We spoke to Wasps centre Jimmy Gopperth about his new business 'Jimmy G Kicking Tee' and the story behind it, and how the Gain Line programme, which the RPA run, has helped him in launching this business
How did the idea come about?
It was just before the first ever lockdown, I just got a random message on Facebook, from this guy called George Simpkin, and I knew the name. The kicking tee I use is the Simpkin Tee, I have always used it, I used it in New Zealand and brought it over here. The message was so random, saying “’You don’t know me, but I’m your biggest fan and your success has been mine. You see, I designed and made your kicking tee. I love that you still kick with the tee, I’ve only got a few months to live, and I’d love to have a chat.”
So, I ended up giving him a ring, and we started chatting and George Simpkin is an inventor in rugby in a lot of ways, so in 7’s, the new restart (if you score, you restart), he invented that. He invented the bigger goalpost pads, different hit shields, his was the first ever kicking tee in the world. He coached Waikato Rugby, and coached in Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, and a load of other countries.
We just got to chatting, and he pretty much said to me: “Look I’ve got terminal cancer, I’d love to give you the rights to reproduce the kicking tee under your name”. I was blown away by it! I haven’t been able to find the tee since 2010, and was recently wondering what had gone wrong, and he explained that they had moved factories from China and the lorry that had the moulds in crashed and they lost them all. He said he’d been doing it for such a long time, he didn’t see the need in re-doing it. I’ve been holding on to the five I have, patching them up with tape, as I couldn’t get them anywhere else!
We had great chats through lockdown, and then the most recent lockdown (Winter 2020) put another halt to everything, which was a shame, as he said he’d love to see them before he passed away. Unfortunately, he passed away and I’ve just started to get going. I’ve finally got the shipment over from China, and away we go.
Do you keep in touch with his family?
Yeah, I messaged his wife. Obviously, I waited a while after his funeral, but I wrote something up, as you can see from My Story on our website, so I posted that to her, to make sure she was happy, and they were really grateful. He had told her all about it. I like to keep telling his story because it’s his design and legacy. It’s a great story.
What’s it been like trying to start a business through lockdown, and then whilst playing rugby?
I suppose, during lockdown, we were at home a lot, and it gave me a focus, to try and get things going. I was frustrated at the time, as I couldn’t get things going! But it’s just a great balance, you come to work every day and you see the emails pop up with orders, so you go home and sort them out, so it’s a good balance into the real way of life.
The RPA and the Gain Line programme have been great as well, as they've put me in contact with a few people to try and help me get the business off the ground. Plus, my Development Manager, Luke Cheyne, has been brilliant with supporting me, he was a great help in setting everything up.
What made you do this business, rather than something else in a different market?
It’s self-explanatory really. I love using my tee, and I got the opportunity. This is a side little project, if it goes bigger than it is then brilliant, but it’s just given me the skills to help set up a business, and sell things, working down the line in the manufacturers, making connections, talking to people. It’s all just a learning curve, and if I need them in the future, I’ve had experience in them by doing this.
How have your Wasps teammates responded to the tees, have any of them started to use it?
Yeah, a few of the boys are using them, which is good. They’ve been really good in sharing the business on social media, a few guys have come up to me with ideas for advertising which is pretty funny!
How important is it for rugby players to start thinking of that post-career (as you called it the real life) during their career?
It’s really important, I suppose I’m getting to the end of it (career), and for me, it’s still really scary. You have a million things you think you’re going to do, and unless you’ve got a real strong idea of what you want to do, you need to get out there and try different things to see what the best thing for you is.
I’m probably like everyone, you don’t want to go into a job that you don’t enjoy. We’ve enjoyed this (playing rugby) and we love it, so going into a job to earn money and not like it, if you try that now, you can figure out what you want to do and that’s the key.
For more information about JimmyG Tees, visit go to https://www.jimmygtees.com/