Helen Langton, a secondary school teacher for 12 years, and her partner Matthew Altham, an Emergency Care Assistant for South Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust, were seeking pastures new – a business venture where they could creatively apply their skills in the pursuit of a better work/life balance.
“Matt was looking for a work life balance, so working part time in the ambulance service was helping him to do that. And I gave up my teaching job with the plan to do something completely different! And along came this little gem of a business that I could see had loads of potential and I decided that this was the place we wanted to be. So we went ahead and bought it with the help of a Start Up Loan!”
The pair now successfully own and run Scoopy Doo’s ice cream parlour.
As Matt is still working part-time in the ambulance, the couple have found a welcome level of financial stability and freedom to how they operate:
“If I’m part-time I have the flexibility and security of my frontline job, with the option to do extra time if I need to. It also gives me a foot in this camp to help with Scoopy’s!”
Helen added, “For us it’s been really important that Matt has had a regular income, to enable us to be not as concerned about paying the rent on the start up of the business, if financially things get difficult.”
Helen received £25,000 in funding support, through X-Emergency Service as a delivery partner of the Start Up Loans scheme, which enabled her to purchase the existing premises and become owners. Helen also received free 12-months mentoring support to ensure there’s a handrail of support throughout the business start up journey:
“I applied for the loan and got exactly what I needed to enable me to buy the existing business here, and it’s been brilliant having a mentor there; I know there’s somebody there who’s got my back, if I’ve got a situation that I don’t know what to do with, or I’m concerned about something – I can just email and I know I’m going to get a quick response.
“And to be able to say ‘I need to contact an accountant’ and within 24 hours I’ve got the name of an accountant to contact, who can help me with any questions that I’ve got which is brilliant.”
What advice would you give to anyone starting a business?
“My biggest tip to anybody that wants to do this, is get a watertight business plan. I had no idea that so many people would want a business plan. It doesn’t just stop with applying for a loan; your landlord might ask for one, the agents might ask for one, so make sure your business plan is absolutely thorough. And do your research! You need to know who your competitors are.”
And finally, looking over to Matt:“Oh and have a sidekick who keeps you entertained all day – that probably helps!”
X-Emergency Services CEO, Ren Kapur MBE, said:
“Congratulations to Helen and Matt for starting their own venture, a feat difficult to accomplish at the best of times. To do something that you love as well as building it into a viable business has always got to take a lot of consideration.
I echo what Helen’s said in terms of knowing that there is support there throughout your journey that you can dip into as and when required.
From my personal experience you often do not know when your obstacles are going to come and what support you are going to need at any part of that journey. I would always recommend that people have access to peer-to-peer support and mentoring, and we’re very fortunate in this country that we have initiatives delivered by not-for-profit organisations and government.
I wish Helen and Matt all the success in their business and also to say that we are here should there be any ideas to expand their distribution whether that be locally, regionally or nationally, we are here to help.”
Inspired by this story?
X-Emergency Services (X-ES) is a Community Interest Company that supports the emergency services community through transition, whether that be second or third careers, employed or self-employed, volunteering or retirement. X-ES specialises in nurturing entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial ambition and is the UK’s largest provider of transition support to the ex-emergency services in business. Support is available to leavers, those who have served and their immediate family members. X-ES works with the government’s Start Up Loans scheme, run by the British Business Bank. We support beneficiaries through a full package of training, finance, networking and mentoring. Start your journey by registering today here.
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