KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY
Sam Ward is the great grandson of TOG24’s founder, Donald Ward, making him the fourth generation of the family to be involved in the business. Here Sam tells us about the ties that make TOG24 a family-run company and what it’s like to grow up in a family business.
TOG24 has been run by my family since 1958, from my grandfather Donald Ward, to our current MD (and my dad), Mark Ward. We pride ourselves upon our family roots, that have spanned four generations, and supported the business throughout its lifetime. TOG24 has been a massive part of my life since I can remember (I even featured in photoshoots as a baby!). I find it amazing that the business my great grandad started 62 years ago, is still just as close to the Ward family to this day. Here’s a snapshot of the sisters and brothers, fathers and sons, uncles and cousins who have made TOG24 what it is today.
MY GREAT GRANDAD DONALD WARD
Donald was an apprentice millwright and in 1958 founded the company. He began by producing and sewing footwear in Heckmondwike in Yorkshire, where the Head Office is still based today. In the 1960s he founded Mileta, which led to Donald working with some true sporting greats. Donald worked close with Yorkshire based athlete and world record holder Derek Ibbotson to create a range of sportS shoes, as well as providing sock ties for the great Leeds United team of the 1970s, including Billy Bremner and Jack Charlton. Perhaps most spectacularly, the opening of TOG24’s larger Heckmondwike offices led to Donald welcoming the Brazilian national team, including Pele. He also ventured into the airline business, working with Permuta Plastics to supply airline bags to many of the world’s airways. In the 1980s Mileta bought the TOG24 brand, venturing into the outdoor wear business.
Donald’s sons Brian (my grandad) and Ian joined their father in the business. They worked in the factory in Heckmondwike when they were young before moving onto further education. Upon returning to working for the company, Brian focused on sales and travelled throughout Europe selling replica football shirts where they were very popular. His brother Ian took on premium promotions, selling sports bags to companies such as the Midlands Bank to give away to their customers.
As Donald stepped back, the brothers took on more responsibilities across the board, including managing the factories (at one time there was a company plane to fly in-between them). Brian retired only last year and Ian is still working today.
THE BATON PASSES TO THE GRANDCHILDREN
The third generation of Wards are working at TOG24 now, retaining our family run aspect. Brian’s son (and my dad) Mark was made to work for the company during school holidays, from working in the shop to painting fire escapes. He then moved to selling products to outdoor and golf shops, whilst also buying for the shops.
The early 90s led to the opening of more shops, which Mark often had to oversee. His work with TOG24 has taken him to China to meet suppliers, many of which we still work with. Mark worked with his dad for many years on buying products. He is now the MD and his sister Rachel helps with the marketing and writes the company newsletter. Ian’s son Chris worked in the marketing side of the company for many years. He is now the Commercial MD, looking after the warehouse and the website, while his brother Simon is the Retail Operations Manager. All of Donald Ward’s grandchildren have worked in the business at some time during their lives.
THE FOURTH GENERATION
As seen above, my modelling career with the company started very early (that's me as a baby in the backpack)! A distinct memory of mine is having a photoshoot with my friends and brother in the garden of my old house, that was then used in the 2004 catalogue. Since then, I’ve worked for TOG24 at the Yorkshire Show and in the warehouse in school holidays. I’ve always felt that as a brand, TOG24 represents the place I’m from and the values my family has always held.
The piece of kit that's in all their wardrobes-
'The essential padded jacket'