Setting up their own business had always been a dream for brothers Anthony and Rupert Langly-Smith, and over the years they discussed all manner of ideas. But it was while they were living in – and commuting by bicycle – through London that the perfect opportunity presented itself.
“We noticed that a lot of people were improvising with their cycling gear. A lot of people were sticking bits of reflective tape on their helmets, or adding lights,” says Rupert. “That got us thinking that there had to be something better out there. You could get high-visibility jackets, but there was nothing for helmets, so that was the first piece of kit we focused on trying to get right.”
They also realised that if they could come up with the right products, it might encourage more people to take up cycling. Anthony explains: “We used to love cycling in London – it’s an amazing place and cycling is good for the environment and your wallet. But we spoke to a lot of people who told us that they would never cycle in the city, that it was scary. We realised there was an opportunity to create some kit that would help people feel less vulnerable, but we wanted to keep it stylish at the same time. Up until then, all-out high-visibility wear was really restricted to jobs that dealt in health and safety issues.”
And so, Proviz was born.
Neither brother had a background in design or distribution and had to learn very quickly. While Rupert concentrated on developing the initial products and sourcing materials, Anthony rode the steep learning curve that is getting your name out there.
Over the years, the Proviz range has grown and the two men are particularly proud of the fact that they’ve been able to design a jacket that is completely reflective, thanks to a material that has millions of tiny, reflecting beads embedded into the fabric. In daylight, the jacket looks completely normal, but when car lights hit, the wearer lights up like a Christmas tree. “Once we had a bit of success, we started to really push ourselves,” says Rupert. “We had jackets with reflective strips, but we got to thinking, ‘why not make the cyclist’s whole body the source of light?’
The reaction they get makes all the hard work worthwhile. “We get these amazing emails,” says Rupert. “There was one a couple of years ago from a lady living somewhere rural. She emailed to tell us that she had seen this white dot up ahead on the road. When she got closer she realised it was a cyclist and felt compelled to wind her window down and ask him where he’d got his jacket from. She looked us up just to tell us what a difference it had made to her as a driver. That was pretty incredible.”Sometimes we all need a little serendipity to make good things happen. That was certainly the case when the brothers discovered World Bicycle Relief.
“My wife was working in a school in London,” says Rupert. “She got talking to one of the parents who worked for this new cycling charity. She said, ‘My husband’s just set up a cycling company, I’ll mention it to him.; It went from there, really.”
The brothers went to a World Bicycle Relief presentation and got the chance to take a look at one of the bikes. “I just remember being really impressed with how robust they were and that you could get up to six people on one,” says Anthony. “They showed us a film about the impact these bikes have in the local communities, and that was extraordinary. You could tell the charity had big ambitions, and that was something we really identified with.”
That was back in 2008, and since then both Proviz and World Bicycle Relief have grown in their respective fields. Today, Proviz makes some of the most advanced reflective cycling – and running – gear on the market.
As well as making regular corporate donations, Proviz has also set up a system so customers can directly support World Bicycle Relief’s work by hitting a button at the checkout to donate 50p. Every time they do so, Proviz matches the contribution.
“We set it up about four years ago,” says Anthony. “It’s an automatic thing and a great way for our customers to get involved. It’s really grown over the years.”
To date, donations from Proviz and its customers have helped to fun almost 60 Buffalo Bicycles to help mobilise students, healthcare workers and entrepreneurs in rural Africa.
Thank you, Proviz, for being an incredible corporate partner!