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Simon’s story – making your hobby your job

Cullercoats Bike and Kayak - a story about making your hobby into your job.
The business idea and how it all started came about from back in 2010 / 2011. I took a career break from my job. And me and my wife moved to Canada where she was studying for a year at a university over there. And our life was just so different over there. Here, we always used to be in the local pubs and quite indoorsy lifestyle. And then suddenly in Canada, every weekend, we were out skiing, and snowboarding, and kayaking, and cycling, and really just making the most of all these mountains and this environment that we had around us. And we felt a lot better for it really.
But then 2011, we came back to Newcastle, because my wife was offered a job. And I had the option to come back to my job. So I went back into it. And it stuck with me. And we started looking for these opportunities in the Northeast. And what we found was that there were some activities, but there were definitely some things that we used to do that we couldn’t do any more. And one of those things was kayaking. I started to brainstorm a few ideas and think, OK, could this be a business that I could set up? And I thought about it for it must have been about two years– just thinking about, would it be possible? Would it be viable?
At the end of 2013, there was this old derelict building at the end of my street about 50 metres from Cullercoats Beach which came available. And it just seemed like the perfect space. It was an old vehicle repair shop, so it had this very functional workshop type space. But then on the first floor it also had this very quirky attic loft space, which I thought would be ideal for people who’d just been out cycling, just been out kayaking, doing outdoor activities, if we could create a warm and welcoming environment for them before and after their activities.
So the building came available. It went up for auction. And I couldn’t afford it. It was absolutely terrible. I couldn’t afford to raise the funds for the commercial mortgage. So I thought that it had slipped through my fingers. And then the first day that the new landlord took over the building, I saw him. He was just clearing the place out. He had about five skip loads of rubbish that came out of this old workshop. I just caught him. And I said, Oh, can I talk to you about the building? And if it was really odd, because it just so happened that he himself had been in the outdoor industry.
And that he used to run the diving centre in Newcastle and had actually sold me my first diving dry suit years ago when I was in the University dive club. And I said, Oh, can I rent this building from you? And he said, Yeah. Yeah. Definitely. Let’s have a chat. And sure enough, I was able to rent it on a five-year lease. And he actually covered the cost of the refurbishment of the building, which actually, it’s another cost that I wouldn’t have been able to shoulder as a startup business. So it worked out really, really well. I sought advice from a couple of agencies. One was the North Tyneside Business Factory, which is a free service.
And then the second agency I went to was Virgin Startup. Crucially, they have an excellent startup funding scheme which they run in conjunction with Start Up Loans. And their funding manager, Andy, was pretty crucial in terms of helping me find finance for my business.
Each week, we will draw on individual stories that help to illustrate the themes of the course.
We start with a business case study, Simon Laing, who turned his love of outdoor pursuits into his job through his business Cullercoats Bike & Kayak. We will meet others through the course who have applied their ideas to solve problems in a wide variety of contexts, not just in business.
There are many interesting themes that arise through Simon’s story. We will look at inspiration, motivation and insights in Week 2, opportunities in Week 3, and how you can make ideas happen, through networks and support, in Week 4.
In this section of the course, we are looking at what makes an entrepreneur, so whilst watching this video consider:
  • What makes Simon entrepreneurial? (Add your comments below).
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