Huub’s Dean Jackson on bringing the Jenson Button Trust Triathlon to Derby

Dean Jackson with the Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee

Dean Jackson with the Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee - Credit: Archant

Dean Jackson of Derby company Huub has been instrumental in bringing the Jenson Button Trust Triathlon to Derby on 12th July. Derbyshire Life meets Dean and discovers the fascinating story behind his success

Dean Jackson with sports scientist Professor Huub Toussaint - whose name Dean used for his company

Dean Jackson with sports scientist Professor Huub Toussaint - whose name Dean used for his company - Credit: Archant

When it comes to the triathlon, Dean Jackson is quite happy to put his money where his mouth is – that’s why he bet celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay £1,000 he could beat him in the Staffordshire Ironman event.

At 44, Dean is still up for a sporting challenge and, when he does compete, he’s likely to be the best kitted out competitor in the field. That’s because everyone wants to wear designs created by his Derby-based Huub endurance sportswear firm, including Formula One racing driver Jenson Button and Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee – gold and bronze medallists in the London 2012 Olympic Games triathlon.

Dean only started Huub in 2011 in a Derby garage with one employee but this year turnover will hit £2 million for the Derby firm, which puts more money into sponsoring triathletes than any of its competitors – including backing the Brownlees.

Dean is also bringing a major triathlon event to Derby for the first time this July – the Jenson Button Trust Triathlon, which will see hundreds of competitors being cheered on by thousands of spectators. It will be a big event for the city with a food village, Grand Prix cars and other attractions to keep all the family entertained. If it also inspires more people to get fit and compete, then Dean will be even more delighted.

Competing in the triathlon

Competing in the triathlon - Credit: Archant

Dean’s enjoyed a twisting route to his current role as entrepreneur and Huub founder and it could have been very different after he started out his working life as the first male to train officially to be a nanny.

‘After the first year I felt I wasn’t welcome in that world and it wasn’t easy for the girls in that world to accept me,’ he says. ‘And I had to move into something else.’

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He set up a running shop with his athletics coach – The Derby Runner in Spondon – after arranging a loan from the bank which was guaranteed by his parents.

‘That was me thinking “I like the endurance sport world, I’m going to learn the trade of it”. We set up the shop in 1989 and it’s still there today although nothing to do with me now.’

Last year's traithlon Photo Matt Alexander

Last year's traithlon Photo Matt Alexander - Credit: Archant

Dean soon wanted a different challenge and worked for a series of sportswear companies – including becoming the marketing manager for Asics.

‘By this time I had got myself up to a fairly good standard in triathlon and I volunteered to look after the clothing for that as well as the running side. That’s when I first started working with and sponsoring triathletes.’

After six years, he was made redundant but was still working with triathletes including Leanda Cave, who became the world champion.

He joined an American firm, first at its UK base, and then in the States, managing the global marketing. With a wife and four children it was a big move to Tennessee where he learned everything there was to know about the production of wetsuits. Indeed, he sourced a new factory in China, designed the wetsuits and brought them to market.

F1 star Jenson Button ahead of his 2014 Jenson Button Trust Triathlon
Photo: Dan Jones

F1 star Jenson Button ahead of his 2014 Jenson Button Trust Triathlon Photo: Dan Jones - Credit: Archant

‘We took that wetsuit brand to No 1 in the world,’ he says.

Dean spent six years in the States before a change in leadership saw him opt to return to the UK and work for another company, which gave him the chance to base its operations wherever he wished.

‘I decided to come home to Derby and set up a little office at the top of Green Lane,’ he says.

After four years, Dean thought it was time to strike out on his own.

‘I was 41 and I knew I had to do it then or never. I had a vision and a plan.’

After finding an investment group that liked his idea, he got the £125,000 he needed to start his own wetsuit company.

Huub has since been supported by a Derby City Council growth fund and has gone from strength to strength.

After the 2102 Olympics, Dean began sponsoring the Brownlees after getting a call from their manager.

‘All the big players in the industry were bidding for them but I beat the highest by £1,000 and they knew me and trusted me. It was a big chunk of the budget we had but we knew it would be worth it as they are such global stars and that year we doubled our turnover and it really put us on the map.

‘We moved out of the garage two years ago and are looking at £2 million turnover this year from £1.3m last year. We are opening up new territories all the time, such as Japan. It’s really scary expanding but exciting as well. We try and keep the costs down where we can so we can put the money where it counts which is why we are the biggest sponsors of triathletes globally.’

Dean’s also still competing himself and took up Gordon Ramsay’s challenge for the Staffordshire Ironman. The chef has a charity foundation and asked Huub for sponsorship. Dean did a launch event with Gordon and the challenge between the two came out of a bit of banter which later took to Twitter.

Dean is ready for his celebrity challenge, however.

‘The impression is I’m a chunky bloke who can’t run that well but I’m not that bad. So we shook hands on a £1,000 wager. It’s great and I have a deadline of the second week in June when I have to be fit enough for a half ironman to beat Gordon Ramsay. So I need to be out on that bike a lot.’

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The Jenson Button Trust Triathlon takes place in Derby on 12th July.

The McLaren Honda racing driver’s event will feature novice and seasoned triathletes from all over the globe.

Competitors will get the chance to race twice, with the preliminary heat consisting of a 200m lake swim, 11km cycle and a 2.5km run. The top performers will go on to the final, 400m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run, with the runners-up entering the wooden spoon race.

The event aims to incorporate competition with a relaxed festival atmosphere. There will be an event village, post-race party, live music and prizes to be presented by Jenson.

For the second year running the trust has partnered with Cancer Research UK with all profits and fund-raising from the event going towards beating all forms of cancer.

Dean Jackson is delighted to have brought the event to the city.

He says: ‘I have travelled all around the world but have always come back to Derby. I wanted to bring an event to the city and one we could grow with. There is a strong cycling and athletics scene in Derby, so it all made sense.

‘The connection with Huub is that we were sponsoring Jenson and we had him wearing our products so I thought “let’s get his triathlon to Derby”. It had previously been held at a hotel and spa in Luton in closed grounds – a bit like getting Elvaston Castle and closing it to tourists. So we brought them up to Derby and they were blown away by the beauty of Markeaton Park and the bike route by Kedleston Hall.

‘Now it’s a chance to bring a true statement event to the city which has a bit of celebrity attached.

‘It’s also blown me away how so many people have come forward asking to get involved and to help make it a big success in Derby.’

On the back of it the Huub Foundation has been formed.

‘We will build other events around it throughout the year and the profits will go back into supporting swim, bike and running activities in the city of Derby to get the inactive active,’ says Dean.

Dean says that up to 10,000 people are expected to come and watch on 12th July.

‘It will be a nice draw for the city and a good showcase for Derby as well.’

Jenson agrees: ‘Moving the triathlon to Derby this year will give us the opportunity to involve more people.

‘It’s an amazing location and will be great for both amateurs and professionals and especially for spectators who will have the great opportunity to see us all going through the pain!’

HUUB Events is also working closely with Derby City Council and the leader, Cllr Ranjit Banwait, will officially open the event.

He said: ‘The international flavour of the Jenson Button Trust Triathlon is great news for Derby, with wide ranging benefits to businesses in the city from hotels to restaurants.

‘I would encourage local competitors to act quickly to register for the triathlon and increase our chances of having a “home-grown winner” on the podium to be crowned by Jenson Button himself.’

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