It was a beautiful sunny evening when I caught up with Chris Beckett to find out about his business, Better Off Adventures which he runs with his friend Matt Snowdon.
The two friends set up the company in March 2021 after a conversation in a pub helped them to plan how they wanted to set up and run their own business. They originally met in late 2019 and both connected over their similar backgrounds working in outdoor activities.
Matt is currently employed by a college working with children in an educational environment and Chris acts as the “face and talk” of the business, as he describes it, working his normal job during the week and running the business at the weekends.
Both have complementary skills in the business and this sharing of responsibilities enables them to create a great combination. Chris focuses on the marketing and social media as well as the values of the company while Matt is all about the detail and structure of the business. They plan their work by assigning responsibility for each task to one person which helps them to ensure that things get done.
Chris describes that his dad was part of the inspiration for him wanting to run his own business as he ran several businesses when he was younger. He feels that this gave him some lessons in life skills which are now proving useful as well as the confidence to believe in their ideas.
“Both Matt and I knew that we wanted to have control over our own company and the experience it provided for our customers, which we felt was lacking in the current provision for outdoor activities,” stated Chris. He describes how they want to create “memory experiences,” capturing the joyful moment with photographs, where people try a new activity such as climbing for the first time. Better Off Adventures offers a small range of outdoor activities, a deliberate move to start small and then build as they gain in experience and their customer base grows.
“The experience is still at quite a scary stage, but we have been overwhelmed by the support of friends and family for our business, and the help provided by Outset Swindon & Wiltshire.
It was Matt who found out about the Introduction to Enterprise course being run by Outset in the area which they describe as giving them so much useful knowledge which was freely given by the team.
“The Outset course along with the 1:1 support helped us to develop the structure of the business, how to set it up properly including registering it as a company. The information was broken into steps which made it easier to work through and there were plenty of pointers on where to look for further information.”
When asked what the key lesson they have learnt in setting up the business, Chris highlights the importance of overestimating in terms of the time for planning and for costs. “I always work on the basis of anticipating higher costs than you might originally think, which gives you a buffer at the time when everything is still new to you,” stated Chris.
Chris and Matt have spent a lot of time researching the best locations for the activities that they offer and building contacts. “We have learnt that collaboration is key to establishing a business, with one example being some work with people in film and music production who helped to produce some advertising for us.”
The duo are busy putting all that they learnt from the Outset team into place but have so far had really positive experiences with customers, including one family who during lockdown began to home-school their daughter, which they have now continued using experiences such as the outdoor activities offered by Better Off Adventures on a regular basis.
“We are really lucky to be building a business which gives both of us so much joy and sharing this experience together,” stated Chris.
“We are really grateful for the help given to us by Outset and are already starting to benefit from their advice, in the things that they suggested we put in place.”
Chris ends the interview with a quick tour of the site, showing the stunning views out across Poole Harbour from the Purbeck Forest campsite where is currently working on his day job. “I just need to look at the view to be reminded of why I love being outdoors and one day, our business will be a full-time operation for us – we can’t wait!”