Barry Mottershead

Barry Mottershead, Sligo Kayak Tours

Sligo Kayak Tours is a small, locally-owned and operated business which strives to be an industry leader in sustainable tourism.

Owner Barry Mottershead grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. His life revolved around the outdoors and the ocean and at the age of eighteen he came to Ireland on a surfing holiday and fell in love with the culture, waves and scenery of Co. Sligo.

He has lived in the area for 10 years and is passionate about exploring the coastline and mountains that are on offer. An enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgeable attitude makes Barry the perfect guide for your sea kayaking adventures. Barry is also a big wave surfer, he is a regular fixture at Mullaghmore and the local reef breaks of County Sligo.

Barry Mottershead joins our schedule of Creative Entrepreneurs speaking at SeaFest. Barry speaks on Friday, 30 June at 3pm.


What do you do?
I own a eco/outdoor business called Sligo Kayak Tours. We run guided tours of the beautiful coastal estuaries and tranquil inland lakes of the Sligo area. Sligo Kayak Tours is proud to be Leave No Trace certified and we run our tours according to these principles. We hope to foster a love for our natural spaces and be leaders within the paddlesports realm.

Where do you live? Why do you like it?
I live in Sligo, I love being based so close to the mountains, lakes and the sea. There is always something fun to do in the area, I am very fortunate to call this place home.

Sligo Kayak Tours

Where were you previously located?
I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. I came to Ireland when I was 18 on a surf trip and never left. I love it here and its my new home.

What were your main reasons for moving to the West?
I moved to Sligo because of the waves and the outdoor lifestyle that it offers.

What is your employment status?
I am self-employed

When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?
I set my business up in the Spring of 2014. I have always been an entrepreneur and enjoyed the challenges of doing my own thing. I like the uncertainty and the lack of schedule!

Sligo Kayak Tours

Barry Mottershead. Photo Credit: Toby Butler

What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?
Start up costs were relatively low as I started out small. I knew exactly what I wanted to offer my customers but needed to start small so that I could grow with the business. I availed of Sligo Leader Funding and this supported my own capital input.

Where is your market? How have you targeted international markets?
My market is probably 50/50 Ireland to foreign. I don’t target them as such, but I do see that nearly everyone uses the internet when booking.

How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?
It took a few months of solid work. It was in my head for about a year, but it took a while to get all my equipment and my qualifications. I’m a firm believer in one step at a time. If I tick only one box in a day then I’m happy!

How do you recruit and retain a talented team?
Its a pretty small pool, the amount of qualified kayak guides in Ireland is pretty small. One thing I have found is you do not need to be a professional paddler to be a good guide, its actually the opposite. You need to understand what first time paddlers might be feeling and that only comes from experience.

How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful?
I spent a lot of time online, seeing what the best guys in the world do. I don’t copy them, but write down the pros and cons of the business I am looking at and then try to innovate or improve on what they do.

How do you promote your business?
Mostly online.

If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?
Nothing.

What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?
I have flexi time. Life is too short to be chained to a schedule, I quit every job I ever had because of this belief. The drawbacks are that every decision matters, and you don’t have much time to hit ‘cruise control’

What should happen in the West of Ireland to support self employment / entrepreneurship?
In my world, I would like to see a coming together of the tourism agencies and bureaus into one solid entity that has one solid direction.

What are the main advantages and disadvantages of relocating / living in the West in terms of working and living?
Living in the west is the perfect balance of town and country for me, I get to spend most of my time outdoors but can still go get a damn good flat white in town if I want one.

How do you find accessibility to where you live and access to public transport / road networks / airports?
Pretty good.

Why do you love where you live? What are your top tips for any visitors to where you live?
Living here is all about lifestyle, and that to me is the most important thing. I doubt I will ever be a millionaire doing what I do, but there is a lot to be said for waking up excited every day, working in the fresh air and enjoying the natural world.

What advice would you give to anybody thinking about a life in the West?
Do it, just make the move and think later. You can sit weighing it up for years or just jump right in and hit the ground running!

Check out Sligo Kayak Tours website for more.