Matty Street talks to us about how his karting company, TeamKarting, has been his saviour and how they survived the pandemic.
What’s the background to your business?
I was diagnosed with dyslexia, dyspraxia and Asperger’s whilst at school. When I was 12, I discovered the world of motorsport through karting and found it really helped me to cope with the challenges of these conditions which made traditional schooling quite tough.
I studied motorsport engineering then went on to secure a degree, working at TeamKarting indoor racetrack in Rochdale throughout. I then raised investment to buy out the TeamKarting business in 2017 when I was 19. In 2019, I took the next step and launched an in-house kart race team that offers a full progression route from indoor karting to outdoor racing. Soon after, I set up the Cadet Kart Championship after being quite frustrated with the championships on offer.
Keeping TeamKarting alive during the coronavirus lockdown was unbelievably difficult, so I diversified with my business partner and launched Xtra Treats selling sweet treats and deserts. At the end of 2020 I then invested in the importing and re-sale of Italian X-karts, offering the brand to the UK for the very first time, along with a linked karting team. Just last month I launched ‘Karting to Cars’, offering coaching and tuition for kart racers looking to move into cars.
How has your business developed?
Having worked at TeamKarting for some time, I was full of ideas and passion for expanding the business and making it more centred around our customers, so these were what spurred me on to doing everything I could to raise the money and backing I needed to buy it out. The linked businesses all stem from my passion to create grassroots motorsport opportunities for the most people possible. Motorsport is an incredible sport to be part of, but it’s often seen as ‘closed-door’ industry, where you need a lot of money and the right contacts to get involved. I want to change that, and we’re helping hundreds of young karters to discover their talent and passion every year.
What is your point of difference?
Everything I do is about the customer. Having raced since I was 12 years old, I know what works, what doesn’t work and what frustrates people in karting. My Asperger’s, which is a form of autism, means I get quite fixated and obsessive over things, so once I see a solution to a problem or a challenge, I don’t stop until I’ve implemented a change or made a difference. That’s why TK-Xtra was launched, to help people take the first step from indoor to outdoor racing, and why I launched the Cadet Kart Championship (CKC). CKC is a championship that is all about the driver, based on feedback, and creating a series of events that people love being part of.
How do you spread the word about your business?
When I first bought out TeamKarting, I honestly thought I could do a lot of the day to day running of the business myself. I quickly realised that wasn’t the case, so I surrounded myself with trusted experts in the elements of running a business that I didn’t know much about myself. That includes marketing, so I have a great team that support our website, social media and marketing platforms. We welcome around 80,000 people a year to the kart track and CKC is almost fully subscribed this year, so we know it’s working. The most effective form of marketing is word of mouth however, and I’m very proud that we’re so trusted and respected in our field.
How has business been during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Unbelievably tough. We were of course impacted by the various lockdowns, being an indoor venue and the challenges were immense. We’d never had to deal with anything like this before of course, but quickly had to understand the process of furlough, planning and changing for re-openings, understanding the intricacies of health and safety requirements, it’s been the hardest time our business has ever gone through. On top of that, we were set to re-open with other indoor facilities in March and the government made a u-turn with only hours of notice, putting us back another two weeks, so we’ve had a great deal of turmoil.
The launch of Xtra Treats last year in the first prolonged lockdown gave us something to focus on and a way of securing some income, but it’s been hard to keep the business afloat. I’m proud to say that our customers have been really supportive and extremely keen to get back on track.
What’s the hardest thing about running a business?
Being someone that never sits still and is always looking to do more, I’m full of ideas, creativity and enthusiasm, which I often have to dampen! Everything can’t be implemented at once and it’s taken me time to accept that, making changes slowly and in the right way to suit the overall business strategy.
No one can prepare you for the all-consuming dedication that you need to run a successful business. I had no idea about the late nights and long hours, and for me – doing this at the age of 19 meant that I wasn’t going clubbing and on the ‘lads’ holidays’ that my friends were – I missed out on all of this. I had to be mature and responsible, I had 34 people on the payroll and people that depended on me.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Without a doubt it’s the challenges of the pandemic, but aside from that, the first few months of owning TeamKarting were awful. I honestly didn’t know how I was going to pay the staff and creditors. I got through it, but it was a wake up call in terms of listening to the experts around me. We fought so hard to get through the financial problems that had been left with the business and it meant our own ideas for development and expansion had to be put on hold. I had so many ambitious plans, but I constantly felt like I had one hand tied behind my back, being stopped from doing the things I knew could drive the business forward.
What’s the best decision you’ve made so far?
Trusting my gut, following my heart and buying the business that I loved. Someone once told me a phrase that has stuck with me over the years, which is ‘ready, fire, aim’. That’s me completely, I go for it, I chase the goals I’m looking for, then I work on the detail. I know this isn’t the perfect way of doing things, but it means I don’t overthink things, I trust my gut and I don’t hold myself back by seeking perfection.
What are your three golden rules for success?
Accept help; No one is an expert in anything.
Be the customer; You cannot make your business the best it can be if you only view it from a management perspective.
Aim high; No one ever thought that a 19-year-old with learning disabilities could raise investment to buy out a major business. Prove people wrong and go after your dreams.
I couldn’t run my business without…?
Being surrounded by brilliant people.
What’s next for your business?
The launch of Karting to Cars means we have long-term pathway in place focussed on grassroots motorsport. I want to welcome more and more people into the brilliant world of karting, with the infrastructure they need to develop as drivers without the bureaucracy and spiralling costs that are associated with motorsport.
Motorsport was my saviour as a kid and I know the impact it can have. I love watching people discover it