Two recent graduates from Aberystwyth University have used their passion for cycling to launch a tourism business helping mountain bikers plan riding holidays in the Dyfi Valley and Snowdonia.
22 year old Tom Lancaster and 25 year old Emily Stratton’s online travel agency, Ride Dyfi, is a one stop shop for mountain bikers to find suitable accommodation with facilities to store bikes, places to ride, and other things to do around the biking hotspots in north west Wales.
Meeting at university where Tom studied Business Management and Emily studied Geography, the duo started their business with the help of Big Ideas Wales, part of Business Wales and funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government. The service is aimed at anyone between the age of 5 and 25 who wants to develop a business idea, including students and graduates.
Talking about how Ride Dyfi originated, Tom said: “When our families visited the Dyfi on a riding trip, we found it almost impossible to find accommodation with suitable, secure bike storage and other useful mountain bike facilities such as a bike wash, parking and washing or drying machine.
“With the development of outstanding mountain biking facilities in the area like Dyfi Bike Park, Coed Y Brenin and Nant Y Arian, the Dyfi is getting a name as the unofficial 'adventure capital of Europe'. Riders are coming from across the UK to discover what we like to call ‘mountain biking’s best kept secret!’”
After graduating from university, the pair wanted to stay in Aberystwyth and secured jobs within the industry, with Emily the manager at Dyfi Bike Park and Tom the sales, marketing, and events executive for Atherton Bikes. The pair realised that between them they had a good knowledge of the Dyfi area and both professional and personal experience of the bike tourism industry.
Emily said: “In my job I meet riders every day who travel from across the country to ride the amazing trails that the Dyfi has to offer so I knew there was demand for Ride Dyfi that would only increase with easing of lockdown restrictions.”
Tom added: “We know that people use sites like booking.com and Airbnb but our research showed that there was a gap in the market for a holiday letting organisation that was tailored specifically to the Dyfi area and mountain biking niche.”
Ride Dyfi’s online platform provides accommodation owners with the ability to advertise their spaces specifically for mountain bikers and adventurers. Meanwhile, the website allows guests to book at home and discover all the information they need for their trip in advance.
Discussing the impact of the pandemic, Emily said: “We set up our business during lockdown when holidays felt like a distant memory. Although this might have seemed like a risk, we were confident that once travel rules were eased, the demand for big riding holidays would be huge. We’ve gained great momentum since launching and are currently concentrating on building up our accommodation listings.”
Tom and Emily have received support from the youth entrepreneurship service Big Ideas Wales to get the wheels in motion on Ride Dyfi. Earlier this year, the pair entered their idea into Aberystwyth University’s annual InvEnterPrize competition, which was organised by the university’s Careers Service and supported Big Ideas Wales.
To help the students develop their entrepreneurial mind-set, Tom and Emily were assigned a Big Ideas Wales business advisor, Julie Morgan, who provided the students with advice in writing a business plan, financial forecasting, marketing and business development.
Emily said: “We first heard about the service when we both attended a Big Ideas Wales seminar during our time at university. Having someone experienced like Julie to support us throughout our journey launching a business has been so helpful. She’s given us invaluable insight on everything from the day to day running of a business to knowing the risks to be aware of.”
Julie Morgan, Big Ideas Wales business advisor, said: “Not only have Tom and Emily spotted a gap in the market, but they have turned their genuine passion into their own enterprise. The pair have used their skills and drive to create a strong brand that I have no doubt will grow into a successful business.”
Talking about future ambitions for Ride Dyfi, Emily said: “We hope that once the ‘Ride’ brand is established, we can replicate the Ride Dyfi business template at various riding destinations across the UK. The Tweed Valley in Scotland is becoming a hot spot for mountain biking of all skills and abilities, so we are currently developing Ride Tweed to accommodate the rising number of visitors there.”
Tom added: “Following Ride Tweed, we also hope to look into other areas in the UK like The Peak District, Surrey Hills and Exmoor National Park and even globally renowned riding destinations such as Morzine, Les Gets, Whistler and Rotorua.”
Tony Orme, careers consultant at Aberystwyth University, said of Ride Dyfi: “Tom and Emily have made great strides with their business in only a short time since launching. They’re perfect examples of young entrepreneurs with ambition and determination, which is a great foundation for growing their business.”
For information about Ride Dyfi go to: https://ridedyfi.co.uk/