Also at this time the Armed Forces community was going through tremedous change. Many thousands of serving personnel were transitioning to civilian life due to the reduction in military personnel announced in the Strategic Defence and Security Review of 2010. Driven by the UK government austerity policy, thousands were required to transition into civilian life, in what was still a challenging economic environment. The military resource profile was shifting significantly to fewer full-time military positions and an increased reliance on reservists. A perfect employability-challenge storm! After a year of extensive research and working with leading experts within finance, corporate engagement and government policy, X-Forces developed a blueprint for the self-employment of ex military personnel. This blueprint would not have been possible without the support of many people from the Armed Forces, Military Charities, MoD, Home Office, BEIS (BIS) and our Corporate Founding Members. Lord Young, Enterprise Advisor to Government also played an instrumental part in helping us change policy to allow Start-up Loans funding to become available for those over 30 years old for the first time ever. For X-Forces, this was a fundamental win which gave us hope that a rounded and holistic solution was possible for the Armed Forces community. A community that now extends to not only military veterans but their spouses, family members, cadets and reservists.
Today X-Forces is proud to be able to support other government and charity organisations to see how the X-Forces model can be translated, with some modifications, for other communities. Ren Kapur MBE, our Founder and CEO, is advisor to the Home Office to support such work for displaced families and also has a keen interest in supporting young people in the education system to embrace Enterprise Skills as Life Skills.
Following a career in Law and Business, Lord Young was created a life peer in 1984. In October 2010, he was appointed Enterprise Adviser to the Prime Minister and asked to conduct a review of the relationship of government to small firms. This resulted in a three-part review to the Prime Minister on enterprise and small business.
In May 2012, he delivered the first part of this review. Entitled Make Business Your Business, it was the first of its kind since 1971. This report highlighted the number of start-up businesses that indicate a growing culture of enterprise and entrepreneurship in the UK. The report also introduced a new Government programme, Start Up Loans, providing loans and mentoring to get a business venture started. X-Forces was introduced to Start Up Loans directly by Lord Young and we have facilitated seed capital through the scheme ever since.
Having been our founding Patron in 2013, Lord Young accepted the role again on our 3rd Anniversary in July 2016.
Martin is the Executive Chairman of the Board. Martin provides advice and critic for the X-Forces executive team on many internal aspects, beneficiary delivery programs and stakeholder engagement.
Since 1995 Martin has held a variety of management consultant, business advisor and non-executive director positions within SME, start-up or scale-up operations. He brings to X-Forces a variety of experiences in leadership, training and professional development having worked across many different business sectors within the supply chain for both B2B and B2C multi-national organisations. He has been a business owner for over 15 years and also worked on MOD contracts whilst with BAE Systems building Jaguar and Tornado Aircraft.
Martin is a member of the Institute of Directors and a Chartered Engineer.
Gary went to sea with the Merchant Navy when he was 16. After successfully completing his cadetship he joined the Royal Navy with the majority of his time spent at sea in warfare officer roles. His final position saw him serving as media liaison and spokesman in various conflict zones. Upon leaving the military Gary took up the role of Head of Communications with FTSE100 BAE Systems (Air Systems) as well as a position within the leadership team..
In 2006 he moved to Kilfrost PLC as CEO where he has led the organisation through significant change, expanding its reach beyond global aviation and into international industry and commerce. A passionate supporter of the communities he serves, Gary is Chairman of the Stuart Halbert Foundation, which provides timely help to those in need, and is on the Advisory Board of Tickets for Troops, which provides members of the armed forces with tickets for sporting, musical and cultural events.
Ren Kapur MBE
Ren has started and run her own businesses throughout her life and is passionate about enabling individuals and communities to support themselves through enterprise. She believes that Enterprise skills are equally important whether you work for yourself or for an employer.
She has combined her years of experience from various organisations to concentrate on entrepreneurial endeavours and support new enterprise. Essential to this is bringing together; Corporate, Government and Charity stakeholders.
She has channelled contacts and working relationships to X-Forces, of which she is CEO and Founder, supporting new enterprise for the wider military community and their families.
Ren was awarded an MBE for service to the Entrepreneurship in 2016 in the Queen’s 90th Birthday Honours list and is a Reservist in the British Army; a Visiting Fellow at Lord Ashcroft’s Business School and the Federation of Small Businesses as their Armed Forces Ambassador.
Alexander brings over 7 years of managerial and supervisory experience from the hospitality and catering sectors and is bringing those skillsets and knowledge to X-Forces. Alexander's role is to provide business advice to those looking to acquire seed funding for their own new start up business.
