Founder of Funky Pants
Tracy Harker is Funky Pants. Tracy grew up in Johannesburg; once she finished school, she did some travelling and ended up in Durban where she met her husband, Billy.
Tracy says that Funky Pants was not a planned venture, but that she was inspired by her husband to start the business. “When we first started making pants, they were only for paddlers, and we use to get someone to make them. They were awful, they were like grandpa pants – long, baggy, and hanging. So, I started adjusting the pattern and made them so that when Billy and myself wore the pants, we were comfortable while wearing them. We both have got different bodies and we want the best and that’s what we worked on until we were happy. We were wearing them, and we were trying them out and we were adjusting them to what we wanted – fully lined mid-thigh length, paddling tights. So, it’s our comfort, it’s our product that we want to wear at races,” explained Tracy. The pants turned into Tracy’s funky pants, which turned into Funky Pants.
First in the world
Tracy and Billy used to organise surf ski paddling races and gave away ‘Funky Pants’ as prizes to the paddlers. They were soon asked to bring the ‘Funky Pants’ to events. The first time the Harkers took them to an event, they were supposed to take twenty pairs, however they took two hundred pairs, which much to Tracy’s shock, were all sold out at the first registration party. “That’s the first time we realised that this is the direction in which we should go. In 2004, when we started bringing out the Funky Pants in bright colours, we just happened to be one of the first in the world to come to the table with the bright funky, ridiculously comfy funky pants,” says Tracy.
The Funky Pants brand has since grown into catering for other sporting disciplines. These include cycling, running, trail running, gym, and yoga. The brand has also expanded into manufacturing swimming costumes.
Have your own paths
Being in business with her husband has been a challenge that Tracy has had to overcome. “We went through a whole process in the beginning especially. We had to figure out a way to work together. You’re in each other’s space all day. You eat together, sleep together, play together, you do everything together, so you need to have your own paths. Billy does his job and I do my job and we don’t interfere with each other and as long as it stays like that, then it’s a happy place. He’s got his good qualities, which we need and my qualities, which we also need; that’s how we run the business.”
In addition, says Tracy, “I have always been sporty and I’m very capable at doing anything, I think. My husband and I are always challenging each other, and I do have to say that I am beating him at a lot of things…”
In order to get the business started, Tracy and Billy needed to do the long haul and went to every sporting event they could. “We’ve sat there, we’ve done everything ourselves,” said Tracy. “Billy and I are a ‘mom and pop’ business operating from our garage in Durban North. If anyone comes to us with any problem, we will do our best to sort it out. We will handle it personally and I don’t think that you can get that service at most places. My dad helps us, and we’ve only recently increased our staff complement and got some lovely girls to work with us. We’re a little family, but we’ve always being hands-on, and it really does make a difference.”
The Harker’s have a library of designs and colours that clients can select from for their pants choice, which is constantly growing and is possibly the largest selection in the whole world. Personalised designs for all types of clubs, schools, and teams are available. In addition, Funky Pants are sold internationally. The company has twenty-five agents throughout the world and manufactures kits for international teams and clubs as well. Funky Pants is locally based; the fabric is printed, and the pants are manufactured, in Durban.
Funky Pants does like to get involved in different fund raisers and where they can, the Harker’s strive to make a difference. They started by getting involved with the SPCA in Durban and then progressed to the East London SPCA. “We basically make up a print, or they make up a print, and then we manufacture the Funky Pants. We give SPCA R50 for every pair that we sell and it’s just a continuous thing, We like to support them. Funky Pants have also been involved with The Sabrina Love Fund for a few years now and they’ve sold many shorts and received money, which is helping them,” says Tracy.
The future goal for Funky Pants is just to sell more Funky Pants. “As long as we are having a fun lifestyle with lots of memories and being happy as a family, that’s all we really want. We don’t want to turn Funky Pants into a huge empire. What drives me is the kind of things that I enjoy in life and that’s what keeps me going. We’ve got four children, Henry is twelve, Eddie and Lucy are twins, they are nine, and we’ve got the little monster, Charlie, he is seven. They all do many types of sports.
Obviously, I am the mom, so to me they are my brilliant little replicas, and they’ve all achieved so much. The kids have been a big part of Funky Pants, they are our little mascots, and they wear Funky Pants non-stop!”