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Flashback to 1993: Catching up with Andy Rackstraw

Tue, 06 November 2012

Andy Rackstraw was a runner-up in the Buckinghamshire LiveWIRE heats in 1993 with his business, Saddle Safari.
19 years on, the company is set expand to larger premises in the same area and we thought we would find out how things have changed for Andy since he won his award…

What can you remember about your involvement with Shell LiveWIRE?
My memory of the LiveWIRE awards is similar to that of the Prince’s Youth Business Trust which we were also involved with at the time. I was only 24 and I received a great deal of encouragement from both organisations. We had to really think about business plans and presentations which helped to focus the mind and helped to build up our self confidence. It really was a shot in the arm and the money that I won was a great help. I started my business with less than £5000 including stock bikes/promotional material and everything else so any help was useful. At the time there was also a government scheme that paid I think £25 a week for a year to new businesses.

One of the greatest benefits of being involved with LiveWIRE was the precious free promotion you received in the local press. My local papers were always interested in the story and it gave me a head start.
How have things changed for you since you won your Shell LiveWIRE award?
Starting as a small cycle hire business, the focus was originally set purely on offering tourists and locals a simple and fun way of seeing this beautiful part of the world. Gradually we grew into a traditional bike shop, hiring more staff and improving upon the shop site – originally Marlow’s ‘Old Slaughter House’ complete with meat hooks hanging from the rafters, a leaky roof and resident rats! We have seen a lot of change over the last 19 years, so much so that we feel the time has come to move on and expand to larger premises, with the aim of providing a greater variety of products and services to meet the ever growing needs of our customers.
How have you had to adapt as an entrepreneur over the years?
We adapted by adjusting the business with demand. We started doing cycle hire only but realised there was not enough demand and the weather was not consistent enough to make a proper living from it. We started to get customers asking to fix their own bikes and then sell them new ones and we gradually morphed into a normal bike shop.
Personally you need to focus on the business and say goodbye to many social occasions/holidays and any desire for any material goods -especially in the first years.

What has been the biggest obstacle you have overcome in business?
The biggest obstacle has been trying to manage the balance between business and family.

What are your top 3 tips for a young entrepreneur who is about to set up in business?
1. If you can, do it whilst you are young and do not have the responsibilities of wives/children and mortgages. This allows you to focus on the business while surviving on very little income. It goes without saying that the business will not do as well as your crystal ball predicted and you are going to have to live on less than you did previously. Any income goes straight back into the business.
2 .Try and focus on what is important- which is customer service! Do not get too absorbed in logo design, decor or anyother things that take your eyes off the customer.
3. Have a good work ethic. Be honest with yourself. If you don’t like getting up early and working hard it’s not going to work.

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