With over 10 years’ experience at management level in both the Public and Private Sectors, Anthony has both the experience and determination to enhance his own performance, whilst also specialising in the training and development of his clients. Anthony provides support helping those wishing to acquire a start-up loan for their new business.
Justin Kelly is a graduate of Classical Civilisations and Classics most recently having qualified for his MA at Kings College London. Prior to joining X-Forces, Justin has qualified for a BA in Classical Civilisations at the University of Roehampton and has volunteered in administration support roles throughout his academic career.
Dax brings over 24 years military experience to X-Forces having served within the Royal Artillery. Prior to joining X-Forces, Dax has worked across a range of sectors including procurement, logistics and facilities management. In addition to this, Dax ran his own businesses in the past, he now applies his experience with X-Forces as the Mentoring and Knowledge Manager, helping businesses get the support required to push them forward.
Roger has a real passion for enterprise and has been supporting new businesses for more than sixteen years. Most recently he has been supporting service leavers with business training and advice and has developed a true empathy and understanding of those going through the research and planning stages.
Having ran his own businesses in the past, Roger applies his ‘hands-on’ experience and comprehensive knowledge when guiding X-Forces Start-Ups.
Reiss Grant is graduate of English and Media Communications at Keele University. Prior to joining X-Forces, Reiss has worked across a range of sectors including Social Research, Marketing and the Third Sector. Reiss provides support as a Start-Up Advisor & Coordinator, making the initial inquiries to understand what the needs and targets are of an applicant, in order to start mapping out a personal plan to get their business idea off the ground.
Sharda provides part-time Marketing and Research support using her knowledge of Business Start-Up and the Armed Forces Community from her previous role at X-Forces Enterprise where she was an award-winning Business Advisor. She is currently undertaking a PhD in Law at the University of Warwick and is a keen advocate for social change.
Simon has a financial background, having gained a wealth of experience within the banking sector for 22 years, and industry for 10. As a Corporate Banking Relationship Manager with Yorkshire Bank he was responsible for a portfolio of up to 75 connections, across a variety of business sectors, with individual borrowing facilities of between £250k and £2m. As Credit Manager Simon provides the objective eye to all X-Forces loan and grant applications.
Vin Murria brings a wealth of experience to the X-Forces Enterprise Team and it’s ongoing vision for societal change through Enterprise Learning and Start-up.
He has a track record in helping individuals with career development opportunities, both self-employed and employed, coupled with his prior legal practise Vin to bring tremendous insight and counsel to XFE beneficiaries.
Previously whilst XFE’s Operations Director Vin led XFE’s set-up the Birmingham offices in 2014, he is now working on other strategic growth areas for the business and supports new recruits in establish their footprint and growth within the organisation.
As Marketing & Communications Executive, Nikolay helps maximise all XFE marketing campaigns in support of XFE beneficiaries and partners.
Nikolay is a graduate of MSc Marketing Business Management at Northumbria University, London.
Prior to joining XFE, Nikolay worked across a variety of sectors including Project Management, Account Management and Market Research. Nikolay has been working in Marketing for 3 years developing strategies and campaigns and applying creative thinking to help promote products and services to optimise business and customer outcomes.
Caitlin is a graduate of International Events Management where she attained a 1st class degree from the University of Surrey.
Prior to joining X- Forces, Caitlin had worked on a variety of events such as the Government Commonwealth Conferences, World Travel Market and London Book Fair. She has a passion for supporting the military community as her father had served in the Army.
Will is a graduate of Business and Management where he was granted a 1st class degree from Birmingham City University.
Preceding Wills appointment to X-Forces, Will boasts of supervisory experience residing in the leisure sector as well as working within a management consultancy firm, whereby he assisted in providing learning and development solutions to large pharmaceutical brands. Will is keen to bring his skills and knowhow to those who wish to kickstart their new venture.
Brigadier Greville Bibby has over 30 years military experience. He has held leadership roles throughout his career which has seen him serve on military operations in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009 he spent 9 months as Deputy Commander of the UK Task Force in Helmand for which he was awarded the CBE.
Helen is a former Regular Army soldier and officer with 25-years’ service. She left to gain a degree in War Studies at King’s College London and is now a Reservist. She has undertaken full and part-time work with ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, supporting grants and communications activity, before joining X-Forces as a part-time Projects Associate. She splits her time between the Reserves, X-Forces and her obsession with Great War history.
Richard is a Partner at Harrison Clark Rickerbys, he is the firm’s Head of Litigation and Head of the Defence, Security and Forces sector services. He qualified as a solicitor in 1984, and has specialised in civil and commercial litigation throughout his career. He has assisted numerous clients within the Defence and Security sector in contract disputes and national and international litigation. Richard provides direct legal support to XF and helps assist XF Businesses.
