Work for Yourself - Case Studies
- Created: Tuesday, 29 March 2011 09:31
Examples of other successful business start-ups in Bolsover and Chesterfield can be found on the Business Ability website.
New town, new family, new business!
Having left Kent for Bolsover just five years ago, Andy Edmonds is celebrating the January births of his first child and first business - Andy’s Computer Repair Service. He said, “The scenery is beautiful and the people are friendlier – they have made us really welcome.” The support of the Bolsover District Council-funded Work for Yourself programme has helped him get back to work and earn an income.
After nearly 25 years as a baker in shops and supermarkets, Andy’s first career change started when he became a portable appliance tester. “I’d had enough of early morning starts and wanted to develop my technical skills: I’d been building my own computers for over ten years because it’s the cheapest way of putting together the best components to make an outstanding computer.”
But a childhood injury had developed into osteo-arthritis in 2008 so that Andy was no longer able to work and is still awaiting a hip replacement to regain his mobility. “The testing was just too difficult as there’s a lot of crawling on the floor,” he said, “Although it was good at first to stop working, I quickly had financial worries and needed to get back to work. As I like working with computers, the Jobcentre arranged for me to take some courses.”
“Once I had the qualifications, I thought I‘d be able to go and work for somebody. I spent about a year applying for what seemed like thousands of jobs. But no-one would take me on as they didn’t recognise the experience I had. I decided that setting up on my own was the best way of getting back to work.”
Andy joined the Work for Yourself programme and described the help he received: “My Business Adviser talked me through how to plan my business, my marketing campaign and networking. I’ve been able to use the New Enterprise allowance which gives me some financial security when I’m just starting out.” Now his new business is up and running just weeks after the birth of his first child.
“I’ve been messing around with computers for over 10 years,” Andy said, “The course at Portland College has turned my home-grown experience in to hardware qualifications and I’m also a Microsoft Certified Professional.” He is offering a “No fix, no fee service” computer repair service to customers.
“If your computer won’t work, I’ll come in and get it going – whether it’s a hardware or software problem. Clients’ equipment can need a new processor, motherboard or memory while upgrading audio and video cards is all that is needed to get others going. Some just need a system clean-up to get faster response times. Other people have just bought a new PC and need it setting up and connected to their broadband. I do all of this and make sure that they have the right security and anti-virus protection. For customers who want a specialist computer, I can do a custom-build. I also work on laptops which a lot of people prefer because of the space they save. I don’t charge for collecting or returning clients’ machines or I can repair the equipment in their own homes.”
Bolsover District Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Councillor Alan Tomlinson said, “This is a great success story. Andy has worked extremely hard and overcome so many obstacles to get where he is today and we are delighted that we could help and offer this life-changing support to him.”
Flying start for new business
Bolsover's David Buck is proving that having a disability doesn't mean that you can't get off the ground - and run a business too with his new venture, Micro-light Flight Lessons, with the support of Bolsover District Council's Work for Yourself programme.
David explained the background to his new enterprise: "I had been running my previous business as a keep-fit instructor but, after about 13 years of running six miles every day, my legs were worn out and I couldn't even get upstairs. I had treatment but was told that my working life had finished because I was too young to have replacement knees. So it was awful being out of work for nearly two years. But then I realised that my health condition need not stop me starting a new business based on my 20 years of hobby micro-light flying. I managed to get some grants for more training so that now I'm a fully-qualified flight instructor. I've moved from being down in the dumps with my disability to sitting in my new smart office - it's really uplifting."
Based at Sheffield Aero Club at Netherthorpe near Worksop, David is running two micro-lights and has trainees coming from as far as London. He said, "For people who want to fly, this is much cheaper option than learning on a small plane. These micro-lights are similar to a motorised glider but with an open cockpit. It's the purist form of flying - out in the open, just like the early pioneers."
I offer a trial lesson then people can decide if they want to come back, David commented, "Each training session includes 30 or 60 minutews flying time plus briefings before and after. Since I started operating in May, the business has grown and I'm already planning a wider range of micro-lights, an on -line shop for books and clothing plus a flight simulator. In a couple of years, I will be qualified to licence my trainees rather than bringing in outside examiners."
