An engineer with a lifelong love of flying is spreading his wings into the world of business, after stepping in to secure the future of Britain’s only hang glider manufacturer.
Tim Swait saved Avian Hang Gliders, which manufactures gliders from its base in the Hope Valley, after former owner Steve Elkin decided to hang up his goggles.
Tim, a Sheffield-based engineer, developed a love for everything aeronautical as a child, devoting his evenings and weekends to carefully crafting model planes and flying remote controlled aircraft. Tim’s passion even shaped his future career and he successfully completed a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering and a PhD in Composites Materials, before securing a job at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. While there, Tim worked some of the leading businesses in the aerospace industry, including Airbus, Boeing and Rolls Royce.
Moving from a secure job into the unknown wasn’t without risk. Tim needed to raise the vital funds to secure the future of the business and having never run a company before, he knew the wrong decision could see his dreams nose dive. Undeterred, Tim consulted a number of business-minded friends and on their recommendation, he contacted Launchpad.
With help from an experienced business advisor, Tim was able to navigate his way through the first few months of running the business, accessing the support he needed by taking part in training workshops and one-to-one sessions. He also received advice from other professionals, including accountants and solicitors, who helped the budding business owner to build a comprehensive network of support.
Tim was able to secure the funds needed to acquire the business through an innovative crowdfunding campaign. This campaign enabled fellow hang gliding enthusiasts to secure vouchers against future purchases, including hang gliding lessons, glider repairs and the purchase of new models. Within just 90 days Tim secured the vital finance needed to make his business dreams a reality – and with the help and support received from the Launchpad programme, Tim has successfully taken his business to new heights.
Tim Swait, Director, Avian Hang Gliders, said:
“Avian may be a small business, but it is a huge part of the hang gliding community and has an international client base: our Facebook page boasts likes from pilots in every continent – except Antarctica!
“I was fortunate enough to work with Steve Elkin while I was still at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, which is when Steve offered me the chance to take over the running of the business. I saw it as a golden opportunity to combine my engineering skills with a sport I love, and I knew the gliders well: my first hang glider was an Avian Rio. However, I was also realistic. I knew it would be a journey which would come with its fair share of risks.
“Launchpad was instrumental in helping me understand what it takes to run a business and it was incredibly reassuring to have Christina’s support. Not only has she offered an attentive pair of ears, but she helped me to take logical steps towards achieving my goal. Christina has been fantastic and I know that she’ll be there to offer support whenever I need it.”
Christina Lima-Trindade, Business Advisor, Launchpad, added:
“Since the Launchpad programme began in 2016, it has supported a number of entrepreneurs and start-up business owners who, like Tim, possess passion and skill.
“Launchpad was created to help people who are thinking of launching their own business understand what’s involved in running a company, and help them to overcome barriers which prevent them from succeeding in business.
“Tim accessed Launchpad’s support through Business Sheffield, a partner of the Launchpad programme, as he was looking to supplement his engineering and aviation expertise with the business knowledge needed to successfully run a company. Working with Tim has been a pleasure – he understands his products inside out and is passionate about the aviation community.
“I look forward to witnessing Avian Hang Gliders grow and will continue to support Tim in his business venture.”
Launchpad is the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub’s key business support programme for new business. Financially supported by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by local authorities within the Sheffield City Region and the Prince’s Trust, the programme provides free help and support to budding entrepreneurs in the City Region. Entrepreneurs who access Launchpad are those who are thinking of starting their own business, or have started trading within the last two years.