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Swimmers in business: Lara Morgan

Lara Morgan is the founder of Pacific Direct which she sold in 2010 for £20m. As a life-long swimmer, she believes her athletic background helped her succeed in business. Now, as an investor, she looks to fund businesses that support people’s sporting and healthy activities, and can save them time, which led her to Dryrobe and Kitbrix among others. We wanted to find out more about her love of swimming and the role water has played in shaping her life.

What is your connection with swimming and why do you love it?

I grew up in Hong Kong where the temperature was always conducive to being a pool baby. I swam for Hong Kong as a child and did all the usual early morning training and I think I’ve benefited all my life from the sense of self-discipline and organisation that required of me, and the confidence it gave me. I also learnt the power of sticking with something. I had all the normal disagreements with my parents about giving up but their winning argument was always: “you signed up for this so you bloody well stick with it.” Swimming helps you develop strength of character and a competitive spirit, both qualities you need to succeed in business.

Later I moved to Saint Andrews in Scotland, where the water temperature was a little different but I do remember winning a bet for 53 cream eggs by swimming out into the sea with seals. It was a bitterly cold but joyful experience.

I also believe swimming helped me have easier pregnancies. I swam through all three of mine.

Nowadays, I basically swim anywhere and everywhere I can. For example, on a trip to Oman I suddenly decided I wanted to swim back from the boat we were on to the shore. I thought it was about a mile but it turned out to be quite a bit further! If I need to get fit for something, I always start with swimming. The pool is also somewhere I can go to rest and recover my sanity while open water is good for my heart, health, head and my general well-being.

A few years ago you competed as an age-grouper at the World Triathlon Championships. How did you train for that?

The great thing about having a swimming background is the confidence it gives you to tackle so many other sports – not just triathlon but anything involving water. In fact, it saddens me that so many children in the UK leave school without swimming skills and therefore don’t have access to the same opportunities that those of us who swim have. I’ve always been a good swimmer but I’m a competitive little sod and realised if I wanted to do well in triathlon I would need some coaching. I had a video analysis and the coach immediately identified the years when I’d learnt to swim from my technique. He gave me three points to focus on (hand placement, stroke style and bilateral breathing) and sent me off to practise. I bloody loved learning to swim again and getting faster.

Lara Triathlon 2011

How do you fit swimming and staying healthy into your hectic and busy lifestyle?

I’m an early morning bird. I’m also a sanctimonious old bitch and love the fact I get up at stupid o’clock and get my swimming done while most people are still in bed. I get up, put on my costume and Dryrobe and try to get to the pool first so I can control the lane, and yes, I’ve experienced lane rage. I also sign up for stupid events!

What swimming ambitions do you have?

I’d like to do the Hellespont swim and cross from Asia to Europe, and I’d like to swim across the Hong Kong channel. It’s only a short swim but it’s where I grew up so would be significant for me. I also like the idea of doing an English Channel swim but if I did it, I would want to go for some kind of record – fastest for my age or something. However, I still have a 14-year old at home so I don’t want to take on the time commitment of a long distance swim just yet. Really, I just want to be fitter and more mobile the older I get so that I can do anything and go anywhere.

Why did you invest in Dryrobe and Kitbrix?

After I sold Pacific Direct in 2010, the obvious question was: “what are you going to do next?” From my parents, I’ve taken on board the message that the more you put in to life, the more you get out, so I wasn’t just going to sit back and do nothing. I met Rob, the founder of Kitbrix, at a speaking event and because of my understanding product and trading I realised I could help him. Through Kitbrix, I started going to trade shows and at one of those I met Gideon, who created Dryrobe.

Time is our most valuable commodity, and if you have the right kit it helps you make the most out of every moment in life. It also cuts down on your excuses. With the Kitbrix “Citybrix” now, I carry my swimming kit everywhere so that if I get a spare hour between meetings, I can fit in a swim. Having your kit organised just makes life easier.

Meanwhile, Dryrobe is changing people’s lives and I’m deeply honoured to be involved. It improves people’s lives outside by keeping them warm and dry. For example, as a parent, it’s brilliant for standing on the side lines of a hockey tournament in the winter, and it’s great to have one to throw over the kids when they come off the field too.

In brief, I’m interested in supporting products that help people’s health and well-being, which is something too many people are doing too little for.

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.