For Simon Ager, realising his dream of creating the ultimate indoor activity centre gave him the proverbial mountain to climb. However, thanks to support from SEMLEP’s Growth Hub he is getting ever closer to the summit.
As managing director of the Pinnacle Climbing Centre in Northampton, Simon is living his childhood fantasy of building the perfect climbing wall. A keen ice climber and mountaineer, Simon has a passion for the outdoors and can often be found exploring the rock outcrops around Great Britain.
At Pinnacle, he has created the perfect playground for anyone with a passion for daredevil pursuits, scaling new heights in what is possible in the world of climbing, bouldering, caving and abseiling.
But, like thousands of businesses around the world, COVID-19 left him staring into the abyss. Forced to shut up shop, would Simon lose his footing and go back to the bottom or cling on in his quest to reach the top?
While temporarily closing the Pinnacle Climbing Centre was obviously a gut-wrenching move, he was left with no alternative and used it as an opportunity to work on his business in a way he had never had the chance to before.
Thankfully for Simon, he was already in contact with SEMLEP and received regular updates regarding the availability of grants and support programmes.
He enrolled on the Growth Curve programme and enlisted the help of a dedicated business adviser who assisted with the task of applying for the various Government grants afforded to businesses working in the sector affected by the periods of lockdown.
Simon added: “For a few years we had been hearing from customers that the place needed a bit of a facelift. With heavy usage every day since we opened in 2010, it was time for a lick of paint at the very least but finding that time had proven impossible.
“With the doors closed we immediately set about getting the centre looking its best once again, and also explored potential funding streams to take us to the next level.
“I am so passionate about this place. It was entirely self-funded and I was living in a caravan in the car park while we were building it. It’s a piece of me and I’m proud of it so I want it to be the very best it can.
“The last few years have been amazing for climbing as it has become increasingly mainstream, and it’s now in the Olympics which has given it even more exposure.
“There are three main disciplines in competitive climbing; bouldering, lead climbing and speed climbing. Previously we only catered for the first two but during our enforced closure we applied for a SEMLEP’s Growth Hub grant to install a 10-metre vertical wall to add a speed climbing dimension to the business and complete the set.
“We worked with a company in Bulgaria to get it built and it looks amazing. It’s something we wouldn’t have been able to do without the advice, time and support from the team at SEMLEP and it has provided the missing piece in the jigsaw.”
The Growth Curve programme opened Simon’s eyes to the services provided through the SEMLEP ecosystem. He is now enrolled on the Peer Networks scheme and looking forward to working with academics and fellow business leaders to add to his ever-growing business knowledge.
He added: “Working with the SEMLEP team has been a pleasure and I have learnt so much. Right from the early days I have always kept a keen eye on their emails to make sure I’m in the loop when it comes to the business support available locally and we have definitely benefitted from the resources they provide.
“We have reaped the rewards of working with experts from the University of Bedford and Cranfield University and have had access to some inspirational business leaders from across the region.
“Despite the inevitable delays caused by the pandemic we were able to access the grants available to us and were guided through the process by our business adviser. The whole process was painless and allowed us to complete the project in time for reopening.
“I’d thoroughly recommend SEMLEP to any business owner. Just get involved. If you don’t talk to them, you don’t find out about these things so start the conversation and see what they can do for you. You won’t regret it.”
With such an appetite for learning and a commitment to building a better business, Simon is edging ever closer to reaching his personal Pinnacle.
Click here to find out more about the Growth Curve programme.