Press release

The sky's the limit for new co-operative

The sky's the limit for a new business that tells customers to take a running jump.

Cloudbase Paragliding School, based in the Vale of Pewsey in Wiltshire, is one of only two businesses with which thrill-seekers can learn the sport in a large geographical area from Avon to Berkshire, Gloucestershire to Hampshire, and Oxfordshire to Wiltshire.

Formed by business partners Lee Bligh and Fiona Burgess, Cloudbase has been launched as a joint ownership co-operative by Co-operative Futures, a business consultancy set up and partly funded by the Midcounties Co-operative Limited.

The business partners have their reasons for setting up Cloudbase as a co-operative. Lee explains: 'Although paragliding seems a very solitary sport - and it certainly is once you're in the air - it is in fact a very sociable pastime. The paragliding community is a close-knit one. We keep in touch with each other, giving local weather updates by mobile phone, and share tips and anecdotes on the hillside while we are waiting to launch.

'We are also respectful of the countryside and work closely with farmers and environmental agencies to ensure our sport does not interfere with agriculture or wildlife, and because the sport is wind-powered it is environmentally-friendly and quiet, so it does not impact adversely on local communities. Passers-by often stop to enjoy the sight of paragliders flying and find out how to have a go.'

Fiona adds: 'As Cloudbase grows we would like other staff to join us on an equal footing. This company isn't entirely about making a profit; it's about being paid for doing something we enjoy doing, and introducing this growing sport to others. In those ways, the co-operative ethos suits us perfectly, and we were delighted at the ease and affordability of becoming a co-operative.'

Cloudbase - a technical term for the bottom of the clouds, a height that all beginner paragliders aspire to reach - offers tandem flights as gifts, training courses for beginners and novices, and paragliding holidays for experienced flyers - in September they will be leading a trip to Slovenia, where pilots will be able to fly from 4,000ft high mountains.

Through the Flyability scheme, the school also offers discounted sessions for disabled people.

Jim Pettipher of Co-operative Futures said: 'Although the co-operative movement has its roots in industry, agriculture and retail, it is also strong in the worlds of arts, culture, leisure and sport, where employees, members or supporters have formed companies or organisations under the co-operative banner.'

For more information about Cloudbase please visit their website. Anyone interested in starting or growing a business that is a co-operative or community owned enterprise can contact Co-operative Futures on 0845 456 2506 or by email.