I am an Eskimo is a ‘do it your way’ e-business selling 100% organic cotton T-shirts with cool designs themed around eskimos, and an eskimo locator. When you buy a T-shirt, you take a picture wearing it — however, wherever, with whoever you want — then you go onto iamaneskimo.com join, and place yourself on the worldwide map. The aim is to turn the whole world blue by the end of the year with an eskimo in every country.
What is your role?
As a sole trader, I play a lot of roles. Success depends on who you bring in for different ‘services’. I am very lucky to have a great designer, Rachel, on board, who is also a sole trader and understands exactly what I'm looking for.
Why did you start the business?
I'm a full-time athlete in the exciting sport of canoe slalom with Olympic ambitions. When I made the transition to becoming a full-time athlete five years ago, I knew I had to generate my own income in a way that fitted around my lifestyle — which involves being abroad 200 days a year training and competing and training two or three times a day.
What is the biggest challenge?
The main thing was to transform ideas from fiction to form. I struggle with cash flow when I have to buy in stock, especially coming up to the Christmas Continental Market.
What is your unique selling point?
Every individual is unique. My whole concept inspires individuality and the uniqueness of my company will develop as the eskimos around the world shape it. Over six billion people live on this planet, everyone needs a T-shirt, and the planet will be an even better place if the T-shirt is ethically produced in an environmentally friendly manner. So bring it on...
What makes you a good entrepreneur?
I don't know if I am a good or a bad entrepreneur. All I know is that when I believe in something I fight like hell for it.
How are you marketing the company?
Marketing is knocking on doors and letting the world know you exist. What is even more important is branding. Understanding what the company stands for, what quality of product you want to sell and even in my case how I want it to be made, is crucial. You need to know who you are before you try selling yourself to others. That's why I believe in a gradual introduction to the market.
What are the biggest challenges to growth?
If I knew them, I would have already found a solution for them. I have many ideas, but I know my limits. I have energy and time that I can dedicate to my business without disadvantaging my main career — which is being a full-time athlete. Lifestyle management is the key.
If you were starting out again, what would you do differently?
What are your plans to develop the company?
That's a secret!
What are you doing that most excites you?
The Continental Christmas Market in Belfast. I have sponsorship this year for a stall. It is a huge opportunity for my business, with a footfall of 700,000 — offering the chance not only for sales but also for exposure and marketing.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
If you need to motivate yourself then forget about having your own business. The rewards are many when you do something you genuinely believe in and enjoy — and that alone is enough for me.
Which entrepreneur do you most admire?
The one who gets out there and makes the most out of any situation.
What is your favourite gadget?
I’m not a gadget person. I have a £10 phone and no TV.
If you could do any job, what would it be?
That is a silly question to ask an entrepreneur! I think the answer is obvious.