TEAM GB beach volleyball stars and sporting giants Chris Gregory and Jake Sheaf were the guests of honour at a Southampton Boat Show lunch hosted by Hampshire Chamber of Commerce.
The pair, standing at 6ft 10in and 6ft 5in respectively, spoke to more than 200 business leaders and guests about the challenges of competing in elite sport.
In their case, they have risen above serious physical injuries, funding cuts and freezing outdoor training facilities to become British champions with realistic medal hopes at the next Commonwealth and Olympic games.
Drawing parallels with success in the business world, they highlighted the need to tackle obstacles, push boundaries and aim for continually higher levels of performance.
Jake, who has set up a beach volleyball events company, Deep Dish, to help fund their participation in world tour events, said: “Overcoming hurdles is essential, turning them into positives and making a positive difference in your team. Our message is don’t just be good, be great.”
Chris, who was picked for Team GB through UK Sport’s talent identification programme, Sporting Giants, described the moment he and Jake delivered a successful pitch for sponsorship to a corporate board, securing £20,000 a year to help pay towards warm weather training and the FIVB World Tour costs. “It was amazing, a massive turning point that gave us our big break into a successful season,” he said.
Now the pair are seeking business partnerships to join their campaign as they prepare to represent Great Britain at the Gold Coast, Australia, Commonwealth Games in 2018 and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Stewart Dunn, Hampshire Chamber Chief Executive, said: “Chris and Jake’s story is one of inspiration and dedication, qualities that are needed just as much in business as they are in sport. Our audience were fascinated and listened to every word.”
The sporting theme was completed by lunch sponsor the Winchester Motor Company whose Managing Director Mark Mills-Goodlet is a former American football player. As well as being a member of the British national team the GB Lions, he played in the US as a middle linebacker for college league side the Georgia Bulldogs.
Mark, whose company is 51 years old, said: “There are lots of parallels between sport and business. When you are growing a business you can’t stand still or people will simply overtake you. Just as in competitive sport, you can’t sit on your laurels.”
The lunch took place at the Grand Harbour Hotel on the opening day of the Southampton Boat Show. A raffle raised £1,000 for an air ambulance charity chosen by Chris and Jake.
Hampshire Chamber of Commerce is the independent voice of local business across the county and one of the largest regional business networks in the UK. It brings together the combined influence, strength and expertise of Hampshire’s three former major chambers of commerce. It works with over 2,000 individual firms spanning all sectors and sizes of business. For more information, visit www.hampshirechamber.co.uk or follow @hantschamber.
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