by Chris Evans, founder of Waterfall Ways
Waterfalls Ways was borne out of the idea of offering people fun-packed outdoor activities in the heart of one of the most scenic spots in the country.
We’re a family-run business and we want to share the beauty of the Brecon Beacons, where we’re based, with our customers.
I’ve built the business with the support of my loved ones, and over the last four years we’ve grown from strength to strength. We now offer everything from corporate team building packages featuring archery, golf and bushcraft, to stag and hen parties involving waterfall walks and mountain exploring.
I was inspired to start up Waterfall Ways after I was made redundant. But being honest, I had always wanted to run my own business, I just needed a push. So after I found myself returning to the drawing board, I made the decision to go it alone, and I’ve never looked back.
Given the nature of the business, and our busy family life, an average day in my shoes is normally very full-on. But that’s how I like it.
Most days I’m woken up by my children, rather than by an alarm clock. And as a working parent, the morning often revolves around getting the kids ready for school with the help of my wife. That being said, as soon as I look at my phone, I start thinking about the working day ahead. I often check emails and respond to urgent queries, in the midst of my hectic morning routine. I like to multi-task and I think that’s the key to a happy life as a start-up owner – being able to juggle things has proved very beneficial.
This is the main difference when running your own business compared to working for somebody else. There’s no one to answer to apart from yourself. So, it’s up to me to decide where and when to devote my attention to work and family life – and master my juggling skills.
Although running my own business means I hold more responsibility, given that our family income depends on my decisions, it gives me much more flexibility over my working hours – which is really useful as a busy dad.
Once the school run is complete, I’ll check my emails again and prepare for the day ahead. This usually involves planning for events at our new country pub and restaurant venue, The New Inn Ystradfellte. I’ll also use the time in the morning to order any stock needed and get everything in order for the rest of the week. Our tours seem to be getting busier every year and we have been blown away by the uplift in sales over the summer.
My ideal day comprises taking customers on tours, which often involves swimming in rivers and jumping off 35-foot waterfalls. But before that even starts, there’s plenty of paperwork to complete – including medical forms, risk assessments and consent forms. Then there’s sizing up wetsuits, buoyancy aids and helmets for each client. Once all of the preparation is sorted, we’ll begin exploring! We’ll venture to steep, often hidden gorges, which is always exciting!
Running Waterfall Ways isn’t a 9-5 job, and I don’t have a set structure. This means I’ll grab lunch on the go – gone are the days of a set lunch hour.
I’ll always aim to down tools at a reasonable hour so that I can spend the evening at home with my family. My work-life balance is much better nowadays. It varies from day to day, depending on the events scheduled for that week – especially if we have a big corporate event or stag do to prepare for. But running my own business allows me to choose the time I spend with my family, which is a huge plus.
Currently, we are looking ahead to winter, planning the launch of a 20-bed bunk house opposite the New Inn Ystradfellte, which is our 40-cover Pub/Restaurant. I often spend slack days pulling pints and sharing my knowledge of the area with tourists and locals. I guess if you pop into The New Inn during December, you may even find me dressed as Santa for the festive cream teas we’ve got planned.
The new venue has allowed us to pull all parts of the business together and focus on offering our customers a one-stop shop for activities, accommodation, and great food and ale. We have an ethos of supporting local produce at The New Inn, which seems to please the majority of tourists and locals alike.
I loved my former job, but there’s something special about watching your own business grow and develop. Waterfall Ways allows me to meet a range of new people from all walks of life too – I really enjoy speaking to our customers and hearing about their passions for the great outdoors. It reminds me that I’m doing a good job
Of course, it’s no secret that with start-ups, it’s often a struggle to get support in the early stages – and it can be challenging to secure financial backing. That’s why I’m grateful that The Start Up Loans Company provided me with the support needed to get the business off the ground.
I started Waterfall Ways with the help of a £18,000 low-interest loan from The Start Up Loans Company. Once my application went through successfully, I was assigned a mentor who walked me through the ‘starting-up’ process and I used the Start Up Loan to purchase the minibus, outdoor equipment and catering equipment.
We have some exciting plans for 2018 and are looking to at least double our turnover from this year’s.