As part of our March/April issue we spoke to six businesses with a Sheffield base who moved to the city because of the great outdoors.
Si Berry – Beta Climbing Designs
What made you start the business?
The very reason I was drawn to Sheffield – I loved climbing. Growing up in South Tyneside the only place to go climb was Northumberland, but we didn’t have a car back then. I knew when it came to college I would go to Sheffield and my passion for climbing only grew more. I was one of the first people to take a gap year at Sheffield Polytechnic, (now Sheffield Hallam University) and I just travelled and climbed wherever I could. Once college finished, I didn’t know what I wanted to do and in the 80s there wasn’t any money in climbing in the UK, so I started working in a climbing shop called ‘Rock N Run’ where I stayed for 12 years. I eventually moved into a construction job before becoming a house-husband for three and half years so my wife could complete a Masters. A friend from the climbing shop later approached me about coming up with some new products for the climbing industry, I was apprehensive, but he eventually persuaded me and that’s how the company really started. We learnt things the hard way, but we have made a business that I am super proud to be a part of.
How would you describe your business?
The main product we sell at the moment is a BetaStick which I developed after a climbing accident where my ankle got smashed up in California. This telescopic pole can be used for both sport climbing and bouldering and allows climbers to clip into the first and second bolt on climbing routes to reduce the risk of falling to the ground. When we designed it, we thought we would only make a hundred of them and that was it, but it has really taken off. I am really proud of it and it’s originated, designed and made in Sheffield! We also distribute other climbing products such as ‘climb on’ skin care balm for climbers which is one of the first products we introduced to the UK market from the US. Working in construction and being an experienced climber, I knew that there was a need for this product.
In my opinion it’s the hub for the greatest climbers in the UK. I came to Sheffield Polytechnic to study environmental studies and it was crazy to me just how close the Peaks were. I lived in the Wentworth area at the time and I remember the first bus out to the Peaks was fairly late so I would go out for the day and then at night sleep in caves and bus stops – I just wanted to be climbing all the time and Sheffield was the perfect place to do that. For outdoor activities, Sheffield is ahead of the curve and its great to be able to watch my daughter run and climb whenever she likes as I do.
Do you have any plans to expand the business further in the future?
Definitely. The company is splitting into two smaller subsects with Beta Climbing Design which will focus more on the design side of this and Beta Outdoor Sports which deals with the distribution of other brand products. We are also launching a new version of the BetaStick which we are really excited about and have been working on for a while. I always say you should set the bar high in business. We are a small company of 11 people which is becoming unusual in the climbing industry, but our turnover increased by 17% last year and people who laughed at me 15 years ago are now my best customers, so things are going well!