Category Archives: Entrepreneur of the fortnight

Entrepreneur Of The Fortnight: Sky Man, Alex Ledger

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SkySchool is a seriously cool British Adventure Sports company, specialising in Paramotoring, Paragliding and Skydiving. Set up in 2005 by Alex Ledger, a self-proclaimed university drop-out, it’s done pretty damn well for a bloke who jokingly referred to himself as ‘unemployable’.

Europe’s leading Paramotoring school, SkySchool runs an array of courses in Spain and the UK, boasting highs including Flying For Heroes, which saw SkySchool flying eight wounded ex-military personnel across Kenya in custom built paratrikes. Check out the expedition video below and catch a glimpse of some once in a lifetime stuff.

So if you’ve ever found yourself sitting at your desk wondering how to go about setting up a business, read on and be inspired…

Over to you, Alex…

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Can You Tell Us A Bit About What You Do?

I’m a British Adventure Sports Athlete and Managing Director of SkySchool, which specialises in teaching people how to fly Paragliders and Paramotors in the UK and Spain. I also run APPI PPG, the International Paramotor Association, and I’m the founder of Flying for Heroes, which provides flying training and expeditions for wounded, injured and sick British service personnel.

What Was Your Previous Experience Before Starting Your Business?

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I opted out of University after one lecture and instead qualified as a skydiver, scuba diver and snowboard instructor in 2003 while travelling on my own around the world for a year.

What Inspired You To Start Your Business?

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I was brought up in a Military family and spent 3 years as a child in Cyprus rock climbing, snorkelling, cliff diving etc. During that time I developed an adventurous streak and after leaving school it became apparent that I was not only addicted to adventure sports but also unemployable! So it was a no brainer to start my own adventure sports business and when I was offered the opportunity in 2005 to take over a flying school, I jumped at the opportunity!

How Did You Manage To Build Your Business?

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I started small and grew organically. I focused on providing as good and as safe a service as possible while maintaining good lines of communication. This meant that clients recommended us to others and returned themselves and as the company’s reputation grew, more and more people came to us. I also focused on cash flow, especially during the recession. Too many people have unrealistic expectations and try to run before they can walk which invariably leads to problems!

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?

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The biggest financial highlight was securing a six figure contract in the Middle East. However, this pales into insignificance compared to the Flying for Heroes expedition in Kenya which took 2.5 years to pull off and has led to some exciting plans for the future.

What Is Flying For Heroes About?

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Flying For Heroes is a not for profit enterprise providing pilot training scholarships for wounded services personnel and veterans. It launched in July 2014 with an initial eight trainee student pilots. After their training, the pilots undertook a three week expedition flying Paratrikes and Paramotors across Kenya in partnership with Help For Heroes.

What’s The Goal Of Flying For Heroes?

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It’s important that we recognise the bravery and sacrifices given by our wounded soldiers, sailors and airmen and to demonstrate to potential employers the capabilities, positive attitude and determination shown by all those who have served our country, been injured and are looking for new opportunities.

Learning to fly is an exciting, rewarding and enriching experience. Flying For Heroes aims to create a bursary to continue offering flying scholarships to our wounded heroes.

What Was The High-Point Of The Trip?

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Being flown First Class to Kenya by British Airways was a pretty nice start!

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?

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There have been so many big challenges. One of the biggest is continuing to improve one’s skills and knowledge without losing focus. I’ve been fortunate enough to have several exciting projects to get stuck into which not only allow the business to grow and develop but also keep me focused while continuing to improve and evolve.

What’s Your Favourite Service From Your Offering? 

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My favourite activity is Acro Paragliding. I only teach this to people who I think have the correct skills and mentality as it comes with big risks but unbelievable rewards! This recent video sums it up.

How Do You Build Your Client Base?

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Professionalism, reputation, good marketing, good web presence, good videos/photos/social media content and good communication with potential clients.

What’s The Best Compliment You’ve Received?

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‘Thanks for making my dream of learning how to fly come true’.

What Advice Would You Give To Budding Entrepreneurs?

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I always advise any entrepreneur interested in starting a business to write a business plan. I think this is absolutely critical as you learn so much about what you are potentially getting yourself into. “Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance”, as they say! I also advise that while running your own business brings a lot of freedom, be prepared for hard work.

What’s Next For You?

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My next big project is a secret at the moment I’m afraid! It’s not quite as mad as the 2009 Flying Car project I was involved in but it’s just as quirky and, if I get it right, much more viable as a business!

How Can We Contact You?

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SkySchool Website: www.skyschooluk.com

Flying for Heroes: www.flyingforheroes.org

Email: alexledger@me.com 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alexledger52UK 

Telephone: +447747097527

What’s Your Favourite Quote?

