Will Thompson, alumnus and skateboarder, building a career in publishing
Will has been skateboarding for 12 years and also admits that it’s probably the longest commitment he has managed in his relatively short life. It’s more than just a hobby – for Will, like many others, skateboarding has been at the centre of most of his significant friendships, memories and holidays.
“In fact,” he concedes, “one of the reasons I studied at LSBU in the first place was the location – the chance to be at the heart of the British skateboarding scene.”
Expert entrepreneurial advice
Thankfully, Will spent as much time in lecture theatres as he did on half-pipes, and when he graduated, he knew that LSBU could offer him the support he needed through its Graduate Entrepreneur Scheme (GES) to launch the skateboard magazine he always dreamed of running.
GES supports entrepreneurs who have graduated from the University in the past five years to develop their business ideas. It includes the chance to work with the University's Entrepreneurs in Residence - professionals who provide one-to-one support to student and graduate entrepreneurs.
As people willing to propel themselves through the air on little more than a plank of wood with wheels, skateboarders are not known for their circumspect approach to life. For that reason, Will was ready to rush in with his new project, especially when he heard that the UK’s biggest skateboard magazine, Sidewalk, was moving to a web-only model. Fortunately, some expert intervention prevented what could have been a costly error.
Developing a strategy
“Our first few seminars with the Entrepreneurs in Residence really helped us to define the strategy for Wood Pusher, and probably stopped us making some big mistakes,” says Will.
We decided on an online test rather than heading straight for print, and invested in market research so that we had useful information we could pitch to potential advertisers. Without that help in the development stage, we’d have gone out blind, and a printed version would probably be out of our reach by now.
That said, there have still been bumps in the road for Wood Pusher. Unfortunately for Will, one of these proved to be literal, resulting in a skateboard accident and a dislocated shoulder that ultimately delayed the online launch. “I’m pretty much healed again now, but yeah that was tough,” he grins ruefully. “Spending all day looking at skateboarding and not being able to go out and ride mine really got under my skin.”
Dreams coming true
As it is, Wood Pusher’s first issue launched on time at www.woodpushermag.com, and the printed version is firmly on track – to Will’s clear delight. “Yes, it’s true that I could have gone out and aimed for a job at an existing company,” he says. “I’d have more money in my back pocket for sure – but this is about following my dream, owning my own business and working in skateboarding, and that’s what I really want to do right now.”