How A Translator Started A Sailing Business In Switzerland
Emma is the founder and skipper at Cloud Nine Sailing. Together with her partner and the ship’s dog she teaches adventure lovers how to sail in the Greek islands. She sent her motivational story to SUISSEPIC.
SUISSEPIC: What brought you to Switzerland?
Emma: My ex-husband worked for a major Swiss financial institution in the UK. They closed their office in our home town and told him that he could choose to relocate to either Liverpool or Zurich. This decision was not a difficult one! As a language professional I had lived abroad previously and always wanted to do so again. However, I had not expected it to be possible with his line of work. By the time my marriage broke down, Switzerland had become my home so there was no question that I would stay, and I have been here 19 years now.
SUISSEPIC: How did the idea of your business appear?
Emma: I also work as a freelance translator, but after the global financial crisis I found I was spending much longer hours at my desk, yet earning much less money. My health was beginning to suffer, so I was looking for a way to earn a living without needing to spend 60-70 hours a week sitting at a desk typing.
Photo: Emma Gledhill
SUISSEPIC: What are your main products or services?
Emma: We offer bespoke sailing holidays in the western Greek islands between May and October with the option to learn to sail. We visit different islands and tavernas every night.
SUISSEPIC: What does success mean to you?
Emma: To infect other people with the sailing bug. I love it when someone comes on holiday aiming to just sit back and be “chauffeured” around but is overcome with curiosity about how it all works. Of course, we are delighted if people just have a brilliant holiday, but the ultimate success is when someone we have introduced to sailing, tells us they are taking charge of a boat on a flotilla holiday for the first time. Financially, we are happy if we earn enough to pay our bills comfortably. It is certainly not the sort of business to make millions or use earnings as a scorecard and, frankly, the philosophy of the corporate world is the diametric opposite of what we were aiming to do.
SUISSEPIC: How do you develop and set goals?
Emma: I am ambivalent about traditional methods of goal-setting. Goals that aim to achieve a set quantity by a specific time seem too inflexible to me and entail an inherent risk of disappointment. One thing we know instinctively from working with mother nature is that almost “no plan survives first contact with the enemy”, you have to be ready to adapt to changing circumstances.
I would draw an analogy with sailing: of course, you know where you want to end up and plan your passage accordingly, trying to account for all eventualities; but even with the best forecasts the weather can change unexpectedly, or you may find your destination is already too full to drop your anchor when you arrive so you need to have a plan B – or develop one fast! But – importantly – this does not constitute a failure.
Photo: Emma Gledhill
SUISSEPIC: What geographical area does your business serve?
Emma: As our holidays and practical courses run in the Greek islands, we have clients from throughout Switzerland.
There are numerous sailing schools and charter companies in the Ionian, but only we focus on serving clients living in Switzerland. Only we offer the opportunity to simply choose to turn your holiday into a formal course if you want to and offer the opportunity to experience sailing both large and small boats in one week.
Our theory courses usually run in the Zurich area but we have people travel from all over Switzerland to attend.
SUISSEPIC: What is your favorite Swiss city and why?
Emma: I am not really a city girl, as you can imagine from what I do. I choose to live in a small village in the mountains. Much as I like Zurich and Chur as towns to visit for a day or so (or for appointments/shopping etc.), a little bit of me dies if I have to spend a long time in major centres of population.
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