Stoke Travel is a surf, festival and events business conceived in 2009. We run 32 trips and festivals year round and cater to open-minded backpacker-type individuals from all over the world. Surf camp San Sebastian, Ibiza, the Rolling Circus, Oktoberfest, Sziget, BBK Live, Fringe Fest, Tomatina etc.
Where did the original idea come from?
Let's say it was a process of elimination. I certainly wasn't going to be getting a good job worth my weight in beers any time soon. I landed in San Sebastian, met a very old man called Stuart, got a van, piled some surf boards on the roof, printed up a little flyer and somehow or other people got curious and started turning up. The short season in San Sebastian and ensuing success of the concept meant we had to look around for a full-time 12-month base. We call Barcelona the city that never sleeps, but sometimes passes out. And that's precisely where we passed out.
How long did it take to get your business off the ground?
Well I was off the ground levitating with excitement when customer number one turned up, a strange American character reverently referred to as Creepy John. Last year about 18,000 guests turned up and it feels the same, minus the creep. Ours is a business with very little start up coin required—your costs grow as your guest numbers do. There have been plenty of ups and downs, dismal failures, unpredictable successes. We have been fortunate enough to forget about the failures and build on the fun stuff.
What do you wish you’d known when you started?
Many many things. All things. I wish I had known—sheez what a question. I wish i had known what an adams apple was. That was a close shave, so to speak. I wish I had known that barely anyone would turn up to our Brazilian world cup camps in Rio and Salvador.
How easy was it get the financing for your business?
A couple of months work in a shit London pub.
Did you find the paperwork difficult?
Ha! Luckily my incredibly ancient partner Stuart was already savvy with this stuff. But with any new initiative on the same kind of small scale as ours, I really think that you should sort out your paperwork stuff incrementally. Start the business and do the paper work as you go. Of course this would be lousy advice if you are starting, say, a plastic surgery practice, or a tax advice consultancy, but if you are getting funky with ad hoc tourism, work it out as you go, or you probably won't go at all.
Did you get help from any particular official organisations or associations
No. And the compulsory industry bodies still don't do jack.
What's your background?
Toffees sold to sympathetic elderly ladies in the burbs of Sydney, car windows washed of frustrated motorists (couldn't reach the middle of the windscreens) Kangarooted Pub Crawls in the Rocks of Sydney...the usual. They all went belly up by 20 and I guess I deported myself from Australia.
What are the positive aspects about having a business here?
Well it's a great place to live isn't it. We really pride ourselves on the international make-up of our crew and guests and Barcelona naturally serves this mix up.
And the negative aspects?
Everyone complains about the bureaucracy. Which is justifiable, but I reckon people complain about bureaucracy everywhere.
Are there any other useful contacts, tips or information you think would be useful to other foreign entrepreneurs in Barcelona?
If you have a great idea and it reeks of fun, pop into the Stoke office. We'll go you halves. ha!
See more about Stoke Travel here.