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Tell Us Something We Didn’t Know About You….

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I used to be in the choir at school but can’t sing for sh*t now!

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Entrepreneur Of The Month: Maudie Johnson, Yogi With A Twist

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Looking for a yoga retreat in a sunshine-swathed location to cleanse the body, mind and soul? Look no further…

Maudie Johnson, founder of Loveyogabum, is the Queen of Zen, channelling heart, health and peace into intimate yoga retreats around the world. Combining tropical locations with an accomplished team of specialists and healthy feasts, Loveyogabum delivers the ultimate yoga experience, taking you on a journey that you won’t forgot. Whether a day, weekend or week retreat, you’ll leave inspired and enriched. 

Over to you, Maudie …

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Can You Tell Me A Bit About What You Do?

In 3 words ….. I’m an Entrepreneur, Yoga teacher & Founder of Loveyogabum. 

What Was Your Previous Experience Before Starting Your Business?

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Chaos inside and out!! But this chaos led me to where I am today. My road to self acceptance has been bumpy and it’s a constant work in progress! I find affirmations and yoga have helped me hugely. The best time for affirmations for me is when I first wake up.  

What Inspired You To Start Your Business?

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A sense that my life was in my hands and I was in charge of making it what I will.

How Did You Manage To Build Your Business?

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Through hard work, time, persistence and a belief in what I was doing. Oh and many mistakes!! But I learned that these mistakes really helped me stay emotionally strong when I might have been tempted to throw the towel in!

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?

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I think seeing transformation occur on our retreats for me is the biggest joy.  We have had people who perhaps didn’t even realise they needed a shift but have allowed themselves to be open and in doing so things have come up for them which is wonderful to see.

How Do You Build Your Client Base?

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Good old word of mouth and reputation. Social media is also a powerful tool.

What Advice Would You Give To Budding Entrepreneurs?

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Get stuck into doing something you love. Have confidence in yourself and your ability to dream big and make things happen. You will make mistakes but learn to love the journey as a windy road is far more interesting than a straight one!

What’s Next For You?

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I’m off to the Turkish Coast for our next yoga retreat at my Garden of Eden, Suleyman’s Garden, with one of our amazing yoga teachers, Sarah Kekus. We’ll be practicing yoga whilst the sun sets over the ocean, unwinding in hammocks and eating healthy feasts to die for! I can’t wait!

If you’re interested in joining us, we’d love to have you aboard.

How Can We Contact You?

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www.loveyogabum.com or you can email me at maudie@loveyogabum.com.

What’s Your Favourite Quote?

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Something You Didn’t Know About Maudie…

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Maudie is a firm believer in loving who you are are, inside and out. Beauty comes from within and vulnerability is your power. Harness it.

Marie Forleo: How To Make Millions From Your Living Room

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What Does It Take To Be A Successful Entrepreneur?

Who’s the first person you think of when you hear ‘entrepreneur’? How important is it to be an extrovert to whip up business? How much experience do you need to launch a six figure online business? Can you really make a fortune from your living room without some serious money behind you?

How Achievable Are Your Dreams?

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If you dream about leaving the rat race and creating a highly successful online business but don’t know where to begin, watch this truly inspiring video from Marie Forleo, Founder of B-School. Interviewing a series of cracking women who have created highly profitable, online businesses across a range of areas from smoothies to fashion and jewellery design, this is a must if you’re looking for motivation to start your own venture.

What Is B-School?

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B-School is an inspiring business coaching academy in New York which focuses on small business and personal development training for entrepreneurs.

Forbes.com listed Forleo’s website on their “Top 100 Websites for Entrepreneurs”, with her work being featured in The New York Times, CNN and Forbes. Having appeared on Tony Robbins’ The New Money Masters, Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday and mentored young entrepreneurs as part of Richard Branson’s Centre for Entrepreneurship, Forleo is a great example of a successful female entrepreneur who started a multi-million pound business from scratch.

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Entrepreneur Of The Month: Dreams, Havard & Humans Of New York

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“What’s your favorite thing about your mother?” “She loves life more than anyone I’ve ever known. I hope she doesn’t mind me telling you this, but recently she’s had some health problems. And her health got so bad at one point, she called me and said: ‘I was starting to wonder if there was any reason to go on. But then I had the most delicious pear!’”

“You can’t wait for the perfect idea to follow your dreams” -

Brandon Stanton, creator and photographer behind Humans of New York.

What is Humans Of New York?

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Launched in November 2010, HONY is a remarkable photoblog and bestselling book featuring street portraits and interviews collected in New York City. Achieving incredible popularity, reaching over 12 million followers on Facebook and gathering over 6000 portraits of New Yorkers, HONY captures every shade of human nature through honest visuals and snappy words.

