Cullercoats man is on the crest of a wave after securing a £12,000 boost through Virgin StartUp to launch his new venture which will combine his love of sport with promoting some of the best coastline the region has to offer.

Simon Laing, 29 years old, has set up Cullercoats Bike & Kayak which offers people living or visiting the region the opportunity to rent equipment for anything from one hour up to several days and explore the dramatic coastline of the area. As well as renting bikes and kayaks, Simon will also be offering guided tours of the area and a repairs workshop and has also created a relaxing coffee area in his premises on Norma Crescent in Cullercoats.

Simon has been able to realise his dream of running his own business having been awarded financing through new enterprise loan provider, Virgin StartUp.

Following a successful pilot in the North East and Cumbria supported by Virgin Money, Virgin StartUp was launched in October 2013 to provide low-cost business loans and mentoring support to entrepreneurs across the UK.

Simon is no stranger to the sea having worked as a marine scientist and enjoyed a spell in Canada working at the Vancover Aquarium. Upon returning to the UK he took up a research position with Newcastle University and decided the time was right to turn his passion for an outdoor lifestyle into a viable commercial business.

Like many entrepreneurs Simon recognised that he needed support to get his idea off the ground and after speaking with several business agencies he felt that Ready for Business, an investment readiness programme delivered in the North East by enterprise agency TEDCO Business Support, was the ideal platform from which to launch his business.

Ready for Business is supported by the Government’s Regional Growth Fund and Barclays, and is delivered nationwide by the Cavendish Consortium, a partnership between some of England’s leading enterprise agencies together with the National Enterprise Network. So far the programme has created more than 3,500 new jobs across the UK in the new enterprises it supports, and provides individuals with concentrated support in the pre-start stages of their new business.

Simon said; “I did plenty of research into the various start-up programmes which were available but as soon as I spoke to Bill Hartshorne, Ready for Business advisor at TEDCO Business Support, I knew I had found exactly what I was looking for. Bill helped me strengthen and tighten up my ideas into a robust business plan and remained a positive voice throughout – his enthusiasm, interest and in depth knowledge of what was needed gave me the confidence that I needed to push on, secure the vital funding through Virgin StartUp and turn my dreams into reality.”

A keen cyclist and kayaker himself, Simon immediately saw the potential in helping people who live in the area as well as visitors to the region, take a new look at the stunning coastline that the North East has to offer.

He said; “We have some of the most beautiful scenery in this area but unfortunately a lot of it goes unnoticed. Cycling and kayaking along the coast will give people a very different perspective on what the region has to offer and hopefully it will not only allow those living here to take a second look at what is on their doorstep but will help bring new visitors in and continue to rejuvenate this once vibrant area.”

Sir Richard Branson partnered with TEDCO last year to officially launch Virgin StartUp for entrepreneurs in the North East region. TEDCO will be the main access point for people in the region looking to source funding through Virgin StartUp. Its team of advisors will help guide applicants through the application process, offering additional help and wider enterprise support as part of the Ready for Business programme.

Simon has ambitious plans for the business and hopes to diversity into more leisure based activities in the future as well as setting up more Bike & Kayak premises in other locations such as North Shields Fish Quay and South Shields to expand his offering into one-way rental.

Bill Hartshorne, Ready for Business advisor at TEDCO Business Support said; “Simon has everything that we are looking for in a young entrepreneur; he is passionate about his business and has a genuine love of what he is about to embark upon. Starting your own venture requires a huge amount of commitment and dedication and Simon has displayed these qualities through the start-up process which I am confident will equip him well for the challenge that lies ahead. He has also given considerable thought as to how his business can grow and this will no doubt create further employment opportunities.

“Securing finance is one of the biggest challenges facing any would-be business owners so for young entrepreneurs like Simon, Virgin StartUp is a vital lifeline to financing which can otherwise be particularly difficult to source.”