While many students are using every penny they can scrape together to pay for tuition fees, accommodation and perhaps the occasional pint in the student bar, friends Alex Kemsley and Simon Dickson had different ideas.
The then 21-year-olds saved part of their student loans to start up an online hot tub company, Hot Tubs 2 Buy, in 2005. Nine years on, the company has expanded and evolved into the Waterstream Group, encompassing both hot tub hire and purchase, swimming pools and accessories, and it is now one of the UK’s leading hot tub and pool retailers.
“We noticed that there was a gap in the market for affordable quality hot tubs and sought to fill it,” says Alex, who studied business and marketing at Aberystwyth University. “We set about introducing a hot tub to the market that could meet our stringent cost objectives without skimping on quality.” He continues: “Simon and I were in our second year at University when we decided to take the plunge and invest our student loans to purchase a container of hot tubs and a van. “For the first two years we travelled the UK, exhibiting our hot tubs at country shows and fairs. We didn’t sell a great deal, just enough to get by, but we learnt a lot about the market and industry in those first couple of years, so it was ultimately a good foundation for the business.”
The pair opened their hot tub showroom in Handcross, West Sussex in 2008, where they now have over 14 hot tubs on display, plus two swimming pools – a Compass Pools XL Trainer and a Sunsoka above ground pool, plus a specialist wet testing facility. “We’re an agile company, which allows us to be flexible and move with the times. We’re always keen to try new concepts and aren’t afraid to branch out to keep up with consumer needs and current trends,” says Alex.
Waterstream joined with the Compass Group in 2010, to bring cutting edge pool design and technology to the UK. Exclusive distribution rights for Compass Pools was granted to Waterstream last year. Looking back at his time within the industry, and taking into consideration the experience and knowledge he has picked up along the way, Alex would offer this advice to any young business person looking to set up their own business: “Don’t be afraid to jump in at the deep end and take risks – it might just pay off!”
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