Contact David on 07794 838540 or visit www.microlightflight-lessons.com
Husband and wife team Wayne and Faye Bennett have overcome a year of problems to create a thriving business together and an even stronger relationship.
Supported by Bolsover District Council's Work for Yourself programme, their shop "Baby Bling" is contributing to economic growth in Bolsover and giving more choice for local shoppers.
Twelve months ago, Wayne was a successful showroom manager with a local firm selling fireplaces. But the economic downturn saw the company fold last summer and Wayne was out of a job. He said, "After being with the company for over 10 years, I was knocked for six. I was worried about all the bills and paying them. All the worry affected my health. I realised that I had all the skills to run my own business and felt confident that I could do it. My previous job had been high pressure with the company pushing me all the time. I didn't want to go back to working like that but decided to become my own boss - and it means that we are the ones who get the benefit from all our hard work. So I went in to partnership with Faye."
Wayne explained how he and his wife make a winning team: "Faye really understands what our customers want - good quality clothing and equipment for babies and young children at affordable prices. She took the lead and found our premises - starting with second-hand clothing and unused or ex-display baby equipment. She creates our wonderful window displays. I bring my sales experience and business background. Working together has brought us closer. We can share the ups and downs and, between us, everything gets done. Running a new business isn't stress free but it's easier when we are in control."
This is a business that is growing fast and they have more plans for the future: "We have increased our turnover month on month. Our best sellers are affordable strollers and party clothes. Now we have added new designer fashions and equipment so that we cater for a wider range of customers at all prices - anyone from young parents to doting grandparents. Our next step is our website so that we can reach a world-wide market which means that we will be taking on some new staff too," added Wayne.
With three generations all being passionate about motorcycles, it’s not surprising that Mark Wragg has turned his life-long enthusiasm in to a new business, M+J Motorcycles, with support funded by Bolsover District Council’s Working Neighbourhoods Fund.
“I’ve been riding since I was four years old, started racing when I was six and built my first engine when I was just nine,” explained Mark. “So I’ve had nearly 35 years experience of everything to do with motorcycles. My father has been a biker all his life and now our passion has moved on to the next generation with my son being one too.”
But this can be a risky sport: his father was injured a few years ago and Mark had a major accident in 2001. He said, “That bike was smashed up and all the muscles and tendons on my left leg were detached from my thigh bone and my back was damaged. I then had another accident when I was beach racing and broke my knee in the same leg. I had to stop working as a motor mechanic. It was very depressing and I was about ready to top myself five years ago. I was fed up with not having any money and not being able to provide for my family. I still have a bad back and restricted movement in my left leg.”
Now, Mark has turned his biking sport in to a business as he explained, “I’ve built bike “choppers” as a hobby in the past and people thought that they were as good as those in the specialist magazines. My wife has supported me 100 per cent. I want my unit to be more than just a repair and build shop - but a place where other enthusiasts can come and chat, see me at work and get a real understanding of the sort of quality I’m putting in to the machines.”
Mark can customise motorcycles and mopeds, undertake routine maintenance and repairs plus prepare bikes for MOT testing. He specialises in welding the iconic “chopper” frames and alloy polishing for showroom gleam on front forks, wheels and engine casings. He said, “At the moment, I’m working on a chopper for a woman who is just over five feet tall. So the bike has to be safe and fit her. I have just re-built my father’s BSA Bantam. It’s great being able to work on classic British bikes - they can be very valuable now and it’s easier to get parts for them. On the other hand, modern bikes have much better brakes, more power and are much lighter - they are faster and more reliable.”
Local Shirebrook businessman Wayne Garners’ passion for trikes has led him to taking over the world famous motor cycle trike company, Phoenix Trikes.
First established in the 1980s, Wayne is giving this popular brand a new lease of life after becoming self-employed with help from the Work for Yourself programme funded by Bolsover District and Chesterfield Borough Councils.
