Just as few could have predicted the heights that Card Factory has reached in the card industry there were more doubters than believers when Dean Hoyle, founder of the value card chain, fulfilled a boyhood ambition and became chairperson and majority shareholder of Huddersfield Town FC in 2009 with high aspirations for the club.
Saturday (August 5) saw ‘Town’ continue its incredible victory run with a 3-0 win against Crystal Palace, elevating the Terriers further up the Premier League, a division that many – but not Dean – thought was out of its grasp.
Interestingly, a man who shied PR opportunities when he was surfing the waves in the greeting card trade, shared many intimate details of his formative years in an interview with The Times last Saturday (August 12).
With the attention grabbing headline of ‘I was going to be adopted but Mum kept hold of me’, the double page spread article stuck out somewhat in the Times’ Sport section.
Sharing an insight into what gave Dean the fight to succeed against the odds, first in greeting card retailing and now in football, he told The Times journalist Henry Winter in his typical staccato delivery: “When I was born in ’67, my mum was a single parent. I have never known my dad. He was a married man. Never seen him, don’t know his name, never asked.”
The article goes on to explain how Dean’s mum had the Card Factory-founder in a ‘mother and babies’ home in Halifax. “It was pre-arranged that I was to be adopted by a doctor in Edinburgh. But because my mum was 27 she had the willpower to keep hold of me.”
As The Times’ article highlights, Huddersfield FC’s persistence echoes Dean’s own tenacity. “I left school with no qualifications and started as a labourer. My first boss said: ‘Dean, if you sweep the floor for a year, and you do it well, I might think of an apprenticeship’. So I swept well for a year.”
After four or five years of working in a factory “with no windows” Dean knew that he wanted a better life, which led him into greeting cards.
Perhaps for the first time in The Times’ sports section, one sentence summed up how the ‘playing field’ has changed in the card retail scene.
Tracking it back to when Dean and his wife Janet founded Card Factory “We had one shop in Wakefield. At that point Clinton Cards has 1,200 shops. Now, 20 years later, Clintons have 300 stores, after administration, we have 900.”
The ‘we’ underlines the deepfelt connection he feels towards Card Factory, despite the fact that neither Dean nor Janet have any involvement with the retailer now, with Dean having even stepped down as a non-exec to concentrate his retailing efforts on The Works, in which he has a 35% stake.