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How this Girl Boss set a SUP business on Koh Samui island Thailand

Hey everyone, please welcome a new Girl Boss story this week. I connected with Tammy a little while ago on the island of Koh Samui through our second business New Horizon Escapes. The first SUP trip out into the water was stunning & we knew right away that Tammy & her partner Ian were a couple we wanted to do business with. Besides that, the sunsets & sunrises you get to watch from a paddle board are quite incredible. We added this activity to our schedule & stayed in touch since. Please welcome Tammy & her business iSUP Samui.
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sup on koh samui island
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 Q - So Tammy, what is your job?
I'm a Swimming Teacher and Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Instructor and I run 2 water sport businesses here in Samui together with my husband - iSWIM Samui and iSUP Samui.
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Q - So moving to another country & starting a business can be quite daunting for someone. How did it all come about?
I can remember the moment that idea sparked about 7 years ago now. We'd just taken our first stand up paddleboard lesson in Australia and got chatting to the Instructor about his business.  From that moment the idea just started to grow into a detailed business plan and a complete career change.  We packed up our lives in Sydney and moved to Samui in June 2015.  
I'd lived and worked overseas quite a lot and we had friends who lived here in Samui, so it didn't seem so daunting.
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stand up paddle boarding koh samui
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Q - Why did you decide to do what you do?
Living in the city and working a corporate job was quite stressful, and I wanted to make a change.  I loved Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP), and I wanted to live in Koh Samui.  About 3 years ago we invited a couple of friends to Samui on a research trip to see what they thought of SUP'ing in Samui.  They loved it, so the plan was hatched.  We decided it was worth taking a chance to setup a SUP business in Samui.  If we didn't, then someone else would.  And then we'd be jealous of their life.
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Q - Is it now a dream come true? Or do you have newer & more updated dreams?
Yes.  Life here in Koh Samui is pretty amazing.  I can't imagine going back to my old life.  Paddle boarding seems to attract the coolest people, and I get to chat with them whilst exploring the Samui coastline and taking in beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  I also get a real kick out of teaching kids and adults how to swim.  So for now, that will do.  Perhaps I'll come up with newer dreams in a few years time.
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i sup koh samui island
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Q - What does a day in your work & life look like?
The alarm goes off around 5am and we'll drive down to the beach to prepare for the Sunrise Paddle Tour.  After the paddle we'll wash the paddle boards and pack everything away.  Then it's time for breakfast, and it's off to my Thai language class or a yoga class.  In the afternoon I'll teach a few swimming lessons, come back home to walk the dog and then dinner.  Some nights we'll also have guests to take out on a Sunset Paddle Tour.  Somewhere in between I'll make time to check email, update social media, plan for the next day's bookings and bake some healthy treats for the next day's paddle tours.
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Q - Do you need to be certified in SUP in order to take guests out on their SUP boards? 
Water safety is a big priority for me.  So yes, I think you should be a qualified SUP Instructor and have a lot of paddling experience before taking guests out on the water.  I'm a qualified SUP Instructor accredited with the Academy of Surfing Instructors (ASI), and attend training courses every year to keep my qualifications current.
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sup koh samui, koh samui paddle boarding
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Q - When is SUP yoga coming along? 
I've just ordered a couple of SUP yoga paddle boards and I'm planning to offer SUP Yoga classes towards the end of 2017.  First I have to do my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training and then I'll attend a SUP Yoga training course with the Academy of Surf Instructors (ASI) to learn how to adapt yoga to the paddle board.  In the meantime, if any yogis come along we can play around with a few simple poses like downward dog, bridge pose or a floating meditation.
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Q - What are the pros & cons of running such a business?
Pros: Flexible working hours, working outdoors and being active, watching beautiful sunrises and sunsets, meeting loads of interesting people from around the world.
Cons: Lots of early starts and late finishes, you have to do your own admin, no big company perks.
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sup yoga koh samui
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Q - How do you find working with your life partner? I know how it can be sometimes because my life partner is also a business partner & things can get a little interesting :) 
