A Co Armagh entrepreneur forced to drop out of school at 16 because of illness has launched his second company, a hip new streetwear clothing brand.
ight years after leaving school with no qualifications, Andrew Gamble runs a thriving online marketing and website firm but has devised fashion label, Hestia Clothing. Now the successful young tycoon is hoping to use his foray into fashion as a way to help unemployed teens into careers .
He says: “My personal mission is to help inspire young people within Ireland and the UK to get into entrepreneurship and start a business at a young age as I did.
“I believe the stigma around this idea is that you need to be degree educated, come from a business orientated family or ‘be lucky’ and this is something I want to address while building the clothing brand.
“I’ve been chatting to local MPs on how we can be part of initiatives to help drive this.
“I have also linked in with two local social enterprises to help provide training for young people through my company. This is something I hope to develop and expand on as I grow the brand.”
Andrew was just 14 when he started his first business fixing laptops and computers from home.
At 19 he launched his first company, ARG Marketing Limited, which now has over 50 clients.
His achievements are all the more remarkable given that he endured three years of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in his mid teens as a result of battling cancer as a child.
Andrew was just two when he was diagnosed with leukaemia and spent six years undergoing treatment.
He appeared to have recovered but in his mid teens he suddenly started to struggle with acute anxiety.
He was too ill to sit GCSEs and had to abandon plans to study for A-levels and then go on to university.
He recalls: “I only remember snippets of being ill as a child.
“Everyone around me in my family remembered it more than I did and it hit them a lot harder than it hit me.
“As time went on they started to get over it but as I got older and my awareness of cancer evolved, it struck me a bit more that it had been a real big thing to go through at a young age.
“It then hit me all at once that I had missed out on so much as a child.”
Andrew started to struggle with his mental health just before he was due to sit his GCSEs. He stopped eating and was diagnosed with borderline anorexia and depression. Crippling anxiety forced him to leave school and for the next three years he became housebound.
He recalls: “I was in my final GCSE year when everything started to become low and I found that my smile was slowly disappearing and I wasn’t enjoying life.
“When I stopped eating I was put on medication for depression and I had to be taken out of school. It was just before my exams and I never got to sit them.
“I was having panic attacks which left me confined to the house. I just shut myself away from the world and from all my friends. I didn’t even touch my phone.
“I worried every day that I would get cancer again, knowing that many of my friends had not survived this horrible disease even though they had fought it as hard as I had. Life really didn’t seem fair and I couldn’t understand why . I just couldn’t see a future.”
Andrew’s mum recognised that he was suffering from PTSD and arranged counselling with the charity Action Cancer.
Slowly over the next three years with the charity’s help, he recovered and went on to complete a degree in information technology and computing through the Open University.
He was so grateful to Action Cancer for helping turn his life around that he has since become an ambassador for the charity and two years ago helped set up a support group in his home town of Lurgan.
His experience has also played a part in his desire to help young people now and he hopes to do that through his new fashion company.
Hestia, named after the Greek god of fire, was developed by Andrew through many months of working late nights and early mornings during lockdown.
He explains: “The clothing brand started as an idea in the first lockdown. I was always a fan of streetwear. My wardrobe is full of hoodies. But I found that there was a big gap between quality and pricing: they were either cheap and cheerful or very expensive. I thought, ‘I could do this better,’ even though I had no experience at all in fashion.
“It was quite nice working on something creative and it gave me something to do during the first lockdown.
“Keeping busy is my thing, I always have to be doing something and I have to be creative in some way so I was excited to do it.”
Adam has spent most of the last two years designing and researching his new brand.
He first launched in 2021 but has since secured funding which has allowed him to refine the quality of his products, leading to a new collection unveiled in May of this year. His range features hoodies, T-shirts, sweatshirts, joggers and shorts, all boasting the modern Hestia logo.
He says: “On our first day last July we had £2,000 in sales and it has continued to be really good. We have come a long way since then, refining everything in terms of colours and sizing and lettering. Everything is and people love the quality. I also devised rubberised printing of the logo to really make the brand our own.
“We didn’t want flash models for our website so instead we have used everyday people and it looks great.”
Unsurprisingly he has ambitious plans for developing his brand and is soon to launch an affordable range of uniforms and workwear.
It is this side of the business which he hopes will be beneficial to providing training for young people.
He adds: “Working with local social enterprises I hope to offer young people a chance to get involved in the printing and design side of the workwear range with any profits from items they help to make going back into the enterprise.
“I kept being told I wouldn’t go anywhere in life because I didn’t get my qualifications so I am hoping to help young people who left school early without any career plans.
“I’ve always believed that if I do what others won’t then I will have what they can’t and that’s what I hope to help instil in other young people through my new brand.”
You can view the full range of Andrew’s clothing at www.hestia-clothing.com