CALLING ALL ADVENTREPRENEURS. Want to live the dream, working and riding in the mountains so when you're OOO (Out Of Office) you're actually OTS (On The Snow)? Start by Dropping In with Action Academy.
Action Academy has been created at a pivotal time when the action sports industry is growing at an exponential rate. Every year, new sports emerge and the existing ones reach new levels. The industry now commands a global worth measured in billions of dollars a year, while skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing have successfully earned their inclusion in the 2020 Olympic games. Extreme sports companies are no longer the renegades living on the edge. Extreme has gone mainstream – and with it, opportunities are arising across the industry - and especially in the mountains . If you’ve ever dreamt of creating your own action or adventure business then now, say Action Academy, 'is a unique time to make your mark on this vibrant and fast-growing community'.
A few months ago, I attended a startup class in London that was all about how to build a knock-out brand. The class was held by a company I had idolised for years, so my expectations were high. However, the class was not what I expected – it was corporate and vague, using colossal, global brands as learning tools for small startups. I was in a room full of London-based entrepreneurs with their 'on trend' businesses (most of which were about saving the planet), and there was me, struggling to communicate what I was building in Morzine. The 'leaders' of this class compared my business to 'fantasy football', as if my idea wasn't yet real. They nicknamed me 'fantasy football' and continued to call me that for the rest of the day. Motivating, right?
The experience left me unsure of my business, my future and myself. Is this what business startup classes are supposed to do? I thought they were there for one purpose: to help, inspire and motivate you.
Conventional business startup classes: inspiring or demotivating?
As I wondered what I was doing there, I started thinking about my friends back in the Alps. I wondered if any of them had ever been in this situation before. It was then that I came to a horrifying realisation: what if there are other young people out there, like me, who are looking for relevant and helpful advice on getting a business going in the Alps and action sports industry, but end up coming to a class like this?
Sharing a passion for business alongside a 'get shit done' attitude
I had met Doug Stidolph in Morzine a few months before – a place we both believe to be a hub of adventure-sport enterprise. Sharing a passion for business alongside a 'get shit done' attitude, it was only a matter of time before an opportunity would arise where we could both work together. This realisation that there must be thousands of young people looking for advice on how to get their new lifestyle business off the ground (without being crushed by a corporate business-school class) led me to have an idea, and I called Doug straight away.
With Doug's knowledge of entrepreneurship and unquestionable ability to network effectively, paired with my media and creative skills, we decided to start a business support network for people who want to start businesses in the action and adventure sports industry. Action Academy was born – the support network for lifestyle and 'adventrepreneurs'.
So, where do you start? Well, with a launch event of course! Ours was 'Dropping In' and it was designed to tackle the first stages of a business startup, covering everything from ideation to product development and launch.
Doug and Mickey at Dropping In
Prior to the event, we produced video content to showcase what we were offering alongside useful advice from each of our partners. Gathering partners and building our social media presence all went off without a glitch until we encountered a small hurdle: the venue. Yes, we had a list of locations, but these would have left us bankrupt. Things weren't looking good until Doug, who had worked with them before, had a surge of brilliance. He contacted Loughborough University and pitched the event to them. His lightbulb moment? Free tickets to university students in return for free use of the venue. Loughborough University agreed.
That was it: the switch we needed to launch Action Academy. Over the next three months, we designed the 'Dropping In' course and arranged key speakers from brands within the action and adventure sports industry to share their expertise on various subjects throughout the day. When the day arrived, we were branded from head-to-toe with a 246-slide presentation and the soon-to-be Action Academy graduates filling the room. We were ready to go.
Concrete view from your office? Or mountain view?
By Loulou Baylis, Co-Editor, STYLE ALTITUDE
Three years ago, just as we were creating STYLE ALTITUDE, I would have killed for something like Action Academy. Informing, encouraging and inspiring, this one-day event was aimed at entrepreneurs looking to create and launch their own lifestyle or action sports business but didn't necessarily know how to get started. Arriving at Action Academy to a lobby full of people, the networking began instantly.