Wayne has moved to new business premises at Pleasley and he is delighted that fellow enthusiasts for this original brand have already started to make contact. “The trike brings together the freedom of a bike and the comfort of a car. Depending on the trike design, they can take either two or three people.”
Bolsover District Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Councillor Alan Tomlinson said, “This is the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that we want to foster across the district so that other people can develop their ideas and passions in to businesses. Wayne had a passion, an idea, spotted an opportunity and thanks to our help and the Work for Yourself project he actually owns and runs the business now.”
Wayne added, “I started building my own trike and saw an advert for a body and frame on EBAY. Then the original company was advertised for sale so I decided to turn my passion for the trike in to a business. Now I own all the original moulds and machinery so that I can produce both authentic new trikes and spare parts for existing Phoenix owners – they want to maintain the original design and quality of their machines. Trikers from as far afield as America and Australia are coming to me because they want the true Phoenix design.”
Trikes can be used on the road by anyone who has a motorcycle or car driving licence and there are trike enthusiasts world-wide who swap information through their own specialist magazines and newsletters.
Local Clairvoyant Kathleen Quinlan has clients as far afield as Australia and New Zealand within just a few weeks of launching her new psychic services. With the help of the Work for Yourself programme, funded by Bolsover District Council, her life has changed from relying on benefits to fulfilling her dreams.
She explained, "I was just 26 when I dreamt of cards - they had strange pictures and I didn't understand what they meant at the time. I later learned that they were Tarot cards and felt utterly compelled to have a set. Almost immediately, I was able to read the cards instinctively."
"At the time, I was a Youth Development Worker helping local volunteers to set up self-help groups. I realised that helping other people get through problems was really important for me. But, when that neighbourhood renewal funding came to an end, I was unemployed. Life was even more difficult for me because I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after being abused as a child - and I became more depressed and anxious from being out of work."
Talking about her Tarot cards, Kathleen said, "They help people - they give guidance on relationship worries, financial difficulties, jobs and psychological problems. I ask a client to focus on what is worrying them - without telling me. Once we have both shuffled the cards, I have picked up their energy and the first three cards help me pinpoint their troubles. Using the whole pack of cards means that I better understand them - and find solutions for the future. The minor arcana gives insight in to their current situation: the coins speak about the financial circumstances and cups about love life while swords tell me about mental worries and wands reveal energy levels. The 22 major arcana picture cards offer life lessons so that, if something has gone wrong, my client should learn from it rather than blaming themselves."
Picking the Magician card at random, Kathleen talked about its possible meanings: "This is a powerful card that includes the coin, helix, wand, cup and sword and it represents the link between the spirit and the earth. By including every element, it suggests a well-rounded person who understands how things work. But, when combined with two cup cards, it can mean that the person has problems dealing with their emotions."
"Even though lots of people can be very wary at the start of a reading, by the end, many find it a deep spiritual experience - often it is the first time that someone has listened to them and taken time to work through the situation together. I give them ideas for the future - perhaps a book to read or some creative visualisation exercises. If they can picture themselves succeeding and overcoming a problem, they are much more likely to do so in real life. Meditation exercises can also be a great help because just being more aware of how you breathe can reduce stress levels and anxiety."
Bounce back after by-pass (Vic Spizer, Shirebrook)
Shirebrook's Vic Spizer is not a man to be put off work by triple by-pass heart surgery! With the support of the Work for Yourself programme funded by Bolsover District Council, he has escaped from relying on benefits and is now running his new removals business.
"I understood about business, tax and accounting after eleven years running a local snooker hall," said Vic, "Then I was a heavy goods driver for three years until I was made redundant because of my health problem. I spent nearly a year off sick which isn't like me at all. I'd have sooner been at work."
Now with his own 3 ½ tonne removals van with tail lift plus the necessary commercial and goods-in-transit insurance, Vic has been operating his new venture since the start of the year. He commented, "Exercise and being active is good after the heart by-pass. I still have my driving licence for this type of van. My plan is to keep on working until I'm due to retire in a few years. My family is very proud of what I have achieved."
