The community of women's football is a growing tide, formed from tiny individual ripples.
Blockbuster broadcast deals and record-breaking crowds are taking the sport to never before seen heights. But it's the work a little further away from the limelight that is making some of the biggest splashes.
One day at university, Grace Vella drummed up an idea that would go on to completely change the game for women's football.
In 2018, the young entrepreneur brought it all to life. From her mum's kitchen table in Liverpool, Miss Kick was born.
GiveMeSport Women sat down with Grace to talk about the growth of her company, which is not only becoming one of the most popular women's football brands in the UK, but also aims to encourage and support young players getting into the sport.
The roots of Miss Kick
Grace described her journey as starting from "very humble beginnings", and admits she still can't quite believe how far her project has come already.
"It was all born out of the fact that when I was growing up, as a young female footballer, there was nothing really for me," she explained. "So I just Googled things like how to set up a business and how to make a logo. I was printing everything by hand in my mum’s kitchen on a heat press."
Grace would use her spare time outside of studies, work, and football training to get the Miss Kick name on people’s radar. She started by attending a football tournament and setting up a stall with a small sample of her catalogue until it eventually became larger than she ever expected.
As a former Liverpool and Manchester City footballer, Grace has experienced the struggles of being a female in a male-dominated world.
The inspiration for her brand comes from her own experiences when she was younger – a little girl trying to make her way in football but not having the right access or support, and being deprived of well-documented women's icons to look up to.
"When I was younger, I remember we were always given the boys’ kit and it didn’t ever fit properly – the sleeves were too long or the shorts were too big.
"Even when I would search online, there weren’t many female role models who were specific to me as a girl. That’s why Miss Kick exists – not just from a product perspective but from an exposure perspective as well."
We're so much more than just selling t-shirts – we’re trying to actually create change and inspire young girls.
Bringing the dream to life
Grace started off by coming up with snappy slogans to splash across the front of her first batch of Miss Kick t-shirts.
She reflected on her childhood and thought about what she would have wanted to see as a young female footballer growing up.
"I’ve always believed in the idea, even back in the day when I had nothing, I always believed it would grow and get to where it is now.
“But it’s taken a tough two-and-a-half years and it’s been a lot of trial and error and getting good people around me. That’s what I think has helped me and the business grow so much – I’ve found really good people to support me, who can guide me, mentor me, and give me advice."
With the help of bank accelerators to fund the rapid growth of her business, Grace has been able to commit 100 percent of her time to the Miss Kick cause.
Just 12 months ago, Grace was still designing and printing her own merchandise and hand-delivering orders to the Post Office to be shipped out.
Now a year on, she has an official Miss Kick warehouse, a full-time dedicated team, and a polished website to take the business to the next level. Grace’s mum has also reclaimed the full use of her kitchen.
Coventry United’s Mollie Green and Liverpool's Leighanne Robe are just two footballers who work with Miss Kick to model the brand’s clothing line. Having players fly the flag for the company is something Grace stressed the importance of.
"The players have been through what I’ve sort of experienced and what girls are still going through now. I’d like to think that would make them want to support Miss Kick over another larger brand on the market."
As well as appealing to the audience by showcasing footballers in Miss Kick's garments, the brand recently became the shirt sponsor for Women's Championship club Bristol City.
"It was important to me that we weren’t just a logo on a shirt," Grace explained. "So we’ve got some content days booked in and we’re looking to do some activation around match days and engage in the local Bristol community."
It was important to me that we weren't just a logo on a shirt.
Alongside running the focal point of the business, Grace has also kickstarted the Miss Kick Foundation – a charity put in place to support grassroots football, where it all began for the Liverpudlian.
"Right from the beginning, I didn’t just want to make an exciting business, I wanted to grow the game and give back.
"The work of the foundation is going to do that – to give the girls more opportunities to watch and play football and feel safe when doing so."
Earlier this year, the Miss Kick team met with Ben Francis, the founder and CEO of global fitness apparel brand Gymshark.
Like Miss Kick, Gymshark started off as a fleeting thought, before Ben began to build the business from his mum's garage in 2012. Now reportedly valued at an astonishing £1 billion, Ben is in the position to give back and support other rising brands.
"Gymshark held a competition to announce up and coming businesses and Miss Kick was picked out," Grace explained.
Ben promoted Miss Kick on social media before inviting the team to the Gymshark headquarters – who all came away feeling hugely inspired.
Grace drew on the similarities between the two brands and ambitiously said "why not?" when asked if Miss Kick could follow down the same path.
"Maybe one day we can be as half as big as Gymshark – even a tenth as big and I'll be happy!
"Ben and Gymshark started off very niche, for a specific community, and I think that's similar to Miss Kick. He hit the cusp of the bodybuilding and fitness hype and and I'd like to think that we're quite similar in that we caught the growth of women's football at a very good time."
You can check out the full Miss Kick clothing line and more information on the brand, including its partnership with Bristol City Women, via the official website misskick.com.News Now - Sport News