Q&A: Mod Le Froy, Global Boarders

What's Global Boarders and how did it come about?

Global Boarders provides luxury surfing holidays in Cornwall.  We decided to set it up as every weekend we would get up really early and drive down to Cornwall, splash about, have a few ciders, walk along the cliffs, and then drive back to London on Sunday afternoon. We loved going down there so much that we decided to give up our jobs, move down here and start Global Boarders. We felt that there was a market for a surfing holiday, where people like us could come down, have a surf and enjoy themselves.  I know people think owning a surf company must be amazing, and it is. But it's also very, very hard work.

How did you fund it?

We financed it ourselves. We knew it would take us longer than two years to break even but that's how we wanted to do it. We didn't want to just sell out. In the end it took us five years to break even.

Do you have an exit strategy?

We didn't have any plans to sell the business when we first started. We just wanted to create something that was really good, economically, environmentally and socially. And we've achieved that.

Did you have a detailed business plan?

Yes we did. The research that we did found plenty of surf schools that do two-hour lessons and occasionally have accommodation attached to them. That's all the market was, there was nothing else to look at. Devising a business plan is a challenge and is annoying, as you just want to go forward with your business. But I think you could waste a lot more time, energy and money if you don't have a plan. It was especially important for us, as down here the rate of the success is not high.

How many staff did you have when you first started?

We had Ed, myself and another director. Then the director left and got a job. So we employed a young seventeen-year-old who'd just finished college. He's still with us, and another young surf coach. That's our core team of four. Then on top of that we employ around five more each year on a part-time basis.

How did you market Global Boarders?

We've never paid for any advertising. We set up a website and then spent a lot of time going for as many awards as we could. Especially in the first three years.  It's important to get awards as it gives your business credibility.  Another tactic we used was inviting journalists to come down and see how it all works. It's definitely worth doing that, because although it costs you money, it's better than taking out an advert somewhere. If the journalist writes an article it gives a detailed account of the experience and is more credible than an advert could ever be.  We also link with travel agents. We offer those guys incentives to sell our products. If they get people to come to one of our resorts, then we give them commission.

Do you get many repeat customers?

We've got a community of customers that we've built by encouraging people to come back. The repeat ratio tends to last between two and five visits.

How important is the corporate section of your website?

At the moment it's quite small. When we started our business, everything went wrong. As a result of the recession, companies don't have the cash to spend on client trips. But in saying that, the corporate businesses we have had tend to come back again and again. So once the economy is back on track I'm sure the corporate part of our business will pick up.

What are your plans for the next 12 months?

Our aim for the next year is to concentrate on our gourmet surf trips and one open a package for the over fifties market. We see that as another untapped sector. Down here in Cornwall we have a huge number of people walking around the coast and bird watching. These people come out of season too.  So we did a local over fifties pilot project for people to come down and have a session with us. We filmed this, so when we market it online, people over the age of 50 will see others the same age as them doing it. Usually they see adverts for surfing and think they're either too old or too uncool to give it a go. They've never actually been given the opportunity.

Will this be an easy nut to crack?

I've been speaking to people about how to develop a package with hotels that accommodate the walkers. The customers could stay with them but also come surfing with us as part of the package. If it takes off it could be massive as it's a whole market that's untouched in the world of surfing and these people are already here. We haven't got to entice them down. We want to change the perceptions of surfing and what it's about and whom it's for. Well, that's the plan anyway.

Find out more inforamtion about Global Boarders here http://globalboarders.com/

Picture credited to Jonathan Glynn-Smith







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