Why military entrepreneurship success stories are on the rise

The 700 military entrepreneurs supported by X-Forces are a third more successful than their civilian counterparts, revealing surprising parallels between military prowess and entrepreneurialism

UK’s service leavers who have started the next chapter of their lives as entrepreneurs are reportedly more successful than other entrepreneurs, according to X-Forces, with their success rate on government Start Up Loans sitting within the top 10 nationally.

93 per cent of their loans have been repaid to date, suggesting better cashflow management as well.

X-Forces’ CEO and founder, Ren Kapur MBE, urges collaboration between big business, government departments and military charities to further nurture innovation and enterprise from the armed forces based on this successful model.

X-Forces was founded in July 2013 to support the UK’s armed forces community with a free-to-access package of support to start up. This package includes business planning, funding and mentoring. Three years on, X-Forces has helped more than 700 new businesses to launch, and facilitated £7.3 million in government Start Up Loans.

X-Forces works closely with military charities including Help for Heroes and Blind Veterans UK to develop bespoke programmes for wounded, injured and sick (WIS) veterans and service leavers.

This experiential training explores enterprise as a flexible career that can be adapted to an individual’s personal thresholds, whilst regaining confidence, purpose and an outlet for their work ethic and creativity.

The Ministry of Defence has appointed X-Forces as the business enterprise trainer for the Career Transition Partnership, delivering support and training to those expressing an interest in business ownership and self-employment.

Here are examples of veteran business owners making it big in the world of business.

Tommy Lowther – ‘Sporting Force’

Passionate about health and fitness, Army Veteran Tommy Lowther has drawn on his love of football to set up the social enterprise ‘Sporting Force’ as a means to help ex-soldiers get back into work. The charity focuses on helping wounded, injured and sick service men and women make the transition from the military to civilian life through sport. Working with several football clubs across the country, Tommy provides work experience for Veterans ranging from grounds keeping to administrative duties which can provide them with the confidence to get back into work.

Kerry Ann Graham – ‘Gabby’s World Dolls’

Married to a Corporal in the Queen’s Royal Hussars, Kerry-Ann set up her own London based business after struggling to find culturally diverse toys for her daughter. Kerry’s business ‘Gabby’s World Dolls’ has at its core the principle of encouraging diversity and equality through play where values and social norms can be learnt and reinforced. The lack of ethnic toys in the UK inspired Kerry to provide an alternative range of toys for children, something which she felt should be addressed. Alongside which the business also enables Kerry-Ann to have a fulfilling and exciting career that revolves around her daughter, and fits in around her life as an army wife.

Neel Singh – ‘Dorking Brewery’

Neel Singh has been a member of the Royal Navy Reserves for 10 years. Following two tours of duty he entered the brewing industry with the purchase of Dorking Brewery, a craft brewery based in the heart of the Mole Valley in Surrey. Fulfilling his desire to be his own boss, Neel’s business produces a full range of real ales for pubs and clubs in the local area and has won multiple awards.

Steve Parnell – Sports Massage Therapist

Steve Parnell joined the Royal Air Force in 1986 and served until 1991 including time as a steward in the Officer’s Mess at RAF Brize Norton. While in the RAF he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disease that slowly causes blindness. A keen cyclist and triathlete, Steve is very aware of the importance of looking after your body and keeping on top of any injuries. Building on his passion for fitness, Steve is now qualified in sports therapy and massage turning his many years of experience in the fitness industry and his time as an advanced gym instructor to start his own business.

Mark Dawson – Photography

Mark’s drive to help people inspired him to become a medic in 1999 when he joined the RAMC as a Combat Medic. Following a career in the Army, Mark discovered an equal passion to help people through photography but lacked the means to make his own business from his talent. X-Forces supported Mark to buy essential equipment with a Start Up Loan. The same drive to help people that led Mark to the military is clear in his photos. Mark’s portfolio and client base is growing quickly, and since launching the business he has photographed weddings, commercial modelling, celebrity events and Royalty. Mark’s passion to support the Armed Forces community has lead him to work with Walking with the Wounded and Help for Heroes.

Chris Bryant – ‘Brainbond’

Chris, a freelance video editor and digital marketer, runs his own video production/digital marketing company. Chris has expanded from producing promotional corporate videos and social media to a wide variety of services for clients and industries. In particular he specialises in video content such as filming, interviews, and post production as well as support for website design and social media consultancy. Chris is the son of helicopter pilot (ret. Sqn Ldr ‘Arfur’ Bryant MBE) who served for 16 years in the Royal Navy and 13 years in the RAF, he still teaching students at Yeovilton as a civilian.

Madeline Holmes – ‘Madmade Cakes’

With a family history in the RAF, Madeline started her own business ‘Mad Cakes’ through her long-time love of baking. Having turned her love of baking into a business, Madeline has grown her list of clients over a number of years starting with her own family and friends expanding to the point where she has had to expand into a business to keep up with demand.

Ali Dilawari – ‘Heroes Cars’

Ali started his own business ‘Heroes Cars Limited’ with a close friend and former soldier who has become his business partner. Its aim was to offer employment opportunities to only those individuals who were previously employed by the Ministry of Defence either in the Forces or administration work and were actively seeking work to support themselves financially. Essentially built as a premium private car hire company, Heroes Cars is built around core military precisions: integrity, loyalty, trust and discipline. Heroes Cars aims to help ex-forces personnel with their transitional transformation back into civilian life and to teach them new skills.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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