A SOCIAL enterprise company that nurtures entrepreneurial ambition in the military community is celebrating having supported 1,000 people in its mission to help veterans and their families start their own businesses.
The 1,000th recipient of X-Forces’ support, Lee Harris-Hamer, is the owner of White Horse Cleaning Company Limited based in Thirsk, North Yorkshire. In just 13 months, Lee has grown the company into a complete professional, flexible and reliable cleaning service.
Lee joined the Royal Artillery in 2008 as he wanted to gain life skills, job security and see the world. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 and again in 2012, but was discharged on medical grounds with a back injury and mental ill health.
When Lee left the service he felt like he was without skills. He had lost his job and nearly lost his home and family but he knew he was good at cleaning, so he started a small carpet cleaning business.
He attended an X-Forces one-day introduction to business skills course supported by ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and soon after applied for – and received – an X-Forces expansion loan. Lee now works with a 16-strong team in North Yorkshire.
The greatest challenge for Lee has been finding reliable and motivated staff. He met this challenge head on by hand-picking his team members, building them up, and giving each person a clearly-defined role. In return, Lee gives his staff loyalty, dedication and reliability and he is proud of the support his team members provide each other.
Lee said: “To succeed in business you must be prepared to learn something new every day, keep your wits about you and trust your instincts.”
Brig (Ret’d) Robin Bacon, from ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, added: “It is vital to equip those who are looking for that next step in the business world with the necessary skills to give them a head start.”
Lee is all too aware that when you return from service with an injury or mental health difficulties you can sometimes feel that life is worthless, but he wants people to know that they can move forward. “Anyone can do it, you just have to believe in yourself,” he said.
Lee aims to share his skills and experience with other veterans who have had a similar experience to him. He is a keen mentor, having previously taught life-skills to school boys with autism, and feels mentoring is a fantastic way to give something back.
X-Forces CEO Ren Kapur added: “Transition out of the Forces and starting a business are often difficult times for entrepreneurs and their families but you don’t need to be in it on your own, there are organisations there to support you. Lee is ideal to be promoted to our Big Business supporting Small Business mentoring programme, so we can help him gain additional contracts.”