Slackline Head

Rich, 27, lived in Taunton before he decided to move to Falmouth in 2008 to take on an undergraduate degree in
broadcasting. He went on to graduate in 2011 with a 2:1 and speaking of his experience he said: “I found it amazing as an experience to come down here and study. The people that I’ve met down here and the things that I have been able to do just by meeting people has been phenomenal.”

After graduating, Rich ran for the position of Welfare President within the Falmouth and Exeter Student’s Union (FXU). Fortunately, he won the election and speaking of that experience he said: “I was really, really blown away by the support I had for that and I ended up staying and doing that job for two years. That pretty much cemented for me the idea that I wanted to stay here for at least a good while. This is my home now.”

Speaking of his role as Welfare President, he said: “It was just a myriad of bizarre experiences, from corporate and company management and restructure, to advertising and event management.” Among the more business-like tasks, Rich also had the chance to help organise large events such as the Garden Party and Penryn Greenfields which he is still involved with now. One of the more unusual events he was involved with was the first university slip and slide which has since become one of the most anticipated dates in the university calendar.

After finishing his stint with the FXU, he decided to take a step back in the summer of 2013 and relax for a bit. Having become a professional mountain bike rider in 2008, Rich returned to his role as a rider, manager and commentator with the Three Sixty Bicycle Stunt team. “I was going and doing about two or three days a week away from here and living with a friend of mine in Penryn rent-free which was kind of nice. We just had that summer after I finished at FXU to just chill and relax. It was great, and that’s where a lot of the slacklining stuff came from.”

Since then, Rich has found himself at a point where he is working at least seven different jobs. He currently works at two pubs, does stage crew work for the Hall For Cornwall, has just been booked to give his first lecture on Creative Events Management, is still doing bike shows, runs his own slackline business and occasionally does some construction and demolition work. “This is kind of the reality of living in the poorest county in the UK. Having a graduate level degree is all well and good but making ends meet is not as easy as it sounds.”

The job which Rich spends the most time on is his own business, The Slackline School. He tells me that essentially slacklining is a balance sport or activity which stems from tightrope walking. The difference being that slacklines are looser than a tightrope and only have two anchor points rather than the numerous anchors that tightropes have. This means the line moves about more. “It’s more of an art or fitness than a sport” I am told.

“The Slackline School facilitates tasters, tuition and if you want it, private coaching and adventure sessions in slacklining and other balance activities as well.” It begun almost accidentally when Rich and some friends set up slacklines on Gyllyngvase beach for a bit of fun in the summer. But then people started approaching and asking for a go and before long they were teaching people and they were facing queues of people who wanted a go.

The business grew from there and then they started to team up with Gylly Adventures in offering slacklining outside their shop and they started to make money from it. Since then Rich has taken slacklining into a handful of schools and entered into discussions with Glastonbury and Cornwall Sports Partnership about working with them.

Some of his most notable experiences so far have been slacklining across harbour gaps. The first one they crossed was Porthleven which Rich said, “was terrifying because Porthleven is renowned for really big rip tides and waves, but also it was March and the water was freezing”. They then set out to do as many as they could and this led to recognition in the national press with articles appearing in the Daily Mail and the Independent.
The year ahead looks to be a busy one for Rich and The Slackline School as they aim to provide slacklining on the beach every day throughout summer at “a ridiculously affordable price”. On top of that, they are also in discussions with potential clients outside of Cornwall, from Devon, Wales, and even as far as Saudi Arabia.

Rich admits that this job has facilitated him to spend his entire summer on a beach, making money through slacklining. But there’s also a great deal that goes into it behind the scenes. He’s sent emails out to over 22,000 schools, 200 different music festivals, events companies and outdoor adventure sports companies and he says the most difficult thing “is having to explain what slacklining is to start with”.

Speaking on where people can get advice for setting up their own business, Rich said he found that Natwest were very helpful. “They’ve got online business planning tools which is how I learnt to put together my business plan and present it to them to get a loan. They were really cool.”
He added: “Everyone’s got this bad impression of banks. Okay, they are money grabbing bastards, absolutely, and they did ruin a large part of this country with the recession, but I think they’re trying to make it up a bit by supporting young entrepreneurs, so all in all they were really helpful.”

Some of the other helpful people Rich dealt with were Unlocking Cornish Potential, an arm of Grad Cornwall who provided a lot of business mentoring and support and the careers department at Tremough who also gave a lot of help and advice. He also found a great deal of advice came from his sponsors, Maverick Slacklines, Ian from Three Sixty and Gylly Adventures.

But things don’t always go the way you want them too and a couple of weeks ago when things weren’t quite moving on as fast as Rich wanted them to, he received some words of advice from his Uncle who said: “You’ve got to believe that what you’re going to do is going to be something amazing. Millionaire’s kids don’t make great entrepreneurs, they’re not hungry enough, they’ve never been embarrassed or in debt or sad or scared that they’ve failed.”

This notion is one that Rich really buys into. Having worked in many different jobs and being hit with setbacks in all walks of life, there’s one thing he has never done, and that’s give up. Towards the end of my conversation with Rich, he offered one final bit of advice which can be applied to anyone in any walk of life. “If there’s one thing you take away from this interview, it’s that if anyone has a good idea, or even just an idea, they should just fucking run with it. There are a million and one successful people out there that we all look up to, but most of them will also have tried and failed at other things as well before they got to where they are now. People should be afraid. But that fear shouldn’t hold them back.”
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