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Business spotlight: Meet Steve from Black Crow Paddleboarding

A VW with paddleboards on the floor
Steve Hedley set up Black Crow Paddleboarding in 2021

Steve Hedley set up Black Crow Paddleboarding in 2021. Cwmbran Life is putting the spotlight on independent businesses in and around the area.

Research by Keeping it Local said when you spend a £1 with a small/ medium sized business around 63p remains in the local economy. Only 40p stays local when you shop with larger businesses. The money you spend locally circulated through local businesses helping them to grown

Every business owner has a story to tell. We spoke to Steve and asked him/her a few questions. 

What is your business?

I run a paddleboarding company that has a number of parts to it. We have a school to teach beginners all about paddleboarding and take them on a lesson for the first time or for those who wish to just improve etc. We provide all the equipment needed so board, buoyancy aid, insurance, launch fees and two hours of tuition in each lesson. We don’t ever have groups of more than 4 people as we want to make sure everyone has a really good experience and learns as much as possible. It’s not just about the paddling part but we go through the differences in boards and buoyancy aids, plus safety and rescue techniques. We answer questions about where you can paddleboard and why we need to be hugely safety conscious. With the huge explosion of paddleboarding in the last few years and being able to buy cheap boards in supermarkets we truly believe everyone should at least have one lesson, there is so much to be learnt. It’s even a great idea to have one before you buy a board as we can advise on the right boards for you and not let you have to rely on the social media information which is most of the time not correct.

The other main part of the business is related to why this all started.  I am a full-time carer for a family member with vascular dementia and have been now for 3.5 years. After quitting my career in fitness to take on the care role coronavirus started not long after and it was a long couple of years in lockdown. Having had a lot of outdoor education experience from mountaineering and watersports for many years I was looking for something to give myself a mental break from my care duties. Having read numerous books on Blue Water Therapy I knew it had to have something to do with water and so paddleboarding came up. I hired a board at Llandegfedd Reservoir and absolutely sucked at it but I knew it was something I wanted to do, so I bought a board, had a lesson and then put a huge amount of hours in whenever I could to practice. I soon realised the enormous benefits of being out on the water and how much it helped me when caring for someone. 

This was the catalyst to Black Crow starting. I completed many courses and instructors’ exams and started Black Crow with an aim to help other carers of people with dementia by taking them out on the water to give them a break from their duties. It’s been hugely successful and I have met some amazing people and we have shared stories and helped each other even if it’s just to listen whilst we sit on the boards floating about.  

The paid lessons help subsidise the time I get to take carers out as I don’t charge for this it’s really something I love to do. 

With it being a summer sort of business we do hold indoor lessons during the winter but also still paddle on the local canal with those who are mad enough to come out with us. With over 40 people turning up to some social paddles and I have a clothing line all related to SUP.

Word has got around over the last 10 months and I have loved the success it has become, with everyone who’s been on a lesson learning so much and really enjoying the process. It’s a fantastic sport but it has to be done safely and this is a vital message to get across to people. So if anyone reading this has just bought a board please find you nearest sup school and go have just the one lesson, especially if you are taking children out on boards.

a man and boy sat on a paddleboard

Why did you want to work for yourself?

I had always wanted to work for myself but the industry I was in that wasn’t really possible at the time, this all came about really by accident and it’s the best thing I have done. Don’t get me wrong, running a business and being a carer is really hard work and even if you think a business is going to be part-time it never is. The advantage I have is I have quiet times in my day where I have to be there as a carer but it gives me time to run the business side of things, social media etc.  I never thought it was going to be a success, I genuinely started it just to help people and that’s what I am lucky enough to do, if that is what you truly believe and you enjoy it success comes along with that. If you go out just doing it for money you will probably be really unhappy in your work. Find something you love and just enjoy it, who knows where it will lead.

two men on paddelboards

What are the best things about running a business and what are the challenges? How have you overcome the challenges? 

There are a few things great about running your own business mainly in that you have control of where it goes and why you do things. After 30 years in the fitness industry the frustration was always wanting to do things better but Global gym companies don’t really allow you to do that. 

Now I can take this where I want it to go, to help the people I want it to help, to make a difference and that’s what’s important.

The biggest challenge is organising your time, especially when you have another priority that will always come first. Plus realising that that 20 hours you thought you were going to do part-time will always be probably more hours than a full time job, but its something you love so its enjoyable doing it.

As a carer it takes over your life, every waking moment is taken up by it or at least thinking about it so having something else to concentrate on and a way to help the mind relax is vitally important for mental health. Everyone that comes out on the water says how they haven’t thought about anything going on in life at all for those 2 hours and that’s what it’s about.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting a business?

If you are thinking of starting your own business then find something you love, then have a serious think if you want to turn that thing you love into something that’s a business as there’s a very real chance it will take all the love for it away and your fun hobby is now not as much fun.

If it helps others and can change people’s lives then go for it, there is no money around that can be as rewarding as seeing someone else happy and enjoying something or at least saying thank you to you.

Tell us how customers can contact you? 

We are very much on social media and the best place to look is the Black Crow Paddleboarding Facebook page and Instagram. We can be contacted through either of these and there is a WhatsApp button on the page. Otherwise, feel free to message or call 07768500688. Messaging us is always best as we may be out on the water so can get back to you when back on dry land 😉.

Photo gallery of Black Crow Paddleboarding

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Business spotlight: Meet Steve from Black Crow Paddleboarding