Heropreneurs helps ex armed forces personnel and their immediate dependants set up in business.
It’s a unique focus on ex-military which takes an under-used group of capable business owners and show society that they outperform.
Too many people regard the ex-military as charity cases rather than remembering the out-performers of their schooldays and recognising the unique experience and qualities of those who have put their lives at risk for their comrades and their country.
We have a large, and an increasing number of people who have been very expensively trained, are well skilled, adaptable and disciplined. Through us they have the opportunity to start up in business.
Though we have charitable objectives, striving to promote business as an engine for public good, wealth creation and social improvement, we do not, unlike most business support organisations, give away hand outs or grants.
Instead we use a commercial venture capital approach to our investments taking small equity stakes in the business and/or providing commercial loans at competitive interest rates.
This requires that the investee gives back to Heropreneurs through loan repayments and/ or sale proceeds from a future exit from their business, and to the next generation of investees by passing on their own experience and knowledge.
We take this approach to teach its beneficiaries how business works in the real world so that they are better prepared to succeed in the future, even if they do not necessarily succeed first time.
Mentoring is very important to us and our beneficiaries. We team up selected candidates with people who understand their background, have a strong business network, can educate them about running a company and know how to reinforce their weaknesses.
Almost uniquely this group of people is more likely to need advice and funds to grow their business due to their later start in civilian life.
We’re concentrating on franchising for the first 12 months because it’s a realisable asset with quicker growth, greater sustainability and ability to employ people at a much greater speed than traditional early stage SMEs.
It is also has a far better risk profile.
For many, the transition from life in the military to life as a civilian is smooth and relatively painless; however, for a number of people it can be difficult and we should aim to make transition that bit easier than it is at present.
One major change we would like to see is the creation of what we call a Discharge Commission. There is a huge amount of support available to people when they leave the Armed Forces, but to a large extent it is largely focused on finding employment rather than on setting up a business.
There is also no clear structure for how this support is provided. Some people will receive a large amount of support while others will receive little or none. Support is provided directly by the MoD, but also through individual regiments, charities and a number of statutory bodies. Some of this support is very good and some of it is not.
With so many organisations offering help and advice there is a large amount of duplication taking place. A lot of this support is also not made obviously available, so people have to go out of their way to find it.
In short, the current system is chaotic and as a result too many people slip through the net and leave the Armed Forces without receiving anything like the support they deserve.
These problems could be largely overcome if one overarching body was created. The Discharge Commission would be a source of information and advice, though it would not take over the provision of resettlement support.
Instead, it would co-ordinate all the existing support and direct people to the support they need. It would also provide a centralised location for all serving and former members of our Armed Forces. For example, any member of the Armed Forces wishing to start their own business would be pointed by the Discharge Commission in the direction of a charity such as Heropreneurs.
The contribution that our former Armed Forces personnel can make to the future prosperity of the UK should not be underestimated and as a nation we should be doing all we can to harness it.