Personal tragedy drove an Uddingston entrepreneur to launch a business that aims to equip and inspire others to overcome mental and physical health challenges.
Tony O’Neill set up Animalia Apparel following the death of his father, Jamie, who passed away after suffering a heart attack aged just 53.
The business, which Tony initially ran in his spare time, designs and produces a wide range of sporting and fitness wear.
Two years ago, after completing his degree in sport and active lifestyle promotion at Glasgow Caledonian University, and following a period working with Royston Youth Action as a sport development worker, he decided to focus on the brand full-time.
Now, the 32-year-old has been accepted onto Business Gateway Lanarkshire’s SMART Accelerator programme, which aims to help businesses based across the county to scale their enterprises quickly by providing a unique blend of tailored support.
Tony said: “I turned to Business Gateway when I knew I wanted to set up on my own. I started out launching a fitness boot camp business while working with youngsters.
“The kids’ feedback actually helped me develop Animalia into what it is today and the strapline we use - ‘unleash the animal’ – is a phrase that helped me pull myself out of the dark days of my grief.
“Right from the start, getting advice from my Business Gateway adviser and going to its free workshops helped me understand how to run a business, and the support gave me belief in what I was doing.
“I’ve now just started the SMART Accelerator programme and already I’ve learnt so much and have a clearer understanding of what direction I want to take the business in. The programme is really is going to help me ensure Animalia is sustainable long-term.”
Using his knowledge of sport and his own experiences, Tony has secured a range of professional athletes as brand ambassadors including WBC youth silver super-welterweight champion boxer Michael McGurk, World champion kickboxer Jamie McGowan and Commonwealth gold medallist judoka Kimberley Renicks.
As well as designing sports and fitness wear, the company has a strong community focus and is currently working with Police Scotland, the Wheatley Foundation, and Glasgow Housing Association on a youth development project.
Aimed at children aged 10 to 18-years-of-age from Govan, the project, looks to channel participants energy into something positive; providing guidance, inspiration and role models in a bid to reduce youth crime.
Tony said: “The project allows us to support kids as they start their journey into a healthier and more positive lifestyle.
The five-week pilot was a great success and now we are looking to develop the programme further by using our brand ambassadors and our own personal experiences to help the kids see that they do have choices and that they have the ability to make positive lifestyle changes.
Animalia means a group of living things and my business aims to help groups of people look forward and become the best they can be.”
For more information visit www.animaliaapparel.co.uk.
Find out how Business Gateway Lanarkshire can help you by visiting www.bgateway.com/lanarkshire or call 01236 884825.