Being able to use the internet is key for Vic. Nowadays, customers can simply just go on-line to websites like Shiply or UShip and log in what needs doing. "Contractors like me are registered with the sites and then we bid for the work," he explained, "It means that clients get the best price possible."
Former miner turns entrepreneur (Simon Almond, Shirebrook)
One man's struggle to earn a living and support his family is the driving force behind S&S Cars run by Simon Almond from Shirebrook. Many will recognise his history and be inspired by what he has achieved with some help from Bolsover District Council.
Early in life both Simon's legs and hips were broken in a motor accident - giving him a permanent limp with one leg several inches shorter than the other. But he still managed to work for nearly 15 years as a miner until the pits and collieries in Derbyshire and Yorkshire closed in the 1990s. Undaunted, he moved in to the building trade and worked up from a general labourer to site foreman. But, by about 2003, his original injuries had damaged his spine - reducing his mobility and the physical work he could do.
Simon was still determined to keep working so found a new job as a supervisor in a plastics extrusion factory and then moved on to driving a tractor. Eventually his health got so bad he had to stop work: he now has arthritis in both knees, lung problems after years of breathing in dust and damage to his hands.
Some people might have thought that it was time to give up - but not Simon. He took advantage of the "permitted work" scheme which meant he could do some limited work and still keep his benefits. He explained, "I bought my first mini-bus in 2010 and became part-time self-employed. It isn't heavy work and I could choose how much I could do. I really enjoyed meeting lots of new people and finding new places."
"By last November, I knew that I could manage this new sort of work and came off benefits. I have the private hire licence and very comprehensive insurance. I bought a second mini-bus which was specially adapted by Cabmobility: there are steps for customers to get in, lots of hand rails and extra space plus room for folding wheel chairs and other walking aids in the boot. I know just how it feels to have problems getting around so this is my chance to help others and put a bit back in to the community. I already work with a local residential home for people with mental health conditions."
Simon is making plans for his next mini-bus: he wants one that can be used by people sitting in their wheel-chairs so that they can travel with their friends and family.
The extra services that he gives explain Simon's repeat business: "We do some early airport trips. We can give the customer a call to make sure that they are awake and ready to go. We know that they can be rushing around before they go abroad so we check that they have their passports, currency and have locked everything up. When they get back, we've got some fresh milk for their tea when they get home. We play DVDs if there are children so that they don't get bored. Customers want lots of trips to the coast and closer to home. We've got the latest satellite navigation systems - but keep map books on board just in case."
Although Simon receives several medical pensions, he has no interest in giving up work and commented, "If you don't keep on, you just end up sitting in a chair doing nothing and getting depressed. When you've worked since you were 16, it's hard not to work. Now I have started a family business with my wife helping with the books and one of my sons driving when needed. I started with nowt but now we're going from strength to strength."
Car valeting service (Jim, Bolsover)
Bolsover man Jim was in his late 40s and had been claiming benefits when he joined the programme in August 2009. Jim had a long term health condition that had limited his work prospects.
His ambition was to start a car valeting business and he gained the relevant planning permission from the local Council. Jim was also permitted to undertake "chip" repairs to bumpers and bodywork using the latest technology. Having already checked out his potential financial position with a Jobcentre Plus "Better Off Calculation", Jim was keen to start working as he knew more money would be coming in.
Jim had already secured his first customers when his business went live and he registered as self-employed by December. The very cold weather did not make his early months of trading easy. But Jim had organised his new business bank account and found himself an accountant. As spring progressed, trade was increasing although price-cutting by local competitors meant that Jim had to re-consider his business tactics. His domestic circumstances had also changed creating additional demands.
Nevertheless, Jim kept his business going and was rewarded when a customer nominated him to Which magazine for his good quality work and service. He was booked up two weeks in advance and had bought a business van and had it signed. His trading was still positive in early autumn.