Simon is a professional leadership and resilience coach and trainer, and delivers some of X-Forces training programmes. During his 23 year career in the Royal Air Force, he led a number of different teams, nationally and internationally, in a variety of roles and circumstances. This included 4 years as a project manager on the Eurofighter project along with numerous other management roles.
Since leaving the RAF Simon worked for 5 years as a commercial business improvement consultant, working across industries in both the private and public sector.
Professor Lynn Martin (PHD)
Started up a data analytics firm in Manchester whilst working with the excellent team at Lord Ashcroft Business School, Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge who have an international focus and a passion for innovation. Lynn has generated £28 million with a Centre that was world class for research & impact at REF2014; led the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Programme 2010-2016 & highly successful ERDF & ESF programmes to support regional small firms.
Lynn’s specialities in leadership, applied research and development will bring more effective innovation and entrepreneurial thinking to X-Forces Enterprise.
Anna is an experienced Marketing and PR professional, and a Royal Navy spouse. Anna started her communications agency, Fresca Marketing, in 2005 and supports both large national brands and start up conceptions. Passionate about improving opportunities for veterans and military spouses in her military community, Anna is well placed to deploy effective communications in the sector.
Anne has over 30 years’ financial services experience with Co-operative Bank and RBS/NatWest; latterly as International Director for Tesco Personal Finance.
Anne previously helped deliver the Soldiering On Awards as Managing Director; amongst other third sector causes supported since leaving banking.
Anne’s parents both served in the RAF. Having spent her formative years as part of the Armed Forces community; UK and abroad, Anne is a passionate advocate of the community.
Michael has been involved with Resettlement and Veterans employment since the Options for Change programme in 1991. He has spent that time championing the excellence of Service Leavers to employers and the wider public.
The driving force behind Pathfinder magazine, Michael led the title to become the foremost source of resettlement and veterans information in the UK. He now brings his many years of experience to XFE as we enter the next stage of our evolution as the nation’s leading ex-military enterprise organisation.
Isobel is a highly focused Executive Director with an impressive track record in organisational development and change management, enhanced by a strategic approach to internal employee engagement and external communications. She has worked at senior level within the public sector for over 25 years and has worked on a number of Cabinet advisory groups and Government manifesto development projects. Over the past few years Isobel has provided strategic advice and mobilised teams for the Midlands Engine, the Government’s Startup Loans Company, Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership and Shaw Trust; a significant provider of employment advice to disadvantaged and disabled people in the UK. Prior to that, she worked with a FTSE 100 company contracted to the DWP to deliver radical changes to programmes aimed at supporting long term unemployed adults back into sustainable jobs. Isobel is currently supporting the Consultation Institute across a range of sectors, providing advice to clients and assisting with training. Isobel has an Honours Degree in Business Management and sits on a number of boards on a voluntary basis; Forces in Mind Trust and Action for Children Byte Night, raising considerable funds through sleeping rough for homeless children in the UK.
Joanna Hill brings high-level strategic insight and a robust understanding of running complex organisations and cross sector partnerships to X-Forces. Following a 20 year career spanning all levels of Government Joanna is now a strategy consultant and holds a Post Graduate Certificate in Board Dynamics. A Trustee of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations since 2016, she is also Chair of The Inspirational Learning Group.
Previously Joanna was Chief Executive Officer at the Start Up Loans Company (SULCo). She also worked on the Coalition Government’s ‘Small Business: Great Ambition’ report, which brought together cross-Government sources of information, support and advice to help UK businesses to grow. Other roles in Whitehall have included Head of Enterprise Education at the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, Queens Awards Secretary and Assistant Director for Innovation.
Prior to working in central Government Joanna worked for a number of local authorities in the South East. She lives by the coast and in her spare time enjoys photography, walking by the sea and entertaining friends and colleagues who need to get away from it all.
Neel Singh, a Royal Navy Reserves officer, bought Dorking Brewery in early 2016 after receiving a start-up loan from X-Forces and has since attended XF workshops as a speaker. Since then, the brewery based in Surrey has taken off. After spending six months in the original location, Neel made the half a million-pound decision to expand and move into a new state of the art brewery in Capel with its own tap room for customers to enjoy their craft beers on site!
Neel has also received mentoring from NatWest to expand his reach, and with the help of X-Forces, Neel has entered into a partnership with the Royal Navy Charity. Defaulters Pale is one of Dorking Brewery’s beers which donates five percent of the sales to the charity. Dorking Brewery has also created a garden in conjunction with Blind Veterans U.K. for veterans and their families to enjoy a Dorking beer.
Lee Cook, a retired Royal Marine, opened his own business ‘The Ale House’ in July 2016 with a Start Up Loan via X-Forces Enterprise, after having attended XFE’s start up skills workshop, supported by ABF The Soldier's charity and RBL.
