How Marc Wise of Live for Today aims to inspire a love of the Yorkshire countryside

SOMETIMES taking a nap at work can lead to the career of your dreams.

Just ask Marc Wise. If he hadn’t found one meeting rather tiresome, his business empire might never have got off the ground.

"I worked in IT as a junior manager and I started dozing off in a meeting,’’ he recalled. “My manager kindly said, ‘Marc, you’re young enough to explore other careers and get back into IT if you don’t find what you’re searching for’.”

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"I always enjoyed outdoor activities which were huge hobbies of mine. I had just proposed to my wife in Thailand and I decided that life was for living. I had to follow my dreams.”

Today, the business he founded in 2012, Live for Today Adventures, provides a dazzling array of outdoor activities including zorbing, paddle boarding, axe throwing and quad biking.

It even established “escape rooms” in Ripley Castle, before the pandemic struck, which must have appealed to anyone who has ever daydreamed about fleeing from a heavily guarded fortress.

Mr Wise had to display tenacity to ensure the business survived the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, which had a devastating impact on many leisure businesses, and he hopes to keep it growing during a time of economic uncertainty.

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The company’s origins were humble; it started life in a field after a relentless door-knocking campaign to find a friendly farmer.

Marc Wise, managing director of Live For Today
Picture Bruce RollinsonMarc Wise, managing director of Live For Today
Picture Bruce Rollinson
Marc Wise, managing director of Live For Today Picture Bruce Rollinson

"We knocked on around 50 farmers' doors before one finally said, 'Yes, you can have a bit of my land to start your business,’’ Mr Wise recalled.

"I got my first Zorb (a giant transparent ball for walking in) from China and the first person to have a go in it was my father in law. We initially grew by word of mouth and also went into the centre of Harrogate and handed out fliers next to the Zorb.

"We later bought air rifles and an archery kit and we also found a really good web designer to help the business grow.”

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Over time, customer numbers increased as more thrill seekers beat a path to Live for Today. Activities added in recent years include paddle boarding, axe throwing, archery and quad biking.

People started to find us online after Googling us. We were a very hungry young business and willing to try anything,’’ he said.”We forged links with Hazelwood Castle after attending a networking event and later made a connection with Ripley Castle. We had three great venues and the world seemed to be our oyster.”

Over the last decade, he has learned a lot about the complex task of starting and growing a business during times of turmoil.

“Over the years, we have done lots of things that we didn't need to,’ he said. “Sometimes you need to pick the low hanging fruit and not get distracted. The learning process in becoming a business leader really shapes your core values.

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“We were affected terribly by the pandemic and would have lost it all if it hadn't been for furlough.

“However, the staycation effect has been huge along with the backlog of stag and hen weekends post lockdown.

"We would like to branch out to new activities and would certainly consider new ventures. My main role now is business development, it has allowed me space to think. I have learned a lot from working on the business and not in it.”

He recalled that selling the first Zorb roll was a landmark for the fledgling firm.

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He added: “ I remember it was a mum and two teenagers. We were so nervous that we gave them another roll for free. I was so keen to make sure they had the best time. Another high was running a charity abseil off Ripley Castle. I remember thinking at the top, ‘How l did I end up going from an IT office job to this?’. Getting known locally for providing adventures and memories has always been our main goal. With the day-to-day running of a business it’s easy to miss the fact that you’ve actually created what you hoped for.”

The lockdown proved to be a challenge that the company was lucky to overcome. Mr Wise said: “After nearly eight years of hard work it was almost over in the blink of an eye.

"We were forced to shut, customers were demanding refunds for what was to be our busiest year to date and we still had all the bills to pay.”

He recalled: "It seemed impossible to stay afloat. I feel so sad for the many local businesses that didn’t make it.”

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When restrictions were finally lifted, Mr Wise and his team were rushed off their feet.

He said “We were so busy. The only answer was to take all the bookings we could and drag the business back.

"One day we were open, next day we had to shut, on and on it went, we just had to take the bookings when they were available.

“It was that year when we realised what a special team we had. Everyone worked so hard for us.

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"The other factor that made this so challenging was people having to isolate.

"It was like somebody was ringing in sick every day and you had to find cover every morning.”

"Our core team consists of seven full time and 15 part time members. It’s a real family feel, and we couldn’t have done any of this without our incredible team.”

He believes the business can continue to secure sustainable growth, despite the cost-of-living crisis.

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He takes pride in the growing number of five star reviews the business is attracting online. Altogether, the business has welcomed more than 47,600 adults and at least 11,300 children.

Mr Wise aims to inspire a new generation to feel the joy of being outdoors. On the back of this, he hopes they will take steps to protect the natural environment, which is under constant threat.

He added: “One of those kids has got to grow up and do something brilliant for the great outdoors.”