No job too small for new business (Peter Birch, Shirebrook)
If you are having difficulty finding someone to take on jobs around the house or garden because they are too small, Peter Birch from Shirebrook may be the man to fit the bill. He has started his new business tackling the work that some other businesses avoid - with the help of the Work for Yourself programme funded by Bolsover District and Chesterfield Borough Councils.
"I'm an all-round general handyman," said Peter, "With my background and training in gardening, joinery, bricklaying and plastering, I can turn my hand to virtually anything that needs doing. So one day I may be painting a fence or building a wall and the next day I may be digging borders and mowing a lawn. Around a customer's house I may be building a flat-pack wardrobe or putting up shelves, doing some painting and decorating or plastering. I love doing the jobs that other people hate. Lots of my customers are retired people who want to go on living in their own homes but need some help with the house maintenance and garden."
Peter's business covers the area from Shirebrook to Mansfield but he can travel further afield supplying his own tools and transport. He is fully insured and can be contacted for free quotes for any job - offering very reasonable prices.
Talking about setting up his own business, Peter commented, "I had done all sorts of different training and spent over 10 years as a joiner building coffins until health problems stopped me working. Gardening has been a family tradition so I also have two big allotments of my own that are full of fruit and vegetables. I have always loved DIY and thought the business would combine all these skills. It was horrible when I was not working as I have always been an active person and like to keep my mind occupied. Now I'm much happier and I've got more freedom."
Age is no barrier to self-employment (Charles Sylvester, Shirebrook)
Charles Sylvester is pounding the streets of Shirebrook as he launches his new door-to-door business selling every type of household item direct to new customers. He has been supported to become self-employed by the Work for Yourself programme funded by Bolsover District and Chesterfield Borough Councils.
Charles said, "I offer everything from household goods and cleaning materials to beauty products and gardening items. My best sellers so far are different sterilising sprays for ovens, microwaves and washing machines. The gardening tools are excellent for people who find it difficult to bend down. We have long-handled weeders, cultivators and edge trimmers. And, just in case we have another wet summer, there are covers for cushions, barbecues and garden furniture."
Having supported his family-run confectionery and general grocery shop in Shirebrook for many years, Charles knows about both the area and business. He was well-equipped to become self-employed but also welcomed the help he gets from the Work for Yourself programme. Talking about his Business Adviser, he commented: "She has given me lots of advice that I found very useful and has helped me sort out publicity. I would certainly recommend the Work for Yourself programme for other people in the same sort of situation."
Although he had lots of experience in different jobs, from warehouse and factory work to shot-blasting and spraying, Charles had problems getting back to work after being off sick. He explained, "I was hunting around for jobs for nearly a year. It was costing me a fortune in postage and bus fares doing all the applications. I always did alright at the interviews until they asked for my date of birth - which was when the phone went down or the interview got terminated. Due to my age, I couldn't get anyone to employ me so I thought that I would start up on my own."
He was enthusiastic about the change that his new business has brought: "Now I have recovered and am happy with what I am doing. I am getting to know a lot of very nice people. I explain about the difficulties I was having - they all understand and are backing me up. I receive a lot of support and very good responses. Even if I don't get orders straightaway, they are interested for next time. Every day is different."
Charles is already working hard to extend his area in to Warsop Vale, New Hougthon and Pleasley. He said, "My goal is to expand the business over the next five years so that my house is paid off before I retire."
New business completes a life change (Mike Wain, Clowne)
A local Clowne entrepreneur is sharing his skills with other companies and sole traders to help them focus on growing their businesses rather than getting bogged down in backroom paperwork.
Mike Wain has launched Mike-ro-soft Office Solutions to manage every aspect of business administration. Clients have maximum flexibility with the company providing on-line and phone services and bases in both Clowne and Portland College (near Mansfield). With use of the professional and fully equipped reception, office, meeting rooms and conference suite at the College, Mike can cater for every business need and he is also a qualified bookkeeper and Microsoft Office specialist.
Mike has been supported by the Work for Yourself programme funded by Bolsover District and Chesterfield Borough Councils.