With so many articles bouncing around the internet at the moment, encouraging people to quit their jobs and live in the mountains or go on an adventure, I was keen to delve into the business behind that seemingly irresistible combination of wanderlust and passion for snowboarding, surfing and other extreme sports. Was this going to be another 'buy a campervan and travel the world' pitch? Or, would this give you the means to sustain yourself as you left the conventional 9 to 5:30 routine?
Gone, it seems, is the 'ski bum' mentality. Instead, there are people with passion and enthusiasm to start something new
The first thing that hit me was the drive that these people had – gone, it seems, is the 'ski bum' mentality. Instead, there are people with passion and enthusiasm to start something new, in an industry that they love, so that they can spend all their time in an 'office' of their choosing, be it the mountains or the beach.
The morning was dedicated to the process of ideation, research and branding. Our class was split into teams to brainstorm ideas. The best concept? Easily the idea of integrating RECCO technology with Drones to find buried riders in a matter of seconds after an avalanche. Sadly, I can't take credit for coming up with that one. And, when it's massive in a few seasons, you all have Action Academy to thank.
Action Academy had a brilliant way of incorporating workshops that stimulated ideas and discussions alongside presentations from brands who have actually followed their ideas through and made something of it. First up to prove that a business can come from a solid idea was Ali and Zoe from SunGod .Their idea? Eyewear that's built to withstand adventure, sold with a lifetime guarantee. The result? Raising over £200,000 through crowdfunding and now spending their winters in Verbier.
Nick Coates friom bro! Clothing takes to the stage
The afternoon was focused on product development. Nick Coates from bro! Clothing, Greg Stidolph from Van Loon Sport and Richard Nichols from Vitamin London shared their ideas and experience in three sectors – bootstrapping physical, high-end physical and digital. Each spoke about the importance of simplifying your product for the initial launch without losing sight of your original vision. Cue a flurry of pens being scribbled onto notepads.
The third workshop of the day focused on minimum viable products, and the teams challenged to simplify their brainstormed products for launch. The 'Avalanche Drone' concept was whittled down to providing online avalanche awareness courses. A nice touch, but how would it be marketed?
Of course, marketing was part of the day's course! Cameron Hall from Holmlands took to the stage first to discuss social media marketing strategy while Harriet Smith from Collective Industries followed to share her insight into marketing analytics, what tools to use and how to use the data once collected. A quick workshop followed on content creation before Kyle Dickson from Retro Rentals rounded off the day with a presentation on how to build brand awareness through events. .
After a pretty packed day, many people had ideas and thoughts swirling through their heads. I, for one, was already mentally packing everything in my apartment to move to the Alps the next day. There was no doubt that, yes, people were inspired, yes, they had received all the necessary information to go and start something, and, yes, people were all set to get out there and launch their own businesses in the action and adventure sports industry.
There wasn't one person in the room who didn't get involved in any aspect of the day. Action Academy had sucker-punched them with inspiration, fire and shed loads of possibility - it was now up to the individuals themselves to drive their own ideas forward (and buy that campervan if they want to). As everyone headed for beers (how else could an event like this end?) there was no doubt that Action Academy had well and truly landed. Watch this space for the ideas that follow as a direct result of the course. And remember, you heard the Avalanche Drone idea here first.
So how would you prefer to commute to work?
Action Academy have plans to run events all over the world, starting in the French Alps. They will continue to run events like 'Dropping In' for people who are just getting started. They also have more courses in the pipeline, some of which are more specific:
• Deep Dives - Talks/events geared towards a specialist subject - ie. clothing design, business admin, digital marketing, etc.
• Dropping In' - The event series targeting those looking to get started for the first time, focusing on ideation to launch.
• Fireside Chat - Interview/discussion with one key individual, hearing their experiences and thoughts on multiple topics.
• Hackathon – A multi-day event where several teams address a specific issue and compete to build a new business idea from scratch. At the end of the event, they may pitch to actual investors who will provide feedback, and might even take their new idea forward.
• Panels - Discussions involving three or more key individuals. Questions can be posed to the group and they share and debate their various views on the topic.