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Success story - Matthew Senior

Business life is plain sailing for Swansea entrepreneur Matthew

Inspiration for a great business idea can strike in the most unlikely places. For experienced yachtsman Matthew Senior, it came after clocking up 80,000 miles at sea, culminating in winning the Hobart yacht race off the Australian coast.

The answer to being a successful entrepreneur had literally been in front of his face, Matthew, 43, explained. “I spent 14 years as a professional sailor and realised that I could use the same technology employed in the manufacture of ships’ sails and rigging to produce high-quality shades and awnings,” he said, “It was obvious really. They’re already tried and tested in windy environments and the way they’re manufactured is to a really high standard. They’re also versatile enough to compliment the dimensions of almost any space, they’re durable and they control solar glare.”

Arriving back in his native Wales, Matthew turned to the Government’s New Enterprise Allowance, which provides mentoring and financial help to budding entrepreneurs, for support to get the business idea off the ground.

The result is Swansea-based Gower Sail Shades and Awnings, which produces awnings and fabric structures for hotels, restaurants, sports venues, schools and colleges and for gardens and patios, playgrounds and recreational areas.

The company has also been able give employment to two part-time assistants and works with a local sail-maker to produce shades using the finest marine-grade fabrics and rigging hardware.
Under the NEA, participants receive access to a business mentor who will provide them with guidance and support as they develop their business plan and through the first six months of trading. Once they have demonstrated they have a viable business proposition with the potential for growth in the future, they are able to access financial support. It is available to claimants of Jobseekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance (or their partners) and lone parents or sick on Income Support.

Matthew, of Swansea, said: “I knew the idea for using sails as awnings would work because I’d seen them while I was working in Australia – and the seed was sown.

“I started out on my own but was struggling, so in September 2015, I went back on the NEA, where I was introduced to my business mentor Sheran Grey and it all kicked off from there. What made all the difference was the business advice and extra income I was able to get from the NEA. It made me much more focused and it’s great having someone like Sheran to call when I need advice.”

Such is the success of Gower Sail Shades & Awnings that it has recently been commissioned to maintain and install contracts for Costa in the Wales and the West area, overseen by Shades of Comfort. Examples of the company’s tensile sail structures can also be seen along the sea-front at Aberavon Beach and at La Parrilla Restaurant in Swansea.

Matthew’s new business still allows him to indulge his first love, sailing. He said: “My early involvement with the sea was through dinghy sailing with Mumbles Yacht Club. Later, while I was working in the music industry in London, I had a opportunity to take boat across the Atlantic to the Caribbean and, basically, I decided to stay away. Now I’m back - and things are going really well.”

Sheran, of Business Sense Associates, which delivers the NEA as our partner in Wales, said: “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. It has been a pleasure to work with Matthew to help him get the business up and running. We are now looking forward to the rest of the 26 weeks support, to see if we can help win some more contracts, and see what we can do along the way to make a real difference.”

For more information about Matthew’s company, contact him at

Business Sense Associates Ltd. Ltd Company number 08636013

Registered Office : The Business Centre, 1-5 Peniel Green Rd, Llansamlet, Swansea SA7 9AP