Meet the founder of Yakwax
Hi Johnny, please tell us about the creator behind Yakwax.
I’d introduce my self as a 32 year old businessman from Guernsey with an overwhelming passion for surfing, travel and business! At age 14 I fell in love with surfing and the culture surrounding it. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit and compete in some of the best surf spots all over the world!
The entire concept is very now and appeals to a very active audience. What was the inspiration behind it?
Since I started surfing I always knew that I wanted to form a business around it, as this would let me live through my passion. Guernsey has always had a strong sense of surf culture and camaraderie, but there weren’t any local stores answering to the demand. I decided to start Yakwax on the promise that it would benefit the community, by offering a fantastic range of products by the best brands and would provide customers with personalised, expert led customer service that money can’t buy!
How did the business go from concept to launch?
When I got involved with The Surf Shop (the name of the business before we rebranded) the store was struggling, however I was fortunate in that the basic structure of the business was already formed and though there weren’t plans for future progression, there was a small customer base and a unique range of suppliers that I was keen to build upon. I was excited to grow the store itself through the implementation of stock control and budget, but I also wanted to set up an ecommerce site with consistent branding both online and in the store. I’d never managed a business or worked in ecommerce prior to setting up Yakwax and so the whole process was a learning curve. I am a great believer of learning through experience and whilst I certainly had some sleepless nights, I was committed and passionate about the business succeeding!
What was the response like from your target audience?
There are other surf shops in Guernsey, however, we believe that our quality product offering paired with our team of experienced surfers / skaters ensured that we were met with a brilliant response from the local community. By keeping a fresh product selection with competitive pricing and offering worldwide shipping, the online store also gained a positive response.
What is your favourite thing to do when you’re not running Yakwax?
Surfing and travelling! As a national surf champion, I’m very lucky to have surfed all over the world in some of the very best waves and see some incredible cultures. I also love snowboarding, it’s up there with the best winter getaways and allows me to shut off from the norm. All of this exciting stuff coupled with simple things like spending time with my family makes me a very happy person.
How did you fund it all in the beginning?
I got involved with the business before the re–branding and when it was seriously struggling! I was fortunate that the basic format was in place and so it was just a case of organisation and putting strategies in place, this along with a couple of bank loans and organic growth allowed us to push forward and get where we are today.
What is your favourite product on your website?
I firmly believe that Xcel Wetsuits are the very best on the market, they are my personal choice for when I surf. I also have a serious obsession for Stance Socks. They come in a range of unique designs and offer insane comfort, they are becoming an addiction for staff members and customers alike!
How do you measure success?
A combination of financial, happiness and business growth. I love what I do and it gives me a great sense of pride when myself or my team help someone get in to surfing or skating. I am passionate about providing customers with the best advice on the equipment that will suit their needs. Our customer led approach ensures they progress faster and get more stoked on the sport. As a business, the more successful we are financially the more we can grow, this in turn allows us to give back a larger product offering to the local community which gives myself and the team happiness. It’s a simple formula really.
What has been the most exciting and the most challenging experience so far?
I think both the entire ecommerce experience and branding of the business. Both aspects offer a journey that is constantly changing and evolving, they keep you on your toes but both are extremely rewarding, whether it be sending a package to a small corner of the world where you think ‘how on earth did they find our website’ to seeing someone walking down the street wearing a Yakwax tee or hoody. I cherish those moments!
What are your top tips on staying motivated?
Set yourself short and long term goals and have a clear plan of attack! I find having lots of different tasks running at the same time equates to low productivity. By breaking projects down into individual stages / goals and writing a to-do list, large tasks become more clear. My top tip for motivation is to focus on one thing at a time as it enhances productivity, for me, productivity and motivation go hand in hand.
How would you define being an entrepreneur?
Personally, I think making my own choices and creating something I see value in is the definition of entrepreneurship. If what you do benefits others, it’s easier to stay driven. I surround myself with positive, passionate people, as knowing you have a passionate team makes it all worthwhile. I also love the freedom that comes with owning a business; it allows you to develop your brand in your own, unique way.
What plans do you have for Yakwax over the next 12 months?
Further growth both in store and online by increasing our reach and product offering, we love to add great brands to our family. We are focusing a lot of attention on the Yakwax own brand products, following the launch at the end of 2016. We also want to adopt better, smarter systems across all key areas and aspire to grow our team – 2017 is set to be an exciting year for our company development!