Whether tales of poverty, love, suffering or humour, the thousands of comments under each photo reflect the powerful effect HONY has had on the world, with the public’s words revealing a rather more charitable, loving and inspiring human spirit than the media may have us believe.

A Boy With A Big Dream…

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HONY was created by Brandon Stanton, a self-professed ‘bad photographer’ who left the finance industry to pursue his dreams, risking the wrath of his parents to try to forge a career which would afford him ‘time rather than money’. He has, in fact, achieved both in tremendous fashion.

What Of The High Points?

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In the process, Stanton has interviewed Barack Obama on how he deals with adversity and garnered a Harvard Fund for disadvantaged NYC children which allows them to expand their idea of their own potential by visiting Harvard. The fund currently stands at over $1.5 million, with donations from the public stemming solely from the powerful picture below.

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“Who’s influenced you the most in your life?” “My principal, Ms. Lopez.” “How has she influenced you?” “When we get in trouble, she doesn’t suspend us. She calls us to her office and explains to us how society was built down around us. And she tells us that each time somebody fails out of school, a new jail cell gets built. And one time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter.” 

Stanton’s Speech To Harvard

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Stanton’s speech about his incredible journey is only 20 minutes long, the rest of the time being comprised of questions from the audience. If you don’t have time to listen to the whole speech and would like inspiration about why you should follow your dreams and design a life which fits your ideals, some of the high points can be found around minute 12 here.

Some Of The Best HONY Snaps…

To see some of my favourite HONY snaps, scroll down. They are, quite simply, amazing.

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#follow #your #dreams

#design #your #life #happy

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“On January 19th, I met a young man on the street named Vidal, and I asked him to tell me about the person who had influenced him the most in his life. He told me about his principal, Ms. Lopez, and he explained how she had taught him that he mattered. Over the next two weeks, I learned the story of Ms. Lopez and her school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy. By hearing the stories of MHBA students and educators, my eyes were opened to the unique challenges facing a school in an under-served community. Ms. Lopez taught me that before a student is ready for academic training, they must be made to understand that they deserve success. And that can be the hardest battle in education. Ms. Lopez always said that there was no place her students did not belong. Recently we received an invitation that proved just that” – Brandon Stanton.

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“What’s your greatest struggle right now?” “No struggles.”

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“Right after I lost vision in my eye, I was so bad at walking that I ran into a girl eating ice cream, and knocked her cone out of her hand. She screamed: ‘Are you blind!?!?’ I turned to her and said: ‘I am blind actually, I’m so sorry, I’ll buy you a new cone.’ And she said: ‘Oh my God! I’m so sorry! Don’t worry! It’s no problem at all! I’ll buy another one.’ So we walked into the ice cream store together, and the clerk said: ‘I heard the whole thing. Ice cream is free.’”

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“I’m glad I had a daughter. Ever since my grandmother died, I’ve needed the female energy in my life. It’s good energy. I mean, when things go wrong, another man can tell you that everything is going to be OK. But not like a woman can.”

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“When I told my mom that I was going to rehab, she was about to catch a flight to her 40th High School Reunion. I told her: ‘I guess you won’t be bragging about me to your friends.’ She said: ‘Actually, I’ve never been prouder of you.’”

Entrepreneur Of The Month: Digital Marketeer / Website Designer

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Looking for a web designer who combines visual, linguistic and commercial acumen and doesn’t break the bank?

Chris Sharp (otherwise known as C#) has set up two of my blogs/websites and delivered exactly what I was after. Many web designers quote extortionate amounts which simply aren’t viable for budding entrepreneurs, so if you’re looking for someone who’s new business friendly, with bucket loads of patience and helpful input to boot, he’s a tried and tested recommendation.

Over to you, Chris…

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Can You Tell Me A Bit About What You Do?

I’m a freelancer specialising in digital marketing. My main focus is on copywriting, primarily for websites, blogs and corporate white papers. I am also a dab hand at graphics and web design as I have the right kind of left brain-right brain mix to manage technical aspects with attractive design.

What Was Your Previous Experience Before Starting Your Business?

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I didn’t have a great deal of experience copywriting, only a good basis from university projects. But with a good mentor to help me along I quickly picked up what I needed to know to polish my writing to a standard that pleased my clients.

From the design side of things, I used to work in a photography studio and began picking up PhotoShop techniques. I later became friends with graphic designers at university who introduced me to other programmes such as Illustrator. Combining these with education in web designing seemed like the logical next step – bringing together my skills to create attractive, functional and well-written websites.

What Inspired You To Start Your Business?

