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Swansea visionary who started out with just PS30 feels the wind in his sails.

Byline: NINO WILLIAMS Reporter

EXPERIENCED yachtsman Matthew Senior once looked up at his sails and had an idea. So when he received a PS30 enterprise allowance from the Jobcentre in 2012, he put it to work.

He spent it on flyers advertising his fledgling business, which he distributed in Swansea's SA1.

Now he's putting up sail shades worth hundreds of thousands of pounds across the country and internationally.

The awnings and tensile structures act as both sun and rain shades, and are commissioned by local authorities and private businesses. The 46-year-old, from Swansea, said: "I was looking to start my own business, and do something landbased and a bit more permanent than what I'd been doing.

"I'd spent 14 years as a professional sailor, which was where I got my idea from. I realised I could use the same technology employed in the manufacture of ships' sails and rigging to produce high-quality shades and awnings.

"It was obvious really because they're durable, stand up to windy environments and are manufactured to a really high standard - and they're also versatile enough to fit into almost any space.

"I spent the money I got from the enterprise allowance on flyers and distributed them in SA1, and my very first commission was in Cafe Americano.

They kindly put their faith in me and put up the money for materials, and I did the rest.

"I then put the money I made from the completed job back into the business and it grew from there."

The Government's New Enterprise Allowance provides mentoring and financial help to fledgling entrepreneurs to help get a business idea off the ground.

Matthew first got involved in sailing through Mumbles Yacht Club, and has taken boats back and forth across the Atlantic, sailing 100,000 miles in the process. He was part of a team which won the Hobart yacht race off the Australian coast in 2008, and has also worked as a maritime technical officer with Swansea Museum, where he took charge of its historic pilot cutter The Olga.

His business, Gower Sail Shades and Awnings, produces awnings and fabric structures for hotels, restaurants, sports venues, schools and colleges, and for gardens and patios, playgrounds and recreational areas.

It now has two part-time employees and works with a local sail-maker to produce shades using marinegrade fabrics and rigging hardware. His work has included installing and maintaining awnings on the seafront at Aberavon beach, La Parrilla restaurant in Swansea and shops on the city's High Street.

He has also carried out commissions for London councils including Camden, Ealing, Lambeth and Bracknell, has also worked in Bermuda, and is currently engaged in a project for a Montenegro marina.

Matthew added: "I knew the idea for using sails as awnings would work because I'd seen them while I was working in Australia. Sailing is very much in my blood and I feel incredibly lucky to have developed an idea, which is working out."

Matthew's business mentor Sheran Grey added: "Matthew has great vision and this, coupled with his flair for design, will take the business to great heights in time.

"He started the business from nothing and he has already secured some lovely contracts in a short space of time."


Toni de Francesco, owner of Cafe Remos in Aberavon, with Matthew Senior, right

<B Matthew Senior, of Gower Sail Shades and Awnings, with one of his installations at Bracknall Forest
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 3, 2019
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