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Students in Business Starting a Business in Nova Scotia
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Daniel McMahon
East Coast Surf
Sydney, NS

With his first taste of surfing in the chilly waters off Cape Breton, Daniel McMahon, 23, owner and manager of East Coast Surf, was hooked. Ironically though, his business idea came to him while building landings for mountain bike competitions in the mountains of Germany. “I realized that the same business model could work for surf competitions: find riders and sponsors and then organize, publicize and host the event,” explains McMahon.

East Coast Surf was launched four years ago with the inaugural “Surf Open” event near Cow Bay, NS. Surfers of all ages, and a handful of sponsors, braved the 1.8 degree waters for a chance to catch a perfect wave and an opportunity at the prize purse. Securing sponsorships was a big challenge for McMahon, as was online data security. His websites and servers were hacked a number of times in the early days which delayed progress drastically.

“Students in Business funding helped a lot,” McMahon explains. Having capital allowed him to better market the surf events to potential sponsors, and hire a good web developer to properly and safely set up his website. But it wasn’t just the funding that helped move McMahon’s business forward. “The information you get along with the capital is huge,” says McMahon. “Students in Business really over-delivered on classes.”

Just recently, McMahon started selling surfboards through local consignment shops. "My buddies and I were breaking a lot of boards,” comments McMahon. “It really got under our skin that Canadians had to pay substantially more for surfboards than surfers in other countries, so I decided to start importing boards of equal quality at cheaper prices.”

With the help of a second round of Student In Business funding, McMahon spent January in Costa Rica and Panama meeting with 17 different surfboard suppliers before deciding to work with two from Costa Rica and one from Panama, as well as his brother who is based in Australia. With high quality boards at more economical prices, the only real challenge was figuring out the cheapest way to get them back to Canada with shipping and customs duties.

“The support I get through the Students In Business classes and mentorship continue to help me move my business forward,” says McMahon. “Just recently, I went to a class on lowering your insurance rates, which was great because almost 40% of the registration fees for each event go to insurance.” The lawyer who was leading the class was able to give McMahon advice on clauses he could use in his waivers and in the insurance policy to lower his rates.

As a recent finance and economics grad from Cape Breton University, McMahon feels he still has a few years before he’ll need to don a suit and enter the corporate world. In the meantime, he’s looking forward to the annual spring surf event and a surf trip to Morocco in the fall.


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