Father-of-three 'living the dream' after quitting 9 to 5

FOR ten years, Jonathan McGuinness put on a suit and tie, and went to work in an office.

The father-of-three lived for the weekends, when he could shake off his corporate clothes and head off to pursue his passions for skiing or windsurfing.

Having spent four seasons working with former Olympic skiers and Harrogate boys Martin and Graham Bell, Jonathan desperately wanted his career to centre on skiing and adventure sports.

So, with wife Nicola, the pair started making plans to open White Stone – a sleek and stylish snow and adventure store in Harrogate.

Six months ago, and with the help of old friends Graham and Martin, the 1,000sq ft shop on Cold Bath Road opened its doors – and business has been brisk.

“It really is my dream to have opened White Stone – to be working for myself and making my own decisions,” said Jonathan.

“I feel like a different person – so much happier and healthier.”

But, with the ski season over, Jonathan’s challenge is how to build on that success during the months ahead – which is why White Stone is now stocking everything from beach and casual clothes to yachting wear and swimwear.

The store is also a stockist of Nordic Walking poles – an increasingly popular sport which Nicola has taken up with friends in Harrogate. She will be Nordic Walking this month’s Race for Life at the Great Yorkshire Showground, and next month’s Midnight Walk to raise cash for charity.

As a teenager, Jonathan, now 38, was hit by the ski bug early. He joined a school skiing trip at the age of 11 and, after that, spent most weekends over at Harrogate’s dry ski slope at Crimple Valley, which closed a number of years ago.

His first job after leaving school was at the ski slope, which was where he met Graham and Martin Bell.

“I just hung around the ski slope until they offered me a job. I quickly obtained all my ski qualifications and then worked as an instructor at the dry ski slope,” said Jonathan.

After 18 months of working at the dry ski slope, Jonathan was offered the chance to work with the Bell brothers full-time as an assistant coach, travelling Europe with the world-class skiers.

“We spent most of the time in Hintertux in Austria training and then travelled round the World Cup circuit with them. It was a fantastic time,” said Jonathan, who spent a week earlier this year with Graham and Martin in Saalbach, Austria, testing skis – many of which he will be stocking in White Stone next season.

But after four seasons, Jonathan decided it was time to get a ‘proper’ job – and started working as a finance and corporate sales manager for Volvo in Leeds.

His career move was a success, and soon he was taken on by one of the biggest motor finance companies in the UK as regional account manager – but, despite his success in the corporate world, Jonathan still harboured dreams of working for himself.

So, when he was offered voluntary redundancy, and a shop unit in Harrogate’s Cold Bath Road came up, Jonathan knew it was time to ‘live the dream’.

The couple, who live on the outskirts of Harrogate their three young children, have ploughed everything into White Stone and are working long hours, determined to make their business a success.

“This is what I have always wanted to do – to work for myself,” added Jonathan. “We have sacrificed a lot to get to this point and the first six months have been a success.

“Now we have to work even harder for the success to continue.”