What did you study at University and why did you pick this course?
I studied Outdoor Education at the University of Cumbria from 2015-2018 and my course was based in Ambleside. I have worked as an outdoor instructor teaching windsurfing, sailing, canoeing and kayaking for a number of years. After gaining extensive experience working in the industry, I decided that it was the right time to focus on the theory side of outdoor learning to help enhance my coaching experience.
How has it helped your employability skills and prospects?
As I was a mature student I already had previous employability skills and prospects. However, the course I studied really changed the way I approached coaching individuals and groups whilst working in the outdoors. My course offered a great combination of practical experience, academic and critical-thinking skills.
How has it changed or informed your plans/approach to self-employment or employability?
Studying at the University of Cumbria really changed how I thought about self-employment. During my course, myself and two other students looked into setting up a business which we piloted in two South Lakes schools. This experience was instrumental to me investing in Ark Sailing and my business becoming what it is today. I would definitely recommend other prospective students to enrol on this course and realise your potential – whether you’re a mature student like me or in the earlier stages of your career.
Tell us about your new business?
I originally took over Ark Sailing in December 2018. My partner is an accountant and she looked over the business figures. I asked her if I could grow and expand the business – she said it had a great deal of potential. I knew then that it was the right decision, so I took the step and bought Ark Sailing. I sail a Beneteau First 211 and Ark Sailing Is a recognised Royal Yachting Association (RYA) sailing school running RYA recognised courses, sailing experiences and evening cruises on Lake Windermere. We also have more information featured on our website and social media pages:
- Website: arksailing.co.uk
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/arksailingschool/?hl=en
- Facebook: https://en-gb.facebook.com/arksailingschool/
Who is involved in the running and development of your business?
My partner Amanda and I are responsible for running and developing the business.
Who are your target customers?
Previously we have worked with people looking to learn to sail, to novice sailors who would like to progress their skills. Our clients have mainly been private individuals. Some have also been looking into buying their own yacht and liveaboard in the Mediterranean, to other clients who would like to see if they enjoy sailing before embarking on a more formal RYA sailing course.
We have a wide customer base, if a client is interested in sailing whether they are new to the sport or more experienced, we will have a course suitable for everyone.
How is your business developing, have you secured any major customers/ pieces of work?
In 2019 Ark sailing was in a start-up position, and we delivered 34 individual bookings from three hour sailing experiences to week-long sailing courses. This year despite Covid-19 restrictions and being unable to operate until 4 July 2020, we have successfully secured 48 individual bookings! This is an excellent level of growth and we have seen a significant increase in the popularity of courses.
What are your aspirations for your business in the future?
In the future we plan to build on the success since the start-up of Ark Sailing. The main focus will be to continuing improving our marketing tools such as: the launch of our new website, use of social media and meeting or approaching near maximum capacity bookings between April and October. There is also the possibility of an additional Ark Sailing boat that we could hire out to clients who have sailed with us to then progress their sailing in the future.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
The three years I spent studying with the University of Cumbria at Ambleside has given me a new lease of life and the drive to push into an unknown area of self-employment. I’ve never looked back since, and I should’ve taken this step years ago!
Sylvia Grainger, Professional Development Manager said:
“I’m absolutely delighted to see the progress Neil and his company Ark Sailing has made. It was a pleasure to work alongside Neil and see how his experience in industry has been strengthened whilst studying with the University of Cumbria. As Neil mentions in his case study, there is no age limit on expanding our knowledge and experience – Neil is an excellent example of someone who saw how he could build on his existing skills to further realise his potential. I wish Neil and the team at Ark Sailing the very best for the future.”