In an age in which the pressures of achieving a successful work-life balance within the corporate world can be perceived to be as unobtainable as ever before, the UK has seen the emergence of businesses proactively focused upon delivering services that can drive the values of well-being and a healthy lifestyle amongst the UK’s workforce.
Gwylan UK Ltd, co-created by Peter Kay and John Likeman in picturesque Pembrokeshire, is one such company; striving to deliver meaningful social change through the provision of a package of services designed to encourage well-being within society.
The company focuses on delivering a holistic approach to well-being that is focused upon five key values, namely freedom, creativity, togetherness, kindness and a responsibility to one’s self and others.
The business duo bring together a myriad of experiences from across the public and private sectors, including teaching, yoga instruction and working for the NHS, to deliver well-being and values training for the educational and corporate sectors with the intention of maximising productivity and calmness for their clientele; their flagship education-based products of ‘Yoga in Schools’, ‘Planit Playtime’ and ‘Wild About School’ have already been adopted by schools and bodies across the UK.
Whilst Gwylan UK Ltd, Gwylan being the Welsh term for the figurative seagull guiding the company through its journey, is a relatively new inception, it is already developing significant traction within its respective industry.
“We are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel”
This burgeoning success comes in no uncertain terms from the team’s inner determination to make a difference to the lives of their customers.
Whilst the decision to start a business can often be one that people take tentatively, the Gwylan team has a strong message – if you believe passionately in it then just do it!
“Sometimes I look back and think ‘was this the right time to start this company?’, but once you start to question those you realise that there is no perfect time to start a company – there is no absolutely right time. We made the decision to start a business and just went for it!”
This innate belief that the team can succeed within their industry stems from the dedication and passion that has seen the two men committed to decades of experience within their chosen fields of expertise.
“Everything we do has created who I am today, I wouldn’t change anything. Take these experiences and learn about your weaknesses, so that these can become a strength in the future”.
On start-up, the team implores others not to underestimate what it will take to achieve success:
“A lot of people said starting out over the first few months would be hard, that is an understatement! What we’ve discovered is that setting up: marketing, paying people, the website, insurances and getting policies means we’ve had to spend a lot of money setting up; it isn’t just the case of buying a computer, there are an awful lot of outgoings.
“Getting your name known is difficult, it needs well aimed marketing, which we’re doing now, but we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel and apparently everybody goes through this!”
Kay further elaborates on what he believes to be an important requisite to success, confidence.
“Having confidence is one of the big things, confidence in the product and the company. It’s a new initiative but fortunately there’s a lot of evidence now that it is successful.”
The team also stresses the importance of strong external relationships when starting up a business:
“The relationships you have are important. We have clear values and it’s important for us that companies understand these values and that we are able to respect other people and their values so that we can bring people together and provide solutions to problems.”
“A lovely place, full of lovely people”
The company’s decision to set up their operations within Pembrokeshire speaks volumes of the area’s continued growth within the Welsh economy, with 2015’s new enterprise birth rate matching pre-recession levels for the first time whilst the population growth and unemployment levels continue to outperform Wales as a whole.
Speaking passionately about the wealth of opportunities that the supportive community has afforded them during their company’s start-up period, it is perfectly clear that the company stands resolute in their decision to be based within the area.
“Pembrokeshire is very well connected, you have good roads, a ferry service to Ireland, fantastic broadband and an area where we are nurtured and looked after. If there’s something we need, there’s always the support available, if we need to grow then that provision is also available to us – we’re very well looked after and Pembrokeshire’s a wonderful place to come and start up.”
Kay also comments on what Pembrokeshire brings them as a well-being orientated company: “For us, we are a well-being company and one of the important things is living in a beautiful place, and we just so happen to live in one. We’ve got plenty of beaches and fresh air, but there are also plenty of alternatives for people to look at in terms of careers, it’s a beautiful place to come and set up.
“The area has really strong links in the community, the community spirit exists very clearly in Pembrokeshire but it’s also very open to taking new ideas. We have this lovely office space in the BIC (Bridge Innovation Centre) which is also a lovely place to work”, the team adds “It’s a lovely place, full of lovely people and if you want to do lovely things then it’s the right place to go.”
During a period in which the stability of the UK economy appears set to encounter substantial testing in the face of an upcoming exit from the European Union, the opportunities afforded by the institutes within Pembrokeshire, coupled with the areas low overhead costs, exemplifies the competitive advantages that can derive from delivering business services out of this idyllic corner of the UK in the digital age.
Choosing to locate within Pembrokeshire, and the Bridge Innovation Centre, has also provided Gwylan with the opportunity to develop a successful work life-balance within their own organisation, with Kay and Likeman musing over the fact that the centre’s location has enabled the opportunity for them to participate in some lunchtime exercise within the area’s outstanding natural beauty:
“We’ve just been out for a 20 minute run, we’ve been off down a woodland path out onto the harbour side – there’s shower facilities and we’re straight back in the office, everything’s been thought of.”
The company is also full of praise of the facilities and support mechanisms that the local authorities have put in place to support businesses within the county:
“I honestly believe another building like this would be very good, it’s brilliant for bringing businesses together and providing businesses with opportunities to co-operate and work together. It’s extraordinary, there’s obvious demand for it, expand it and do more. It’s affordable and has everything that a small to medium size enterprise could want”, adding “it’s a lovely place, full of lovely people and if you want to do lovely things then it’s the right place to go.”
“We’ve got to be brave and strong and we will be alright”
Looking towards the future, Gwylan aspire to becoming an established provider of well-being based services across the whole UK and over shores with a core goal of ensuring that they make a difference to the lives of as many children and people as possible.
Whilst we face uncertainty considering business funding in Wales over the coming years, Likeman is resolute that the Welsh economy can have a strong future: “Wales has benefitted greatly from European support, however, I think we’ve got to be brave and strong and we will be alright. Investment does always help and it would be nice to welcome investment from the Welsh Government in the future.”
With a strong body of support around them, a real passion for the services that they provide driven by a resilience and positive outlook on the future, one wouldn’t bet against them achieving their goals.