Startup of the Week: Cullercoats Bike & Kayak

Simon Laing is the founder of Cullercoats Bike & Kayak, a business getting the people of the North East out and about on adventures! Whether you want to explore on land or by water, you can do it in comfort, fun, and safety. Cullercoats Bike & Kayak is supported by Virgin StartUp delivery partner TEDCO.


Ground to floor 1 – Explain what your business does

Cullercoats Bike & Kayak offers bicycle and kayak hire, tours and repairs from our little beachside workshop on the North East coast. We also have The Snug Cycle Café upstairs, the perfect hideaway before and after a coastal adventure.

Floor 1 to 2 – Where are you based?

I work in Cullercoats, Tyne & Wear in a standalone building that was once the village undertakers! Cullercoats is a small fishing village, but we’re within the Newcastle metropolitan area. The location is perfect as it feels just like a sleepy seaside village, but we have the advantage of having 1.6 million people within 30 mins drive and a Metro station 350m away.

Floor 2 to 3 – What’s the business model?

Outdoor activities in comfort! From the beginning I knew I wanted offer an excellent end to end service. Often in my industry people work from trailers, sheds or vans which means lots of wriggling under towels to get changed and nowhere to go afterwards. We provide changing rooms, a café, and we even have a log burner for warming cold fingers and toes.

Floor 3 to 4 – Who are your competitors?

I originally thought it was other local watersports providers, but we have come to realise that anyone or anywhere that is competing for your leisure time is our competitor. This includes the cinemas, shopping centres, cafes and along the coast. So we have to be better than all of those people, which is why we try really hard to look after people and provide the best experiences.

Floor 4 to 5 – What’s your USP?

Our USP is certainly the full experience we offer. You arrive, are greeted and shown to The Snug where you can plan your route and complete the paperwork with a coffee and cake. When your equipment and guides are ready, we get you out there, exploring the beauty of the Northumbrian coast by bicycle or kayak. Then when you’re done, its back for a drink and bite to eat, often with your guide who’ll be chatting with you about the day.

Floor 5 to 6 – Where did the idea come from?

In 2010 I lived in Canada for a year and was amazed at how much time Canadians spend outdoors. I lived in Vancouver, one of the rainiest cities in the world, so they don’t even have the weather for it. When I came home I was determined to bring some of that adventurous spirit with me and encourage others to be the same. I chose cycling and kayaking as the sports I would focus on as they are hobbies of mine, relatively safe and currently not represented on this stretch of the coast.

Floor 6 to 7 –How much funding did you receive from Virgin StartUp?

A £12,000 loan, but infinitely more in terms of time, help and support. I must acknowledge how great my advisor was - shout out to Bill Hartshorne at Virgin!

Floor 7 to 8 – How are you going to use it to grow your business?

The money was crucial in allowing the business to become a reality. We needed about £15,000 of stock to get up and running. We also had to procure all of the infrastructure to make the business run such as computers, shop fittings and furniture. We have been established for around 10 months now and we have put over 900 people in kayaks, 450 people on bikes and made over 6000 cups of coffee. That would not have happened without the funding boost from Virgin.

Floor 8 to 9  – What’s your workspace like?


The ground is our store room and workshop, we have kayaks on the wall, bikes hanging from the ceiling and rails with our wetsuits, buoyancy aids and helmets on. Everything is on wheels and every morning we move everything outside onto the driveway so we have a busy little shop front. The first floor is The Snug Cycle Café. We sandblasted the brickwork, removed the ceiling to expose the roof beams and sanded the floors then added a log burner to create the cosiest attic in the world.

Floor 9 to 10 – where will your business be in 12 months’ time?

We could not be more excited about the next 12 months. In addition to everything we do now, we just received funding from our local community sport partnership to deliver two Sport England programmes. The first is Active Workplace where we’ll be working with Proctor & Gamble, Accenture and other big companies who are encouraging their staff to be more active. The other is Sportivate, aimed at college-age young adults who have never really found sport to be appealing. In addition to that, we are just about to launch our new e-commerce enabled website, allowing customers to book everything online. So in 12 months’ time we’d hope to have increased turnover by 50-60% and have employed another full time staff member.

To find out more about Cullercoats Bike & Kayak visit their website, or connect on Twitter or Facebook.