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I decided to become a freelancer after travelling. The idea of being tied to one place was really difficult after having been so free. I started as a researcher and writer, making myself invaluable to a few different clients and that allowed me the opportunity to hone my skills in other areas, such as graphics and web design.

How Did You Manage To Build Your Business?

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I was fortunate enough to be drafted in to help with two companies almost straight away. This gave me the financial security I needed to then go on and train in other areas, and clients are always happy if you can bring new skills to the table.

What’s Been The Biggest Highlight?

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I once wrote a proposal for a new gym and boxing complex to be built in a deprived part of London. The project would be a big step towards rejuvenating the area as well as providing a healthy hobby for local kids. The local council accepted the proposal and it will be launched in the Limehouse area this Autumn.

What’s Been The Biggest Challenge?

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Once I was asked to write a wedding speech for the maid of honour. I had never met her, the bride, or the groom – which made it pretty tricky to start with – and then they asked that it all be in rhyming verse…

Another great highlight was hearing just how well the speech had gone down!

What’s Your Favourite Website/Blog You’ve Built?
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There are too many to choose from but here are a select few:

www.ChrisClimbsKili.co.uk

www.GazingGirl.com

www.floatingclinic.org/

www.ludlowcc.org.uk/

Who Do You Write For?

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Writing work is more difficult to give examples for, as most were ghostwriting for others. For example, I wrote the blog for www.adramatch.com for two years, but they sell automatic account reconciliation software, or www.oisg.com who sell computer stuff to businesses, or www.tribecaknowledge.com who sell software for pharmaceutical launches.

How Do You Build Your Client Base?

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Most of my clients come through word of mouth. As you can imagine, it is difficult to know who and what you are getting with a freelancer – how easy are they to work with? Will they give you what you want? Will you pay through the nose? By going through recommendations both the client and I know that we are getting someone vouched for, and that adds a world of comfort and satisfaction to the project.

What Advice Would You Give To Budding Entrepreneurs?

Balancing the Accounts

There is a lot to learn, both in terms of your skill and in terms of just being a freelancer. The toughest one for me was budgeting. I’m not great with money to begin with, but when your income is not fixed, you have to pay tax and NIC at odd times of year, and you have other expenses such as a laptop and computer programmes, it can all get very tricky.

The next hardest part was correcting everyone who thought a copywriter put little © marks on things…

What’s Next For You?

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I have had a lot of fun being back in the UK, but it is time for more travelling. Hopefully this time I can take much of my work with me!

How Can We Contact You?

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Through my website or email: c.sharp@see-sharp.co.uk

What’s Your Favourite Quote?

Oh, there are so many! As a copywriter I collect them. But if I had to pick one, it would be this:

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How To Have A Year That Counts

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“Go ahead. Tell me all you really want is…a life spent in the furious pursuit of…buying stuff you don’t want with money you don’t have by doing jobs you can’t stand to impress people you don’t like to fit in instead of stand out…just so you don’t have to remember, even for a nanosecond, there’s a truer reason you are here. To live a life that matters.

Sure. You can tell yourself that’s all there is to life. But nobody’s going to believe you. Even you”.

How To Have a Year That Counts” is a seriously thought-provoking essay written by author and economist Umair Haque and brought to my attention by the brilliant team at Escape The City. Read it. It will make you question reality as you know it.

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At a Career Crossroads?

Unsure about which way to turn professionally?

If you’re at a career impasse and free tomorrow eve, buy yourself a ticket to Escape the City’s talk with Louise Cox-Chester and Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley.

Who is the speaker?

Cox-Chester was a Director of several City banks and headed up a global team advising on over £50bn of assets. She attributes practicing mindfulness for the last 18 years as the greatest tool to help her manage life and be more effective, and has subsequently set up her own businesses that train on mindfulness at work.  Incongruous, impressive or all the above?

Who are Escape the City?

For those of you not in the know, Escape the City are top of the range career connoisseurs who connect people with exciting non-corporate career opportunities. Products of top corporate jobs themselves, they understand what motivates us, Generation Y and what may also drive us to look for more.. Whether a job running a winery in Argentina or an opportunity to buy into a desert island in the middle of nowhere, they offer refreshing opportunities a-plenty.

How do I find out more?

For more information, check out their website here.  They host regular talks led by successful entrepreneurs who have shifted path and made it – informative and inspiring, they provide a great opportunity to meet like-minded people wondering if there may be more to life… Go on, hop aboard.  You won’t regret it.

Buy your ticket here.

 

Branson: Not just a businessman

“People often ask why I always have a huge grin on my face: the answer is the love and support of my family” – Richard Branson. Inspirational, human, humble. Read the full article from the Virgin website here.