WHAT STARTED as a skateboard business operating out of the basement of a record store has grown to a brand which is now spreading the Yorkshire name around the world.
Don’t Mess With Yorkshire started as a slogan that the owners of skateboard retailer Welcome printed on a limited run of t-shirts that it sold from its shop underneath Crash Records in Leeds.
Such was the strength of the message and design that the slogan would become a brand in its own right, eventually becoming a separate company.
In recent years, Don’t Mess With Yorkshire has collaborated with a number of the region’s other self-identifying brands, most notably Welcome to Yorkshire.
It has also worked with fast-growing brewery Northern Monk to produce its own beer and seen its message, most notably printed on clothing, spread across the globe by proud expats or simply those wishing to express respect for the White Rose County.
It is the brainchild of three friends, Sam Barratt, Ash Kollakowski and Tom Brown, united by a love of skateboarding, great design and the region they lived in.
Mr Barratt told The Yorkshire Post that while the trio’s initial focus was on skateboards they moved into clothing almost immediately.
“It was something we did as soon as we opened.
“It was really easy for us to do it all in-house rather than turning it over to somebody else.”
After two years the firm outgrew their basement store and relocated to the prestigious upmarket Thornton Arcade.
Mr Kollakowski said: “I remember when I moved to Leeds and Thornton’s was like the coolest place in the world.
“It always had rarities. It always had a great vibe, it had that Victorian feel. And it was all independent stores.
“It has got a great circle of people that go in there to specifically support independent businesses.”
Now ensconced in a haven for creative and independent businesses they felt at home.
Mr Barratt said: “We continued to do our own Welcome brand.
“But every time we would do a Don’t Mess With Yorkshire t-shirt it would sell out.”
Soon another big name organisation with Yorkshire in the title came knocking.
“We did a collaboration with Welcome to Yorkshire. They approached us.
“They were just into us and wanted to do something together. We did a range that was basically our logo with their yellow ‘Y’.
“At the same time as that was starting there were a few shops that had been approaching us for ages.”
Eventually, it became so big that they decided to give it its own platform.
Speaking to the trio it is clear they are different to most entrepreneurs in that they are more motivated by the work they do than the results it brings.
The proceeds it generates seems almost incidental and none of the three have titles within the company as they believe it would not be “in the spirit of the brand”.
Mr Barratt said: “There was never a plan until last year, even now it is a very loose plan. We have built a different website, it is now a separate company, all that boring legal stuff.”
Mr Barratt said: “We get a lot of ‘I live in London now but I want to represent’, or ‘I have got a friend who has moved to Paris and wants to show off where he’s from’.”
“We would like to do something that is a bit more visible to Joe Public.
“It is pretty easy to push stuff out through social media but you do end up closeted within this little bubble.
“It would be nice to break out of that and see where we can take it.”