- Text by Shelley Jones
Well, it’s a fact, if you’re under 30, you’re screwed.
Many of those uni grads that headed to red-brick institutions in the noughties with hopes and dreams and perky livers are broke, unemployed and facing dire future prospects.
But sometimes good things can happen in a rubbish situation. Take Little Joe’s, a surf shop and school in Jersey started by local surfer Joe Davies in 2009.
If it hadn’t been for dodgy job opportunities, the project – which inspires local kids to get outdoors, explore nature and develop transferable surf skills – might never have happened.
We caught up with Joe to find out more.
How and why did you start the shop and school?
The shop came about quite out of the blue, I had just finished my degree and was in the process of finding a job, I was working that summer at a surf school. I had just surfed with my dad and was grabbing a coffee at the restaurant next door to the shop. We bumped into John Halliwell, who owned the shop, and he said that I should take a look. At the time I had become really frustrated with how surf schools were operating and teaching. We had a chance to do something different that would compliment a shop really well. After a scrabble for cash and managing to get a loan from the bank, we took the chance, the shop was ours to refit and we were open about a months later.
Is it a good time to strike it alone?
I think it is a fantastic time, there are so many possibilities and so many areas for people to create something for themselves. To take an idea they have and run with it. It is a really exciting time!
What were you doing beforehand?
I managed to complete a degree in Chemistry at Cardiff University and was doing temp jobs in order to get money to get away on surf trips. For a number of summers I had taught at surf schools as a summer job with my sister Grace when we were back in Jersey from Uni. Grace completed an Ma in English Literature. As you can see we are both using them now!
What challenges have you faced?
I have been quite lucky in that the only main challenges has been the competition aspect and also looking to change how people perceive a surf school. We incorporate a lot of activities for the children to experience and explore nature, to be creative, to respect the sea and to understand it too. There will always be competition from other business and I do not let it get me down – too much. We carry on doing what we do best and aim at making ourselves better all the time.
Who or what do you take inspiration from?
The ideas we have for Little Joe’s stem from creating a fun environment. The camps that we have do not happen without the children coming everyday wanting to surf and explore, so I suppose we are really inspired by them.
Are there any indie start-ups out there that you think are doing great things?
For me there are some great surf shops doing their own thing and embracing their own areas of surfing culture. An example of this is a surf brand from Denmark called ‘Oh Dawn’ who are making really great things. I look at what they do and think that so many things are possible. Surfing and Denmark should be a weird combination – but they don’t care – they love where they are from and love doing something different. Everything is hand crafted and aims to be high quality. That says it all for me.
I love being from Jersey, I wouldn’t change it for the world. We get the waves and weather we get and if I am able to surf a little, teach kids the beauty of what we have outside and make people happy, then I will have done my job.
What does independence mean to you?
Independence means a lot of things to me. There is a lovely feeling when you have your successes. When something you have worked on and thought about a great deal is enjoyed and appreciated by people. Even the setbacks can help guide you. It is really great fun but can also really frustrating at times. It can be long hours or short but above all it is down to us. It is as much as we put in to it.
What’s the single greatest lesson you’ve learned from setting up your own business?
How important your relationships are. I have no qualms in saying that without my sister Grace and the support from the rest of my family, we would not have made it to the five-year mark – hopefully she would say the same about me! It has been hard to get where we are but our ability to talk through ideas, work on the weaknesses, the strengths and put in the time – has maybe had some bearing on where we are now. With a small business there are times where your relationships with people can become strained. Understanding that the people around you believe in what you do and what you want to achieve can help you to work harder on those relationships. I have an incredible network of support and I am very blessed in that way.
What are your ambitions for the future of Little Joe’s?
We don’t want to take over the world, we want to ensure that we keep our core values of the school and keep the children’s experience at the centre of that. Hopefully we can grow the retail side more but I know it’s tough at the moment. We have ventured online with the shop and things are currently underway with our own tees, hoodies and clothing which I would love to go past Jersey. It would be great to gain momentum with that but only time will tell.
Check out Little Joe’s on their website.