London Ecommerce Entrepreneur Marries A Minnesotan, Opens US HQ In Minneapolis

by Melissa Buening


Merino wool clothing brand Hardvark was born in Europe, but has found its way into the United States through love.

J.J. Symons, The Founder of Hardvark, first discovered merino wool several years ago when he was living in Switzerland. “I spent my weekends climbing up and skiing down mountains, wearing merino base-layers. It was such an amazing fiber and so superior to cotton in every way, that I started wondering why it should be restricted to activewear – why not use it instead of cotton in everyday clothes?”

Fast forward and the company today both manufactures and sells its own merino wool performance wear — crease-free, moisture wicking, breathable, anti-odor, and stretchy. With a European headquarters in Britain and one physical storefront in Switzerland, Symons sells 90% of their products online, representing approximately 20 different products.

“We’re much more established in the UK, but are starting to get a foothold here in the US,” he says, noting that their US ecommerce website just launched in January. Hardvark’s new store on Shopify has been a successful move for the company – driving a 7x lift in overall sales since launching last year.

Symons is currently the only full time employee, with half a dozen remote freelancers who chip in from various locations around the world. “The next step for us is to continue growing domestic sales here and determining what an appropriate round of funding would be,” he says, describing the challenges of growing a new company — regardless of location.

“Our goal is to reach $1m in annual sales this year,” he elaborates.

Hardvark’s presence in Minnesota could be chalked up to fate. He established the stateside headquarters in Minnesota following the marriage to his wife Holly last summer. The two had met by chance in San Francisco — at a street party, that turned into a house party, which led to a three year long distance relationship between Geneva and San Francisco — ultimately melding in Minneapolis to be near Holly’s family.

“Minneapolis is a really cool city and the people here are great; everyone has been so welcoming and so far I feel that it’s going to be a great place to run my business. An ideal scenario would be to get business going here with some local employees and/or investors.”