New aquatic business launched at The Heath
Steve Chester's hobby collecting tropical fish has seen his pastime turn into a dream career which has now led to an exciting business enterprise revolving around his fondness for exotic fish.
The former construction worker from Runcorn forged a new career ten years ago after successfully applying to an advert for an aquarium assistant which he spotted in one of the many fish magazines he purchases each month.
Suddenly the hobby he started to follow as a child led to him becoming an assistant at one of the UKs largest aquariums, Blue Planet at Ellesmere Port.
It was a dream job where I was able to work with thousands of fish that they have on exhibit which includes one of the largest shark collections in Europe, recalls Steve.
And when his former boss took a job at Chester Zoo, Steve followed in her footsteps and was eventually appointed Head Keeper of the zoos large aquarium.
He says: I spent five fantastic years at Chester Zoo, but I always nurtured a dream of one day owning my own shop and using all the knowledge Ive gained into running my own business. Thats how I ended up at The Heath Business and Technical Park.
My original plan was to open a business by creating a website and selling online. I just needed to find somewhere to keep my aquariums. I looked at industrial units, but they were freezing cold places which required too much investment in insulation and heating. I then came to The Heath and viewed one of their laboratories which ticked all the boxes for me. It came with a serviced all-in-one licence at a set fee that was perfect for a start-up business.
That was in 2019 but within months the pandemic had struck. Although pet shops were permitted to remain open, strict rules on self-distancing meant only one customer could come in at a time. This led Steve to reverting to his original business plan to sell online.
I was spending about six hours a days out delivering fish to my customers but what quickly became apparent was that they all really wanted to be able to come to an aquarium to browse. There was also a growing demand for products people need when they have their own aquarium at home, things like filters, water pumps and feed. It was clear that to meet this demand Id need bigger premises for a more sophisticated retail shop. he says. More/2
A bespoke building, situated next to the Parks Conference Centre, has now been allocated to Premier Aquatics which The Heaths specialist technical team have transformed from an office space into a retail shop. The Heaths technicians undertook the external work, internal flooring, insulation and access to utilities. Steve took care of the rest of the shop fit-out and installation of 150 aquariums that are home to around 600 different species of fish that he imports from all over the world.
The aquariums have around 18,000 fish in them in total which I import from places like Sierra Leone, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and European countries like Germany, The Netherlands and Czechoslovakia. The Heaths technicians have done a fantastic job to get the new premises up and running, and just days before our official opening on Friday, July 2nd, we were awarded a 5 Star Pet Shop Licence by Halton Borough Councils Environmental Health Department.
Steve says his aim is for The Heath shop to be the first in a chain of aquariums he hopes to open around the country under the Premier Aquatics brand.
The self-confessed fish fanatic says: I really am living my dream by turning my hobby into a business. Im self-taught but I have picked up invaluable knowledge through working with vastly experienced aquatic experts over the years and being able to take part in fish studies in Mexico and Brazil in the past. Ive also probably got one of the biggest private library collections on aquatics in the country, with stacks of books and magazines Ive collected over the years.
Theres a huge demand for home aquariums because fish are the third most popular pets after dogs and cats. Ive even got 90 aquariums myself at home and in a special shed Ive built in my garden. People are fascinated by fish and although Ive opened my first shop in Halton, Ive already had customers who have travelled here from Scotland, Leeds and North Wales. I think my average catchment area is around 50-60 miles, that gives you some understanding of how far people will travel to pursue their hobby.
For more information visit www.premieraquatics.co.uk
About The Heath
The Heath Business and Technical Park is a phenomenal regeneration success story. Formed in 2000, its owner and operator, SOG Ltd, has transformed a once single occupancy corporate facility into a thriving independent business park. The Heath now provides office and laboratory accommodation for more than 120 individual organisations, ranging from business services and IT specialists to those at the cutting edge of science, research and advanced manufacturing. Around 2,000 people are employed at the site. For further information, telephone 01928 515988 or visit www.theheath.com
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PAUL SMITH ASSOCIATES
13th July 2021