Clare Dutton, director of Duttons Divers in North Wales, has been named as one of the 100 Female Entrepreneurs to Watch in the UK, a new initiative run by Telegraph Media Group and NatWest.
Dutton, 30, runs the two dive-centres Vivian Quarry in Llanberis and Hafan Marina in Pwllheli, where she also has her two dive-boats, the 8m RIB Little Viv and 10m hardboat Sea Quest. Vivian is a designated UNESCO site in Snowdonia with a maximum depth of 18m and many underwater features for scuba divers, while Hafan Marina, 30 miles away in the north of Cardigan Bay, has a large bay for open-water courses.
Dutton started diving at 19, became an instructor and later the youngest PADI Course Director at the time. She says she has taught more than 2,000 people to dive and still likes to conduct sessions from try-dives through to instructor development courses herself. She has also been involved in commercial projects, including filming for TV shows and movies such as King Arthur, Tarzan and Pikachu.
Divernet asked Dutton for the secret of her success in the competition. “A lot of motivation and hard work!” she replied. “It’s funny because, being young in the industry, people always come up with their own rumours as to why I have the business and finance – they think I must have been given the money, or been born into it.
“All of the business has been naturally grown, bar the initial small-business loan taken at the start for five sets of kit.” At that time she was able to manage with a garden shed as a storage unit and a bathroom as a drying room. “Since then it has just been self-driven, seeing gaps in the market or creating a niche.
“It’s something that I love about the dive industry that there are so many ways that it can develop, and is constantly growing.”
Were her ambitions for Duttons Diving a factor in her selection? “The business as a whole was assessed, from how it started, has grown and future projections. The five-year plan that I wrote was a key factor in respect of business analysis.
“The business is in a healthy position and I intend to continue its growth. I have never been one to sit back and settle, so I’m excited to continue to drive this forward and change depending on the business requirements.”
Bucked the trend
The past few years have been a challenging time for many companies, but Duttons Diving appears to have bucked the trend: “Business this year has been good. Despite being in an industry that was required to close during certain times of the pandemic, we had a lot of customers come when they could, and a new client base who would usually have travelled abroad. This is something that then successfully continued this season.”
The 100 Female Entrepreneurs to Watch initiative was conceived as it was being reported that women were starting businesses at a faster rate than men in the UK. The organisers describe the process of whittling down applicants as exhaustive, with a judging panel of eight determining the final list.
The successful entrepreneurs are rewarded with benefits ranging from mentorship, media coverage and parliamentary and executive receptions to support and possible investment.
How helpful would these elements prove for Duttons Diving? “There are a number of support packages available, which I feel will be a huge benefit to the business. This includes a NatWest health-check that basically covers all aspects of the business to see what improvements would be best made.
“There are a number of business seminars, one of which I attended while in London, as well as an entrepreneur accelerator programme, which is a series of business studies, mentorship and business development programmes.”
Consistent themes among the chosen 100 women were a strong commitment to innovation, a social purpose and scaling up, according to NatWest CEO Alison Rose. “The ambition and resilience of the business-owners came across strongly in the applications. Their successes are remarkable… I’m confident we have some of the most exciting high-potential female-owned businesses included in the 100.”
As Dutton remarked about running a business to local press: ”The ridiculously late finishing, finding out who your friends are, working out accounts, marketing and every other element of a business is massively stressful at times – but then, stepping back and seeing what it has all achieved makes it worthwhile. I’m very excited for the future of the business and where it’s headed.” Find out more about Duttons Diving.
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