The director of 7 Bamboos Rugby, Max Lueck, recently met up with the GoodLab Southwest in order to speak about the Bamboos, business and rugby. The full interview can be read here.
Hello, please could you introduce yourself and tell me a little about your business?
My name is Max Lueck and I’m 30 years old and I’ve set up a business called 7 Bamboos Rugby. The idea behind the business is to provide platforms, to support young people’s development through the sport of rugby sevens. We see a lot of potential within rugby sevens as it’s a fairly new sport but a very fast growing one, which will be very big in 2016, due to its Olympic inclusion. It’s a great sport, but the problem is, especially in the UK, there’s not much focus around its development, but more in the elite section, so we are trying to change this and set up events like tournaments, workshops and seminars. We have a development team in place – we ask young people between 17 and 22 to come down and we coach them and take them to other sevens tournaments. We also go into schools and colleges with our coaching programmes, so there’s a focus around the youngsters too! We also design and sell some merchandise. All these areas are really focussed around development. For example, with the merchandise, we work with young designers who then create stuff and get a chance to test and improve their skills. Obviously the couching is very development focused itself and we’re not just looking to coach the physical skills of the sport, but also work on personal skills development, organisational skills, management skills and nutrition! So what we say is, we look at a professional player and identify what kind of skills they require and then we see how we can coach that in others. That’s the idea in a nutshell.
What inspired you to start 7 Bamboos?
Well a few things; I’ve been playing rugby since I was 12 or 13 so there was the idea that I wanted to do something with the sport, then further to that I’d always wanted to own a business and start up my own projects so I was looking into possible ways of doing that and it all came together – I’m a rugby coach, I studied coaching in Gloucester and I saw an opportunity in sevens rugby as I feel there’s a lot of potential there. The fifteens rugby market is very over-saturated, while the sevens market is still developing. So coaching, my love of rugby and desire for the freedom of running my own business was what started me off.
Do you find it quite inspiring working with young people?
Oh yes, I’ve been coaching rugby and other sports in general for about 10 years now and I always liked the idea of supporting young people, and especially showing them what they can do, and helping them to release their potential, so that’s definitely one of my biggest inspirations.
How has the business evolved from when you first started and did you expect it to head in this direction?
At the beginning you have to have a very broad idea, so at first I thought we’d simply have a sevens team, but then I got thinking about how to turn this into a business. What became apparent quite quickly was that there were a few things we needed. We needed to build relationships with universities and schools, and also with the Gloucestershire Rugby Football Union who were very helpful. Within these connections there came a clearer idea of what we wanted to do, and now about a year and a half on, there’s a pretty good structure and business plan to lead us in the right direction.
Have you encountered any unexpected challenges?
Yeah, the biggest challenge is always funding, it took me a whole to really cover the basic things, and when I finished my last job at Hartpury College, going fulltime into starting up 7 Bamboos, trying to fund myself and cover all the other costs was really hard, but UWE was really helpful; we got funding from them, the county council of Gloucestershire was very helpful too and that made it easier. So the big challenges for us have been finding a structure, getting funding and then staying put with the idea! A lot of people try and tell you that you can’t do it, so you have to convince others – including yourself!
Hartpury is part of UWE and the enterprise team there came down and introduced the funding programme to us. I applied the first time two years ago and didn’t get the funding, and then a year later I tried again and I got it so it showed me quite clearly that it can take a while and you have to have something to show before other people invest in you. That worked well. Since then, UWE have been fantastic. It’s been great having them to help me.
How have you found making the transition to being fulltime self-employed?
It’s been tough. There’s an income but it’s very little and you have to change your lifestyle completely and put all your focus and energy into the project. You have to work very hard, probably harder than any 9-to-5 job, but realising that this is your own thing and that it’s you who is determining which way it’s heading is so encouraging and motivating that you are willing to live off a very small budget and to work a lot.
What is the most important thing you’ve learnt while running 7 Bamboos?
Good question… I’ve learnt a lot! Probably the most important thing is how to convince other people that the idea is right. I find it great that there’s so many young people starting businesses, but at the same time unfortunately a lot of them fail. I think there’s two reasons for that; maybe sometimes it’s because the idea is not strong enough, and the other reason is that it can be really difficult to keep carrying on. Getting up when you have set-backs and finding new ways around things can be really difficult, so that’s definitely one of the most important things I’ve learnt – coping with set-backs, convincing people that your idea is worth it and also remaining positive myself!
Do you have any particular advice for people starting out?
My biggest piece of advice is always to be prepared! It’s a tough journey but it’s completely worth it. I’ve spoken to a lot of young people, and so many of them have great ideas, but then they say to me that they think it’ll be too hard, and my feeling is that there’s no easy way in – there’s no shortcut to doing this. If you are prepared to work hard, and you believe in your idea with a real seriousness, then other people will as well. It’s not at all like “I have an idea and it will make me rich if I work 9-to-5”, you have to really go above and beyond!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A lot of people ask me where the name “Bamboo” comes from. There’re two things about it; one is that a lot of sports teams are named after animals, and they’re often quite aggressive, lions, tigers, that sort of thing. I was thinking that I needed a name that was a bit different and then “bamboo” came into my mind. Bamboo is a grass, it’s very fast-growing but you can do a lot with it – people use it for scaffolding and making bicycles! It has very strong roots, it’s a very diverse plant, so there are lots of very good and positive connotations around it and why it fits well with what I’m doing. Its qualities fit well with what we’re trying to do with the development aspect of the business.
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