We spoke to Ben Livingstone, Co-Founder of Graystone Action Sports, to find out how his startup journey began and what he has planned for the future.
The seed for Graystone Action Sports Academy was planted back in August 2012, as I sat in my office, giddy on the magic of the London Olympics and sent a random email to one of the biggest action sports brands in the world.
In just two weeks, my co-founder Kevin Gray and I will open the doors to the first Graystone Action Sports Academy.
Little did we know back then, but the journey for Kevin and I began in the late 1990s when we were doing ski seasons together and longed to travel to the world’s action sports mecca, Camp Woodward. When I heard of plans of an impending global expansion of the brand it seemed like a good idea to email the CFO to ask whether they would consider opening one in the UK. I never actually expected them to say yes. And so, our journey began of a four-year relationship of site searching, due diligence, offers, rejections, persuasion, discussion, near misses and, of course, that long-awaited visit to see the mecca of action sports - in the flesh. It was important to see the operation close up; and it just so happened to also fulfil a lifelong dream.
Just weeks before we were due to sign the franchise agreement, the value of the Pound crashed as the UK voted to exit the EU, and the fees we were due to pay Camp Woodward skyrocketed to an unaffordable level. It was with mixed emotions that the Woodward brand was left behind and the Graystone Action Sports Academy brand was born.
Out from under the wing of the multi-million dollar company, things were a little more daunting, but they began to move a lot more quickly. With the full support of our prospective landlord, who has a personal passion for the project, and the time and freedom he granted us, we began to make rapid progress.
The development process is a long and winding road, and everything took twice as long as we expected:the planning application, the designs, and the time it took our landlord to empty the warehouse ready for us to move in. We finally got the keys to 47 Brunel Avenue on 13 July 2018, and since then our feet have not touched the ground.
Along the road, we were super lucky to have established a great team who have all dug deep to get us to where we are today, and we know will continue to help drive us forward when we open.
Whilst we had an inkling that Graystone would appeal to a lot of people in the industry, we have been blown away by the interest. Not only from Olympic-medal winning athletes who are ‘lit’ that they will soon have their own freestyle academy, but also by some of the biggest action sports brands in the world.
We have now raised more than £1 million for Graystone with money from our own pockets, from badgering friends and family and from any means possible; and the Crowdcube raise represents the last piece of the puzzle. It will allow us to settle our debts with our contractors and open the doors to Graystone with some working capital.
Next week, the development journey on Graystone Manchester will end, and the operation journey will begin. Behind closed doors, we will welcome some of the most talented Red Bull athletes in the UK, host a training session for the pathway athletes of SnowSports England and welcome students from Manchester’s universities.
Although it has been a long road to get here, the timing could not be better as skateboarding, freestyle BMX, climbing and surfing hit the Olympics in Tokyo 2020.
After a six-year rollercoaster of a ride and through a lot of determination, the vision for Graystone is finally coming to life, and we can’t wait to share it with you all.
If you’d like to invest in Graystone Action Sports, you can take a look at the pitch page today to find out more.
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