The story below of Sunshine World’s foundation was written at the request of the Editor of Discover Poland Magazine, and published in the January 2010 edition of the magazine.
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I was 15 when I took the first steps towards creating Sunshine World. My stepfather had just died in a helicopter crash, and my whole world was turned upside down and thrown into confusion amidst the heartbreak and tears that enveloped my loved ones. I decided to go to Canada on my own for three months in an attempt to clear my head, and to train to become a professionally qualified snowboard instructor. I passed my exams and, still aged 15, embarked on an 18 month period of intensive and rigorous training, after which I qualified as a professional ski instructor. At the same time, I also qualified as a professional tennis coach.
I continued my training at the same time as working in places like TGI Friday’s and the dry ski slope at Sandown, as well as at a Club Med resort in Tunisia and for Simon Butler Skiing, a fantastic ski company in the French Alps. This meant that I could pay my way as much possible, support my wonderful mother and help to look after my younger brother Christophe and my sister Lucie.
By the age of 20, I decided to start my own company. I had two basic principles, which I knew would make my plan failsafe from the start:
1. If I don’t spend any more money than there is in the bank, the company cannot go bankrupt.
2. The best way to learn is by doing. As long as I adhere to the first principle, we can learn without risk and keep developing and growing.
And so Sunshine World was born. I started out with £2, 000 that I had saved from previous jobs. My aim was to find somewhere in the world that offered all of the elements of an incredible winter sports holiday without the high price-tag that is often associated with skiing and snowboarding. The destination also had to be just a short-haul flight from the United Kingdom and Ireland. I set about researching my options, considering everywhere from Iceland to Bulgaria, however Zakopane in Poland kept cropping up in various reports and reviews, even though it seemed to be quite poorly presented at that time. I knew that I just had to see it for myself.
I spent my first 10 days in Kraków and Zakopane in complete awe at the quality of the facilities that were available there, especially knowing that everything cost so much less than at the better-known ski resorts in Europe. My first port of call was Zakopane’s town hall, where I asked for permission from the local authorities to set up my operations there, and make sure that I wasn’t treading on anyone’s toes. Zofia Karpinska, the Director of Sports and Tourism, couldn’t have been more accommodating and enthusiastic about Sunshine World’s plans. I then sought out the most suitable service providers in Zakopane, and set up formal agreements with them in order to make sure that we could go ahead with our plans to welcome 12 guests per week during our first season. It was at this point that Sunshine World became the first licensed international tour operator to deliver professional ski and snowboarding holidays in Zakopane, Poland.
Sunshine World has expanded over the past four years, and we now have over 50 websites offering a wide range of holidays in dozens of destinations including France, Italy, Austria, Bosnia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Lithuania – and of course, Poland. We have now introduced long-haul trips to New Zealand. We have also developed our own Professional Ski and Snowboard Instructor Training Academy, which provides professional training for ski and snowboard instructors that is ATOL protected. Our training academy is the cheapest of its kind in Europe – if not the world.
Over one thousand people have learnt to ski with Sunshine World, and our seasonal instructor training courses are now helping instructors to gain their official qualifications each year. I like to place a special emphasis on the fact that groups are small; we do this intentionally so that we can guarantee the personal approach and dedication to service. Sunshine World has now turned over more than £650,000 worth of sales, and sales have been increasing by at least 25% to 30% every year. Our greatest testimonial is the high number of guests returning year after year. This season we will be welcoming back some guests for their fourth consecutive year with Sunshine World.
Zakopane remains – in my opinion – the number one ski destination when it comes to offering value for money, however this may change. My aim has never been (and never will be) to focus on promoting any one country, but instead to provide the very best sincere and honest advice on where to find the best value from the ski and snowboard industry. Sunshine World also strives towards delivering the very friendliest and most professional service to every single guest who books a holiday with us.