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Callum's column: The story of eola

by Callum Hemsley

One of the most common questions I get asked as CEO of eola is what was the first spark that started our journey. For my part, it began on a beach. 

In January 2016, I was living with a friend in a small flat in London. The vast majority of my time was spent working long hours. Most weekends, my world was three places: my flat, the gym, and the pub. 

One Saturday, my flatmate dragged me out of bed at about 6am to catch a train to Scarborough. A few hours later, I found myself on a beach beneath grey skies. A cold rain drizzled down on us. I was instructed to undress and get into a damp wetsuit. At this stage, I wasn't in the cheeriest of moods. 

From there, we went surfing. I don't think I stood up for more than a second at any stage, and I certainly drank far too much of the North Sea. It also never stopped raining.

None of that mattered though. Within five minutes of starting, I was grinning from ear to ear, and I didn't stop for the entire day. I had an incredible experience, and on the train back, I just felt an enormous sense of exhilaration and energy. 

That feeling stayed with me for weeks. All I could think about was getting ‘out there’, having more experiences, and trying to encourage others to do the same. 

callum hemsley big green surf school
Enjoying a rainy day out with Big Green Surf School

After I left my job a year or so later, another friend was telling me about a particular sport they were involved in, and how they wanted to make it easier for athletes to organise local events. 

This immediately brought back my surfing experience, and others like it I had since enjoyed. I realised that, more than anything, I wanted to help the businesses that deliver these fantastic experiences, and to help as many people as possible enjoy taking part in them. 

During this time, I met Dan, who kindly (and perhaps foolishly) agreed to partner up with me. We spent six months researching the challenges faced by experience businesses, and developing our understanding of how the industry worked. 

By September 2017, we knew what we had to do to get started, and we were able to take the first steps towards building eola. Four years later, we’ve had the privilege to work with many fantastic businesses doing amazing things around the UK, and the rest of the world. 

Our team has also grown substantially in the last twelve months, from eight people at the start of 2021 to almost thirty as we head into the new year. And yet, we know this is only the beginning. 

Over the coming months, I’m looking forward to sharing regular updates with you about how our company is learning and growing towards bigger and better things. For now, I’d like to wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a delightful New Year.

eola co-founders dan steele and callum hemsley
eola co-founders Callum Hemsley and Dan Steele

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