Mike said, "This is a virtual office that provides everything from marketing and promotion to bookkeeping and routine paperwork. Clients can just give me a bundle of invoices or receipts and I will do their books. I can produce their business correspondence over the phone. There is even an on-line diary service with phone reminders so that my clients never miss crucial appointments. Using technology such as databases, spreadsheets and the internet have become key to running professional businesses.
"Having already built up a previous successful business, I completely understand all the pressures it can bring. There are lots of small businesses that want to expand but don't want to commit to additional expense. By using me, they avoid making a big outlay."
Mike had to give up his previous retail business when he moved to France for years of specialist treatment to reduce the progression of his Parkinson's disease. "It worked for me and I regained my mobility," said Mike. "Although I am well-qualified, my health condition still seemed to be a barrier to getting a job. Now, after several years on benefits, life has taken a new turn. I was married earlier this year, have taken time to upgrade my skills and am completely ready for this new venture. I'm a fighter - you just have to get on with life. I want to regain my pride and respect."
He is particularly grateful for the help of Portland College for supporting his life change. Commenting on the Work for Yourself programme, Mike said, "My Business Adviser was very helpful: really knowledgeable, gave me some additional ideas and helped me test my business plan."
Mike is already working to develop his business. Further qualifications to offer additional accountancy services and advice are underway and he is keen to offer employment opportunities to others who have health problems. He said, "I want to provide for my new family rather than just live on charity and handouts."
Bolsover District Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Councillor Alan Tomlinson said, "We are delighted that we could help and offer this life-changing support for someone like Mike. Building new businesses not only helps individuals and their families but also assists the whole community to become more economically active and prosperous. It is an excellent idea. We know only too well how people can get bogged down with their paperwork or leave it thinking they can do it later, this way they can concentrate their energies on building the business, whilst the more mundane work is taken care of."
Paul Crapper of Shirebrook says that "life is getting better all the time" because of his new window cleaning business in Walesby and surrounding area. He is being supported by the Work for Yourself programme funded by Bolsover District and Chesterfield Borough Councils.
He commented: "We use the traditional method of window cleaning: a mop and blade, so that every window is hand-finished. We also pay attention to cleaning plastic window frames so that there are no watermarks left. Our all-year-round services include cleaning soffits and facias, gutters and patios plus conservatories and internal windows too. I know that customers are pleased with the work as more are hearing about us through word-of-mouth from their neighbours."
After over seven years of not working due to ill health, Paul is hugely pleased with his new business. "Even though I was getting medical help, I found it difficult to move on. I was just sitting at home all the time, doing nothing. Getting in to work nowadays seems so hard," Paul explained, "Then Karl, who has been my best mate for over 30 years, told me about this opportunity. Now I feel more alive in myself. We used to struggle but now I've got the money to do what I want and more than when I was unemployed. It's surprising how many people don't know what help there is out there such as Working Tax Credits. Now I look forward to the future."
Paul believes that having a positive approach is helping his business grow. He said, "Being able to talk to people while you are doing the work - being polite and cheerful - is really important in getting new customers. We always have a smile and take an interest in them."
Light engineering and sporting firearms (Jerome, Clowne)
After more than two years' of unemployment, Jerome from Clowne was in his early 30s when he joined the programme at the start of 2010. His business goal was to create a light engineering business repairing and making components for sporting firearms.
Jerome researched the potential market and was pleased to find that there should be sufficient customers to make his venture viable. He also investigated the technical details of the business and the need to gain a licence. He also discovered that becoming a limited company with VAT registration was the best model for his particular business.
However, progress was delayed for a while due to his own health and other family difficulties. Additionally, Jerome's first critical order was delayed because his customer was also encountering problems. There were also delays in becoming VAT registered. Still, he developed his business plan and was supported by his Business Adviser to create three different cash flow forecasts to best assess the prospects of the business. Two further customers were also very interested in his services.
By October, Jerome had started his business, became registered at Companies House and set up his bank account. There were still problems resolving a grant from Jobcentre Plus but the possibility of expanding the business was already evident within just a few weeks.