Flying high and following my dream

Inside Track: Pure Magic Kitesurfing School was started up in Dublin in 2006 by François and Christophe Colussi and Catherine Etienne – in 2010, they set up a second school in Achill Island and have since further developed it with a lodge and restaurant


Question: What sets your business apart from the competition?

Answer: Dollymount was my first crush in Dublin. I couldn’t believe somewhere so beautiful could be so close to a big city! 2006 was the start of the recession but, for kitesurfing, it was the beginning of a boom, so it was the perfect time to start this business. In fact, I wasn’t really aware there was a recession happening.

We were young and when you’re young you say “why not?” We had had nothing to lose. We started in a 10sq ft shop on Bull Island. It was the smallest shop in the world but it had the most amazing view of Dollymount that I fell in love with, so that became our first shop.

We were the first full-time kite-surfing school here. We started the school with just a few kites and very quickly we had a shop and an online shop. A lot of the students have gone on to become instructors in Ireland and internationally.

In 2012, we hosted the World Kitesurfing Championships. It was a huge undertaking. We organise events now which showcase the amazing coastlines where our businesses are located. For example, Battle of the Bay in Dollymount brought 55,000 people to the beach this year. In October, we had our Achill event, Ballad for the Lake, which is another kitesurfing, water sport and music event.

What’s been your biggest mistake in business?

My twin brother Christophe put €10,000 into the business when we were starting up. Over the last 10 years, he has come into the shop and taken whatever kitesurfing equipment he wants. For me, it was the worst investment ever!

What’s been your best business success?

I was a French guy exiled in Dublin at the beginning of the crash. I couldn’t find work but I found Dollymount strand. I don’t come from a business school but the school of life. In a similar way to kitesurfing, you have to keep moving or you crash and if you know how to crash, you will stand up again.

I am following my passion, I never thought I would be able to be a kitesurfing instructor and earn a living. I am very grateful for my job and the people I work with.

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

Successful people aren’t successful because they have the best of everything, successful people are successful because they make the best of everything.

What’s been your biggest challenge?

Challenges in Ireland are the seasonality and the large overheads. Also, it is a challenge for us to stay consistent in our business. to remain true to what has become our philosophy. For us, it’s about people. The right people working with us and bringing people together, in our schools and through our events. We employ up to five people full-time and then 25-30 people seasonally.

In your experience, are banks open for business?

Over that last 10 years, the banks have approached us a number of times asking if we wanted to borrow money but anytime we looked into it, there was a lot of paperwork and it seemed to take a long time. We don’t like owing anyone any money and we have managed so far to build the business without a lot of debt.

What advice would you give the Government to help stimulate the economy?

Grants are a great help, especially to businesses bringing a lot to rural areas, but they are very complicated at times. Making them easier, more accessible and less bureaucratic would be helpful.

Also, I think Dublin City Council seems to concentrate only on Temple Bar as a way to attract tourists to the city. But look at the amenity of Dublin Bay! We have collaborated with Fáilte Ireland on their “Wild Mayo” campaign. Businesses like ours help to stimulate rural economies. We are bringing people to Achill. But wind is our best resource!

What’s the short-term future for your business?

We are considering another school in Mayo. We have lots of ideas but we will realise them step by step. We would prefer to have things right than to just expand for the sake of it.

Who is your business hero and why?

Philip McNamara. Philip is a serial entrepreneur and connector in Silicon Valley. He has become a good friend. He co-founded four companies in Ireland, the UK and in Silicon Valley. We get a lot of people coming to our Achill school from Silicon Valley and from the IT or tech worlds. I think they have the right attitude for kitesurfing. In their world things move so quickly, they try, if it doesn’t work, they try again! They keep moving!

What’s your business worth and would you sell it?

We don’t know exactly what its worth but it’s worth it for sure!