Maths grads quit jobs to launch pole dance start-up, Pole Junkie

Kirsten Fairlie and Heather Laughland launched Pole Junkie in January 2015, giving up their day jobs to follow their passion.

Scottish mathematicians turned entrepreneurs, Kirsten Fairlie and Heather Laughland quit their promising careers to turn their passion for pole dancing into the world’s top polewear resale website. Now their business, Pole Junkie, has won the Business of the Year award at a major industry event.

Pole World Festival, which recently took place at the UWE Exhibition and Conference Centre in Bristol, is the biggest UK event of its kind. Individuals and businesses are recognised for their contribution to the pole dance and fitness community in a range of categories, and Pole Junkie beat a shortlist of six other companies to take home the Business of the Year award. The accolade is a culmination of almost three years of growth for the Glasgow-based business.

Fairlie and Laughland launched Pole Junkie in January 2015. The idea was born over coffee when the pair vented their frustration with the high shipping costs, customs charges and delivery times associated with buying from their favourite polewear brands overseas.

Spotting the opportunity to bring polewear to the UK market, the duo started Pole Junkie, putting in an investment of £20,000. The majority of the investment was spent on large orders of their favourite brand, US-based Bad Kitty. They started the business expecting to sell mostly to their friends within Glasgow’s thriving pole community. From Fairlie’s spare room to now, the business has grown to hit a turnover of £235,000, an increase of 1,075 per cent on the entrepreneurs’ initial investment.

After this early success, Fairlie and Laughland left their full time jobs to focus on turning Pole Junkie into a global business. The business is now the world’s leading reseller of polewear, offering a huge range of active and performance clothing from international brands, importing from countries including the US, Greece, Australia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

Since launching, the entrepreneurs have acquired over 11,500 customers and delivered more than 23,000 orders. In the last six months, 55 per cent of sales have been to outside of the UK with Pole Junkies top five export areas being Germany, the US, Switzerland, Sweden and Italy.

During 2016, the business went through a major rebrand and the girls acquired an office and warehouse at Charing Cross to store and distribute their growing stock. Exactly 12 months later, they expanded further, doubling the size of the warehouse and hiring a full-time employee.

This year they have also been involved with design, collaborating with Greek brand RAD and Bad Kitty to create exclusive Pole Junkie collections. In the future, they plan to create their own line and are always on the lookout to work with emerging designers.

To see just how much Pole Junkie has grown over the last three years is overwhelming. Glasgow is a hotspot for pole fitness with around 13 studios running classes, so we were sure people would like the concept of popular polewear brands being more accessible and affordable to them,” says Fairlie. “We had no idea, however, that Pole Junkie would be so successful outside of Scotland, to the point where we were able to quit our day jobs to focus fully on its success.”

Its taken Heather and I to a lot of exciting places – weve just returned from connecting with our suppliers at Pole Expo in Las Vegas, the biggest conference in the entire industry. Weve also been lucky enough to work with some of the biggest names in the pole world.

Looking back to the beginnings of their friendship, Laughland says the duo met at an actuarial careers fair while studying maths at university. Our route to reaching this point has been an unusual one,” she says. “We both initially followed a career path in the finance industry but found ‘normal’ jobs not for us. We recognised there was a gap in the market to sell polewear with fast delivery times and easy availability. Other than that, we just had to trust our passion for pole and take a leap of faith!

Pole dancing is a fantastic hobby thats good for the mind and body, helping people develop confidence while boosting physical strength – I would encourage anyone to give it a try. The pole community is such a supportive group of people, both locally and internationally and we are very proud to be part of it.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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