Aberdeen start-up wraps up deal with top flight football club

Collette Norval and Duncan Skinner
Collette Norval and Duncan Skinner

An Aberdeen clothing start-up, backed by social entrepreneur Duncan Skinner, has signed a licensing deal with Celtic FC and added BrewDog UK and The Royal Bank of Scotland Kiltwalk to its growing client list.

Launched last year by Collette Norval, after the 27-year-old lost her job amidst Aberdeen’s oil and gas downturn, SQUAD manufactures bespoke, multifunctional snoods embossed with a client’s logo from its base in Greenbank Road.

The enterprise, which has been helped by Business Gateway Aberdeen City & Shire, will donate 100% of its profits to charity via The Skinner Charitable Trust.

Already SQUAD holds licensing deals with the Scottish Football Association and Scotland Rugby and produces snoods for seven out of the 12 Scottish Premiership Football Clubs, as well as Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors.

Collette said: “Having Duncan, a highly regarded businessman and Director of Aberdeen FC, as our chairman has undoubtedly opened a lot of doors for us, particularly with Scotland’s top football teams, and the help our Business Gateway adviser has given regarding marketing and sales has been extremely valuable. Taking part in an IP audit organised by our adviser before we launched meant we avoided making a big mistake right at the start. He then offered us a unique opportunity to take a stand at Granite Expo 2016 which helped generate a lot of interest in what we were doing and a number of leads. Over the next year, we aim to build relationships with more clubs in Scotland and target those in the English Premiership and Championship. We’re also keen to explore opportunities with large scale organised events such as charity walks and runs, marathons, and obstacle races.”

Gordon Mackay, Business Gateway, added: “Collette and her team have worked hard to cement relationships with some of the country’s top sports teams and are now reaping the rewards. Having benefited from our start-up workshops and Expert Help programme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, SQUAD has valued our support which has helped them overcome challenges and given them added confidence.”

Collette said: “Securing the deal with Celtic has the potential to raise our profile on a global scale while the BrewDog and The Kiltwalk orders highlight our products appeal to commercial businesses and charities. Because no product run is too small and our snoods are bespoke, we appeal to corporates, sports teams of all sizes, individuals, charity events, and we’ve even had an order for a dog SQUAD scarf!”

A keen hillwalker, Skinner first came up with the idea for SQUADs in 2015. Having met Collette while she was on secondment to Glencraft, the social enterprise he saved from closure, the former oil and gas executive asked her to undertake a feasibility study after she was made redundant from Wood Group PSN’s commercial graduate programme.

Realising the idea had great potential, Collette secured a business loan from The Skinner Charitable Trust to set up the business and moved into SQUAD HQ in March last year. Visiting all of Scotland’s professional football teams with Skinner led to the business’ first order from Aberdeen FC whose SQUAD scarves, which are made from breathable, wickable, 100% antibacterial-treated polyester, were shipped last June.

Collette said: “Duncan’s ambition was to create a business that would become a sustainable source of charitable giving, generating money that could then be invested in good causes. That was very appealing to me. Being on secondment at Glencraft had given me a passion for social enterprise so, when Duncan approached me with his idea it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down! We want to run SQUAD with the same basic principles as any other business – the only difference is that we give 100% of our profit to charity.”