of his career working in digital marketing across branding, content SEO & social with brands and clubs like Maximuscle (as it was known at the time), Man Utd & Sale Sharks. Making his way through various agencies across Manchester, including spending some time in-house with the founder of MyProtein working on a number of new ventures.
Rob has a background in sponsorship activation, having spent 3 & a half years at Bristol Sport where he worked with Bristol City, Bears & Flyers, liaising with commercial partners & organising events. Prior to that he spent time with Macclesfield Town, Rugby Canada & FIFA ticketing organisation Byrom.
With over 25 years+ of general management, operational, sales and marketing experience Mark has held senior positions with a number of household brands, & most recently joined a wealth management firm as a co-owner, helping lead it to a buyout by Irwin Mitchell.
What key milestones have you achieved so far?
The headlines at this stage would be that we are now working with over 800 rugby clubs around the world, in addition to forming working relationships with the games governing bodies including the RFU, WRU, SRU, Premiership Rugby & MLR.
Some of the more personal milestones though include someone getting a tattoo of the LooseHeadz logo on their wrist (which has subsequently been followed up by several more over the years), Rob & Dave going full time with LooseHeadz in 2022 & the regular messages we get from people telling us how seeing what LooseHeadz is doing has helped them overcome their own mental health struggles.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Quite simply just keeping the lights on. This started out as a plan to help a few mates in our local rugby club, & has grown into a global movement supported by thousands of people.
Unfortunately as a relatively small ‘start-up’ charity, funding opportunities can be quite limited, & so ensuring that we have been able to keep doing this over the last six years has been the biggest hurdle to overcome.
As we continue to grow, & reach even more rugby clubs, our ambitions only get bigger which means that we have to work even harder to find the funding to help make these dreams a reality, as this is quite simply the most important thing any of us will do.
What lessons have you learnt so far?
We’ve made more wrong turns than I think we could ever count, but every time we have learnt something new, & definitely never made the same mistake twice.
From some rather sketchy first runs of our clothing that still sit shamefully in lofts & garages, through to trying to organise events with less than 24 hours notice, the key lesson has been simply to never panic & react in the moment. Sometimes just taking a beat can make a world of difference & suddenly even the most insurmountable challenge can be overcome.
The reality is that this is something none of us have ever done before, so everyday is a school day. It’s therefore been incredibly important to keep an open mind, & not be afraid to seek help & support when we need it - or in other words, listen to those who know better.
Seeing a fairly significant sponsorship agreement fall through at the final hurdle was a tough one to take, especially as it was totally out of our hands. Everything looked set to go, there was a really great project lined up that made total sense, but unfortunately the actions of a third party resulted in things falling through & set us back several months.
Having someone run up to us at an event we attended to tell us “you guys saved my life” was a moment that we’ll simply never forget. At the end of the day, this is why we started LooseHeadz, & to have that confirmation that what we are doing is making an impact is the reason why we’ll never stop.
Ambition? Our mission is pretty simple - to place a mental health lead at every rugby club around the world. Will we ever reach it? Possibly not, but we’ll do everything possible to make this a reality to ensure we are supporting the mental health of as many players, fans & coaches as we possibly can.
Dave Nicoll is co-founder of LooseHeadz