How did two non-cricket playing Scotsmen end up launching a global cricket brand and what on earth does Burns Suppers have to do with it?
‘It’s just like Burns night really!’
‘You don’t have to be an expert on something to host it or have fun with it. Most people attending or hosting a Burns supper know absolutely nothing about the big man or his incredible work, yet the annual gathering inspires laughter and joy the world over.
The parallel I’m drawing is that similarly, Calum and I knew very little about the game of cricket but we knew a lot about creating theatre and fun around something that ultimately draws people together for good times shared!
As long time business partners, this had always been our North Star. We like to call ourselves passionate play-makers! We have always believed deeply in the importance and benefits of social connection and having fun with the people around us. It’s infinitely good for the soul regardless of who we are.’
The haggis making days…
Back in 2014, Calum and Andy founded the now closed (thanks Covid), London based Scottish experiential hospitality brand, Mac & Wild with the mission of bringing guests together for an immersive off-road Highland adventure, showcasing the abundance and beauty of Scotland’s natural larder and warm culture.
A much loved favourite of many Londoners, including sporting royalty David Beckham, Calum and Andy elevated the offering above simply dining, by adding experiences such as drams (whisky) in the dark, virtual hunting, ceilidhs and even the surprisingly popular haggis making workshops.
Their passion and observation of how customers engaged and valued the immersive elements of the brand in time sewed the seeds for their 2020 pivotal leap over to building out the Sixes concept.
Necessity and blind optimism were yet again the mother of all invention…
As Calum explains,
‘It was all pretty surreal to be honest. We had built Mac & Wild over 7 years and all of a sudden Covid hit and it felt like we were going to lose everything. It was pretty dark times, as it was for a lot of businesses. As the impact of Covid started to unfold, we were facing the stark reality of having zero income for a pro-longed and unknown period. For businesses that run on tight cash flows, this was completely terrifying.’
We put our entrepreneurial hats on and quickly launched Mac & Wild meal kits and pre-batch cocktail kits. The support we got from some brand partners and our customers was truly heart-warming.
As time went on though, I think deep down we knew we couldn’t save Mac & Wild with the restaurants still closed. We were both doing everything we could to look after staff and suppliers, but at the same time had no income ourselves and knew we had to do something else and quick. Reflecting back, it was really tough having to deal with a business you loved collapsing around you whilst trying to think about “the next thing!”
I will always remember a few people reaching out with kind supportive words and how powerful they were to us both (those 2 people now sit on our board). It is amazing how just a little positivity can re-ignite that focus and passion…so we set to work.
We had seen how much guests loved immersive experiences in Mac & Wild and had watched and admired the rise of brands such as Flight Club and Puttshack. We started discussing what sports hadn’t been made into a social entertainment concept yet and over a solid 12 negronis one night (sitting outside in the pouring rain as outdoor drinking was allowed by this point), Andy had a eureka moment and announced, “Virtual Fishing!”.
Never say never, but after a short discussion, I suggested “cricket”.
The world over, everyone seems to love the sport and although we had never played it, if we reduced it down, it seemed like just another bat and ball game which almost everyone can enjoy the thrill of.
We scoured the internet for tech companies that could help us bring the cricket side of things to life. We found one that had provided simulators for high performance training and events and we went for a visit – after just one over each in the nets, we were hooked and dare we say it, fell in love with the game of cricket!
Our competitive sides kicked in fast. Unlike something like mini-golf and darts, we were both loving the rush of adrenaline that came with each smash of the ball. The vision was quickly coming into focus… If we could futher gamify the experience and combine it with delicious food and several pints, we may just create competitive socialising Elysium…….
Then, like every entrepreneurial journey, we drew up our dreams, started knocking on doors trying to sell the vision and raise some money. You guessed it, we were laughed out of a fair few meetings. To re-cap the scene… it was deepest darkest Covid, we were dealing with our previous hospitality challenges and there was no proven record of cricket nets in a bar having worked before!
It would be fair to say that investors were not exactly rushing to invest in us. Blinkers on, we soldiered on and eventually we struck luck with some early believers who really bought into the vision. One in particular was David Nash (Nashy), (ex Middlesex wicket keeper!).
We are eternally grateful to Nashy for his unfaltering belief in our then pipedream. I don’t think he even read the initial investment deck or to this day any shareholder update, he and his brother, Glen, both just loved the idea and helped us make it happen – for which we are eternally grateful! They opened up their black books of contacts to us through which we managed to scrape together just enough cash to get our first site in Fulham open.
Sixes Fulham opened on 5th December 2020. With areas still unpainted and toilets not finished, the important things were in place. There were 2 cricket nets and the drinks were flowing! It was officially play time! Laughter filled the room and sporting egos were being shattered as Straussy (an early cricketing royalty investor) missed his first 5 balls before smashing it for Six.
Everyone loved it and I think that was the moment we knew we were really on to something. Five days later we had to close due to Omicron. Play was halted but we had had a heck of a 5 days…and we suddenly had a lot more believers in the Sixes dream!
Three years later we have 11 venues in the UK, 1 in the US, over 1000 franchise requests and humbly backed by some incredible investors including Ben Stokes, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Yuvraj Singh, KL Rahul and many more giants of the cricketing game itself. I am now good friends with those early believers and we are so excited to see how far we can spread the thrill of the Sixes experience.
When it comes to competition factor in the nets… yes, things are even more intense between myself and Andy. Time and again I feel that elation after a victory and crushing blow when on the losing end. But the magic is in my eagerness to get back in the nets to try again!
Thanks for reading…A long winded way of explaining the randomness of how two non-cricketing Scots started a Cricket brand. Hopefully it reminds us that we don’t always have to have all the answers to have a go!
Happy Burns night to all celebrating.
Calum and Andy