Imagine how convenient it would be if you arrived at your holiday accommodation in Cornwall and your surf hire was already there waiting for you?
This was the wave of a business idea that hit Exeter graduate Max Harrington and his friend Mike Shawley in the summer of 2020, which they hoped would transform the surf-hire process for holiday-makers in Cornwall.
In September 2020, Max enrolled in the Student Startups programme at the University of Exeter, to access advice and funding to get his idea off the ground.
Run by the University of Exeter Student Startup team, the programme is designed to teach students the core skills needed to become an entrepreneurial thinker and launch a successful business venture.
By May 2021, Max and Mike had launched their company Just Surf, which has already partnered with 55 accommodation hosts to provide surf and paddle equipment to their guests.
Under their innovative business model, Just Surf work directly with accommodation hosts who offer ‘Just Surf hire’ as an add-on when holiday-makers make their booking. Surf boards, paddleboards and wetsuits are then delivered by the Just Surf team directly to the accommodation, removing the hassle of holiday-makers having to source and transport heavy boards themselves.
After a successful summer of trading in 2021, the Just Surf team are looking forward to an even busier one in 2022, with £2200-worth of pre-orders made for the Easter holiday period.
One of their hosts from 10 Atlantic in Newquay, said: “Max and his team at Just Surf have been nothing but fabulous to work with. My guests consistently say how grateful they are for the recommendation."
Just Surf has also worked with one of its hosts - Beachside View, Newquay - to donate £600 to the RNLI in efforts to keep everyone safe.
On the Student Startups Pre-Incubator and Incubator programmes, Max successfully pitched for a total of £4000 grant funding to launch the business. Grant funding is available to students on the programmes thanks to the generous philanthropic support of Santander Universities UK.
Max said: “We spent the grant on roughly 10 surfboards, 20 wetsuits and two paddleboards. This enabled us to start at a larger scale because we could have more stock. It turned what would have initially been more of a 'trial summer' into a summer that could get going properly. This meant securing more hosts than we initially planned.”
“The injection of cash also meant that when orders came in, instead of paying off a loan, we could put this cash directly into more stock, such as paddleboards (as these were in higher demand than anticipated). We could also pay for surf school insurance and Mike's surf coach qualification, which means we can offer lessons, which is a great revenue driver.”
By starting the business at a larger scale in the first summer, they were able to contact every host in the area before any competitors entered the market.
Ahead of this summer, Just Surf have got more hosts onboard and improved the user experience. They have also increased their stock of paddleboards from 2 to 8 boards, and are expanding their service to Falmouth.
They are in the process of building a Just Surf outhouse to store surf equipment - and so that Mike’s dad can have his garage back!
Looking to the longer term, they hope to launch in other surf holiday hotspots abroad such as Malibu, and sell their custom coded booking system to other hire businesses around the world.