Graystone Action Sports Academy is a centre dedicated to making action sports accessible to everyone, launched in December 2018 by co-founders Ben Livingstone and Kevin Gray. The Academy offers a range of indoor activities including skateboarding, scooter, BMX, trampoline, gymnastics, parkour and more.
Ben initially approached the GC Business Growth Hub in 2016 for support with accessing funding to help them with the move to Salford. After an initial chat about their business, Access to Finance supported them to raise money to open the business and introduced them to GC Angels.
Since then, Ben was introduced to Account Management and has worked closely with Account Manager, Andrea Hill, to access support from a variety of GC Business Growth Hub services.
They received support from the Resource Efficiency team in 2018, which carried out a suitability audit of the business and identified areas of improvement. Following the audit, General Manager Tom Gladwin enrolled on the Journey to Net Zero programme to discover ways that the business could reduce its impact on the local community.
They also accessed support from Skills for Growth – SME Support in 2021 to develop their management team and upskill staff in digital and marketing. Tom also continues to regularly attend Hub events at the Oasis Academy in Salford to keep up to date with the latest opportunities.
Ben also completed the Executive Development Programme, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. During the programme, Ben was introduced to the GC Business Growth Hub’s mentoring network where he was able to talk to other businesses about challenges and share ideas on how to overcome them. From here, Ben took part in 1-1 coaching with expert business coach Derick Barrett.
Ben said: “I was introduced to Derick through the network in 2021. I still have regular contact with him since completing the programme as I find it really useful to have someone who can act as a sounding board when making decisions and talk to about strategy.”
The GC Business Growth Hub also recently supported Ben to access the Transport for Greater Manchester active travel grant to encourage more of their employees to cycle to work. Building on their sustainability commitments, they hope to use this funding to build bike sheds and showers for staff to use when cycling to work.
Ben has found it challenging at times to know where to look for support over the last few difficult years. With Andrea’s knowledge and guidance and the support of the GC Business Growth Hub, the business was able to protect all their existing jobs and create 30 new jobs, including kitchen and restaurant staff, coaches, supervisors and reception staff.
Ben said: “We didn’t initially intend to open the business in Manchester it happened purely by chance, but we’ve been overwhelmed by the support that Manchester as a whole has to offer. There’s such of variety of schemes that we can access through the GC Business Growth Hub and our Account Manager Andrea is always checking in on us and making sure we have everything we need.
“We were surprised by how proactive the GC Business Growth Hub is in terms of trying to help businesses to grow, Andrea is always suggesting new schemes for us to get involved in and helping us to start the process, I don’t think you’d get that in any other city.”
These programmes have supported Ben and the team to develop the business model and approach to growth and as a result improved how the business engages with the local community, who are the biggest supporters of the business.
During the summer of 2022, Graystone Action Sports hosted Coping Festival, bringing together the Salford community to celebrate the organisations that are improving wellbeing in the city, sharing stories, opening conversations about mental health and wellbeing and directing guests to services that can support them.
Looking to the future, Ben is continuing to work with GC Business Growth Hub to secure sponsorship from a large, Salford-based business. Although they already have some big brands behind them, including Oakley and Red Bull, they are looking for localised sponsorship to continue raising awareness of the great things they do in the community.