One of my goals when I was a teenager was that I never wanted to wear a suit and tie. I resented the very idea. It was too conformist. Too conventional. Illogical & impractical I also used to think. In that sense, I’m living my dream by never having worn one, although financially speaking, this was definitely not the wisest career move. As far as finances go, I’ve since realised it’s much easier said than done to make your own money.
It goes without saying that I like to make my own choices. I choose what my priorities are, when and how I perform tasks. I am my own boss. What I do not like in the feeling of insecurity. I’m living alright, but the dream has not come easily. In fact, I’m not 100% convinced that it’s even arrived!
When I was younger I got suckered into starting a Ph.D. Worse still, I was persuaded to continue until the end. It took 5 rather miserable years to finish. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my undergraduate Materials Science degree immensely, but I liken the Doctorate to being tortured in prison. I needed a change.
“Have you ever attempted to be yourself
when everybody wants you to be someone else?” – Powderfinger
Soon after moving to Tenerife, I started looking for a job. I sent out my resumÃ© + cover letter to about a dozen schools offering to teach English (the most obvious skill). Most Spanish citizens don’t even bother to write cover letters when applying for a job. Not suprisingly, within a few weeks, I landed an interview! Life was good. But not even 3 hours into my 1st day at the new job, I basically decided that if I was going to live here, it definitely wouldnâ€™t be working for someone else. The working conditions were that bad, I quit during the lunch break (admittedly after a brief panic attack). Truth be told, I had made up my mind I didn’t want to work there within the first 30 minutes after seeing the staff room. I devoted the other 2 and a half hours to thinking of an escape route…
I quickly realised that with a decent computer & a broadband internet connection, I was not confined to working for people in Tenerife. The world was my oyster! And so began a period of about 2 or 3 months during which time I did much soul-searching. Here was the opportunity to do something that I was passionate about. What did I want to do? By this stage, I’d half-convinced myself that Science never really did anything for me. No one was pressuring me to do anything in particular. But in such a complex world, what would I enjoy doing?
For several months I thought about setting up my own business in Tenerife, mulling it over again and again. I became totally obsessed with my own thoughts but never act on them through fear of ridicule. I told my partner, the one person I could trust, and I was suprised when she thought it was a good idea. Eventually, with a lot of fear & trepidation, I pretty much jumped on the idea.
What was the idea?
Having a huge passion for cycling, I decided to initiate a cycling webpage called www.Tenerife-Training.net. The aim was to offer challenging guided road bike tours of the island for the multitude of tourist visitors. The idea is not as stupid as it sounds, because this place is so unique (at least from a crazy Australian perspective). Ironically, I used the internet itself to learn how to write the necessary html code for some simple webpages.
After working on the website content for an entire year, and promoting it every possible way I know how, Iâ€™m finally able to make some money renting out top-quality road & mountain bikes to genuine bicycle enthusiasts. Tenerife offers a place where serious cyclists can come to train, all year round, with climbs going from sea level all the way up to 2300m in one ride! I provide both the information and the bikes to make it all happen.
While I give everything my best effort, I’ve [i]really [/i]put my heart & soul into this business. I made nothing in the 1st year – Less than a grand in the whole year, despite working up to 80 hour weeks for long stretches. I started with a mere 2 road rental bikes in August of 2006.
Since then, it’s been a super-hard slog over the last 3 years. It was one of the deciding factors for living here (along with meeting my partner). The biggest hurdle is that all businesses take time to get of the ground, and especially travel-related ones. There is a lengthy delay between the time people first encounter my website, to the time they actually commit to booking a flight and rent a bike for a week.
Right now I have 12 road bikes & 5 MTBs for hire with another 3 bikes in the process of being built up. I also own 3 bikes. Low season lasts from about May to August – I often wonder how I survive. But my vision keeps me going.
I’m extremely proud of the web traffic growth. It’s grown from 1 unique visit for the whole of Feb ’06 (yes, me 😆 ) to a record of 1251 visits on the 25th of August, 2008. Considering it’s just me running the whole darn operation, it’s not a bad growth.
The tourism industry has recently taken a bit of a beating – here in Tenerife & the other islands too I imagine. Local papers say that ‘business confidence’ has hit a 15 year low in Tenerife. Of course, this is a good thing as far as cyclists go (less traffic!). I expect the looming global recession hasn’t helped. So keeping all that in mind, I’m strongly aware that this is not the ideal time to start a tourism-related business. Combine this niche industry with not much capital and the general cloud hanging over the image of “Tenerife” itself (at least with British citizens) and I suppose I’m bound to have my work cut out for me.
Because of this, we’ve all had to tighten our belts recently. I have stories that would rival those of the movie “The Pursuit of Hapiness”. I’ll save those for another time. My top priority are still my fleet of bikes and of course my customers. I never let that out of my sight.
Personally, I can’t think of anything better than my current job. I buy bikes & parts for a living. I share my bicycles and I get paid to do it. I’m also not planning on wearing a tie any time soon. Yes, I’m pretty sure that I’m already living the dream…
I would say that if YOU have an original idea, then go for it! With enough determination, you just might be able to make a go of it. Only you will know if you’re capable of success or not. With risk, comes a chance of success.