Stephen Sweeney is American/Spanish and has lived in Spain for 30 years. Galaxy Kayaks is a brand that sells high quality sit-on-top fishing kayaks at affordable prices. They are an e-commerce business and specialise in selling their products direct to the consumer through their online shop www.galaxykayaks.eu
1. Where did the original idea come from?
The idea came from my passion for the outdoors and fishing and my desire to find a business that would fit in with my lifestyle. If you love what you do the passion will take you that extra step you need sometimes in business. The Galaxy Kayaks brand originated in the UK in 2007 and I launched the Spanish branch in 2012. We’ve seen amazing growth and you can now find Galaxy Kayaks in the UK, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Scandinavia with more countries coming soon. Galaxy Kayaks is a 100% employee owned company and the first kayak company to specialise in kayak fishing. We use the knowledge of experienced kayak fishermen to improve our products and adapt them to accommodate new fishing techniques and paddling needs. All our new designs are customer led and they have a huge say in what we do in our models, that’s why at times it feels like a big productive family. The beauty of our business is that it is mostly done online and that allows me to live my lifestyle. I live on a farm with my wife and children on the south coast of Spain. The business operates on a flexible time schedule which means I’m able to spend the morning attending to my Kaffir lime leaf farm (have a look at our facebook page), and the afternoon and evenings working on Galaxy Kayaks. There is a lot more to it of course and without a great team around to pull the load we would never have gotten
2. How long did it take to get your business off the ground?
We were really fortunate that the business worked right from the start. Kayak fishing is a growing subcategory of one of the most practiced sports in Europe. There are nearly a million active fishing licenses in Spain and within the sport we are seeing a growing trend for kayak fishing. Galaxy Kayaks provide high quality sit on top kayaks at amazing value and this makes us a really appealing proposition to customers. Since we started we have worked tirelessly to expand our product range and now deliver fishing and leisure kayaks, plus we have increased our range of accessories and now offer packs that are carefully designed to suit all levels of experience and budget.
3. What do you wish you’d known when you started?
Although I’ve been a fisherman my whole life, I was relatively new to kayak fishing when I started the business here in Spain and it took a bit of time to get familiar with all the styles and specialities in each region. For instance, we sell kayaks that are good for kayak trolling, jigging from a kayak or even fishing using live bait. Each region (and fisherman) in Spain has a particular style they prefer and then you have to take into consideration details such as kayaks for fresh water or sea kayaks. Basically, it took a while getting to understand consumer needs for the entire country but now that we have built up a lot of experience we understand exactly what people want and can help them accordingly.
4. How easy was it to get the financing for your business?
I financed the business myself with help from the UK and we grew from small beginnings. We put a lot back into the business and let it grow using its own resources
5. Did you find the paperwork difficult?
I’ve lived here for 30 years and to me it’s just the norm.
6. Did you get help from any particular official organisations or associations?
We didn’t get help from any particular business organisations but we did get a lot of help from communities of passionate fisherman who have really understood the value of our brand in the market. For instance, Peskayakmalaga.com are a local club who held the Andalusian kayak fishing championships last year, of which we were official sponsors. They were willing to share their opinions on kayaks and have been good friends since the beginning. We’ve also been fortunate to have our kayaks reviewed by some of the most respected kayak fisherman in the country, including Raspacejo, which has not only been excellent exposure but has also allowed us to improve our products year on year. Our Friends at Peskama were also a great help and all in all we have received lots of support from the kayak fishing community.
7. What is your business experience / background / qualifications?
I ran a hospitality business for 12 years and was fortunate to see it grow into a successful chain across Spain. That was a much more complicated formula and required a much larger team. Now I value my life style and time more so this suits me
8. What are the positive aspects about having a business here?
Spanish people are amazing, they are some of the warmest and most likeable people on Earth. I was born in Italy with American parents but Spain has always been my home. My children go to school here and speak fluent Spanish and I want them to immerse themselves entirely into the language and culture, that’s when you see the real beauty of Spain. The quality of life and diversity is a huge factor when living and working here. You can live a great life without having to have a lot of money and that is what quality of life means to me. Having a business in a country that (at least down south) is mostly sunny isn’t bad either… and I haven’t even mentioned paella and cañas yet, jaja.
9. And the negative aspects?
The paperwork can be frustrating if you are coming from another country that is very open, like the UK. There’s specialist advice for these things though, so if you are coming from another country, just do your research and ask for help when needed. And don’t get frustrated by some of the bureaucratic nightmares. Its tough at times because moving forward is much slower than you hope and some of the processes need some serious updating, however every country has its strengths and weaknesses and its about taking the good with the bad.
10. Are there any other useful contacts, tips or information you think would be useful to other foreign entrepreneurs?
Don’t just jump into an idea because you know it works in your county of origin. It does not always work that way so take your time and consult as many locals as possible before you make a decision. Have respect for the local way of doing things and understand the culture.
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