Like many young entrepreneurs Nick Bray thought he had a pretty good grasp on using technology for his social enterprise business. That was until he attended a free onlincolnshire workshop which resulted in him radically improving everything from membership to marketing.
"You've got to give things a go," said Nick, Manager of Skegness's indoor and outdoor X-site Skatepark. "I didn't think I would get much out of attending a free workshop, but in fact it opened my eyes to a whole host of new opportunities which have dramatically helped my businesses."
Launched nine years ago, X-site Skatepark offers indoor and outdoor ramps, jumps and rails facilities which are used almost every day by skateboarders, trick scooters and BMX bikers.
Although it opens its doors during the day, it is most popular in the evening with kids after school and adults who want some R&R after work. Its busiest time, however, is at the weekend and during school holidays, when it opens from 11am to 7pm.
Talking about the early days, Nick continued: "When we first sat down to discuss our business plan, we were unsure about the level of demand for a skate park, but our early reservations were soon forgotten as word spread and we went from strength to strength.
"But as the business grew, it soon became apparent that our initial IT systems and administration processes weren't capable of dealing with the increasing number of customers we had to process. We realised that we needed a new electronic entry system and member loyalty cards if we wanted to successfully grow the business; that's when we started working with onlincolnshire.
"By working with the Mablethorpe Technology Hub we were able to access the latest IT equipment and expert advice from Fraser Henderson which gave us answers to all our questions.
"With Fraser’s help, we launched a new IT system capable of managing our database, as well as an electronic card system for membership. Together this has resulted in smoother customer management and a more effective membership system.
"We also started selling branded merchandise in the reception area. Using the laser cutter at the Mablethorpe Technology Hub we were able to produce branded vinyl board stickers and other marketing material to sell, and we've had such a good response that we're now planning to create key rings from old skate boards, t-shirts, sweat-shirts and hoodies.
"With the IT help on offer we also explored using Go-Pro cameras to take pictures and videos of our elite skaters and BMX bikers. This gave us amazing marketing pictures to use on the website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media channels, and it’s allowed us to engage with our members online. In fact, through social trending we're reaching new customers we've previously missed by using traditional marketing tactics.
"Looking back I am really pleased that I took advantage of the free help offered to me by onlincolnshire. It’s not going to be around for ever, so we need to utilise it now while we have the chance."
Fraser Henderson, one of the IT experts available through onlincolnshire, which is part-funded by the European Union Regional Development Fund (ERDF), said: "What's been really impressive is that Nick and his team listened to what their customers said about digital technology at X-site Skatepark, and then found ways to deliver it in a cost-effective way using the help available at the Lincolnshire Technology Hubs.
"From our first meeting it was obvious that Nick had a vision for his business, but we soon identified some key areas that we could work on together to make processes smoother and more effective.
"Some of the changes we implemented included adding WiFi to the indoor and outdoor skating areas. This meant that Go-Pro cameras could be used, and videos and pictures instantly uploaded and shared with skaters all over the world. Nick also borrowed one of the Mablethorpe Technology Hub's laptops to create an electronic membership database, which replaced the endless paperwork he's had to endure.
"What's been achieved with the support of onlincolnshire has really boosted X-site Skatepark, and there are lots more plans for the future. So watch this space!"
For more information about the X-Site Skatepark please visit www.xsiteskatepark.co.uk.
To find out how you can access the support available at the Lincolnshire Technology Hubs, which are part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), visit http://www.onlincolnshire.org
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