It's great, but I agree it can be challenging.  It's probably the days when we're physically tired that are the hardest.  You forget your manners and just blurt out what you're thinking, which is not something I've done with colleagues in my previous jobs.  It helps that we both love what we're doing and we're quite resilient.  
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Q - Do you feel like life is complete now? What other goals do you have in life?
I'm happy with my life right now.  As mentioned above, I'm planning to complete my SUP Yoga Instructor qualifications this year.  One of my goals for next year is to have a regular day off each week.  
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paddle boarding on Koh Samui
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Q - What happens on a bad/rainy day? How about a whole monsoon season? Are you still doing SUP?
We keep a close eye on the weather forecast and only go paddling if the conditions are good.  We'll choose locations that are sheltered from the wind.  But if it's too windy or stormy we won't go out.  It's frustrating, but it's the right thing to do, otherwise we might drift off to Cambodia.  Monsoon season means more yoga classes for me, and more time for me to work on the business.
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Q - What advice would you give to someone who wants to make SUP their business?
First of all get as much paddling experience that you can, so that you're used to paddling in all weather conditions.  Get your SUP Instructor qualifications and some experience working for another SUP school.  I recommend training with the Academy of Surfing Instructors (ASI).  They run courses all round the world including Australia, Asia, North America and Europe.  Do your research, prepare a business plan, work with the local authorities to ensure you meet all the local government and maritime regulations.  Launch your business and have fun!  It sounds so easy, right :-)
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sunset paddle boarding koh samui
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Q - Did you always dream of living on a tropical island? 
I was born and grew up in Papua New Guinea, so yes I'm a tropical island girl at heart.  I guess I've had a little dream about living here ever since my first trip to the islands of Koh Samui and Koh Tao in 1999, but just wasn't sure how I'd get here.
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Q - What advice would you give me if I want to start a business but I just have fear of everything? 
Fear of not knowing enough,  fear of not having enough funds to start, fear of what my friends will think etc.
My first plan was to come to Samui for a year, launch the business, and if it didn't work out I'd head back home "with my tail between my legs".  I was worried what people would think if the business wasn't successful.  My friends are amazing and they quickly changed my perspective on that one. It didn't matter what happened during the first year. I was heading out to do something that most people only dream of doing.  I would hold my head high no matter what happened.  And here I am 2 years later :-).
But now for the advice:  prepare a business plan, understand the risks,  calculate how much money you'll need to start the business, have enough money put aside to cover your living costs for the first year, and then just get on and do it.  You'll never know what you're capable of if you don't try it.  And you don't want to look back on your life thinking "oh, I wish I'd done so and so...".  Just get out there and give it a go.
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sunset sup koh samui
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Q - How do you batlle your doubts when they creep up on you?
For me I take some time out to unwind and clear my mind.  Everything feels better after I've been out on the water.  So I'll go for a paddle, a swim, or sometimes a yoga class.
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Q - Which female inspires you & why?
I don't have just one.  I think it's every woman I meet or come across who inspires others to be better versions of themselves.
Q - What advice would you give someone brand new in business? 
Believe in yourself.  Get some experience before going out on your own.  Don't stop learning.  Build a network around you.  Ask for help when you need it.  Take time out when you need it.  Breathe.  Enjoy every day.
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koh samui stand up paddle boaridng
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Q - Have you got any business ideas in the pipeline?
Right now I'm working on growing the current businesses.  I've just started teaching group swimming lessons at a local pool here in Samui, so that's something different to my regular private lessons.  Hopefully I'll launch SUP Yoga classes later this year.  And maybe even plan a couple of SUP retreats to some of the more remote places in Thailand for next year. 
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i sup koh samui island



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1 Response

Margaret cairns
Margaret cairns

June 06, 2017

Excellent blog and so true

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