Located in the heart of the Old Swan community in Liverpool, The Ale House aims to revive the more traditional style pub; serving good ales and great food, in a warm friendly environment.
In 2018, Lee opened a second location to offer food. The Ale House Food Outlet is on Liverpool’s waterfront at Mann Island, where customers can enjoy traditional ‘scouse’ stew, butties and pasties.
RAF veteran Karen Tracey has an exceptional reputation in Learning and Development which led her to set up Dunelm Business Consultants in 2010, offering leadership coaching for CEOs, Directors and senior Executives.
Alongside her business, Karen chairs the Birmingham UK group of the Women Presidents’ Organisation, an international peer learning network for women-owned multimillion-dollar companies. In 2017, Karen received the Adrienne Hall Award for “Breaking Down Barriers” from WPO, the first time this award has been won outside of the USA.
Karen is also an Honorary Consul to Latvia, appointed by the Latvian Ambassador to the UK in 2016, and a business board member of the Women in Enterprise All Party Parliamentary group, focussing on developing the agenda for supporting female entrepreneurs in the UK.
Howard Rudder & Chris Buck
RecruitME is an award-winning recruitment consultancy founded two and a half years ago by Howard Rudder, previously in the Royal Navy, and Chris Buck, previously in the British Army with the help of a Start Up Loan from X-Forces. In November of 2016, they received the Employer Recognition Scheme Silver Award for recruitment services to the Armed Forces Community.
They’ve also received regional recognition for their small and effective team of recruitment consultants in the East-Midlands. In the last year, Howard and Chris have started to scale-up the business by expanding the team, moving to larger offices, becoming ambassadors of X-Forces and getting involved with X-Forces’ Big Business supporting Small Business campaign.
Military spouse and Army veteran Neil Hallsworth owns and operates Explorer Coffees, an independent purveyor of coffees, coffee products and explorer adventure accessories.
Neil served in the Royal Army Medical Corps for ten years. Having completed his commission he worked in the hospitality business, built a house, taught in Further Education and was a First Aid Trainer. In 2008 he took the decision to stay at home and raise his family whilst his wife pursued her successful military career.
It was a part-time job in a local coffee business that sparked Neil’s business idea. Following a workshop and a Start Up Loan via XFE to invest in an industrial coffee roaster, Neil launched Explorer Coffees in 2018 and now ships his coffee, which is hand roasted at home, around the world.
Richard Tucker, RAF veteran and owner of AAA Property Services, Caring Caretaker (North East) is the X-Forces Ambassador for the North East. As the founder of a property management company helping ex-servicemen and women find work on ‘civvy street’ he bring s a wealth of experience to the Ambassador role. Mr Tucker, who was previously awarded an MBE for services to business and the local community, set up AAA Property (North-East) after leaving the RAF. Initially concentrating on property management and student accommodation in Durham City, the company has since extended into Scotland and North Yorkshire.
David Smith, Royal Air Forces Veteran and founder of CrossFit Spitfire in Norwich, is the X-Forces Ambassador for East Anglia. After David received a Start-Up Loan and mentoring from the X-Forces team, he launched his business and is keen to continue working with X-Forces long term to inspire other members of the Armed Forces community to explore self-employment.
David’s business, CrossFit Spitfire, is based in Norwich, Norfolk and offers Specialty Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Gymnastics and Strength and Conditioning classes and workshops for both adults and kids. David created the businesses after his time in the RAF; he fell in love with fitness, functional movement and strength/conditioning training through the RAF and threw himself into fitness which ultimately gave him the idea to turn his passion into a businesses.
British Army veteran Carl Marsh, of Llantwit Major, South Wales has not one but two enterprises – In The Words Of and Swim Heroes. Carl suffered a spinal injury and seven other health related issues during his 12 years of service which lead to him being medically discharged in 2010.
Following a short employment in the NHS, Carl set up In The Words Of in 2012. The online magazine publishes interviews with leading creative spokespersons of our times, from the fields of art, film, music, and sports.
Carl was able to expand his business as well as kick start a new endeavour, Swim Heroes, thanks to the XFE Business Experience course, run in partnership with Help for Heroes. Swim Heroes launched in January 2018, a product of Carl’s swim instruction training in the Army combined with his passion for teaching others.
Taylored Games is a family-run Gaming Centre based in Kingsbridge. The company was started by husband and wife team Adam & Rachel Taylor to provide the people of Kingsbridge and the South Hams with a gaming space that is open and friendly without a Monopoly in sight.
After an Aspergers diagnosis, Army veteran Adam decided to leave his job at Devonport Dockyard, and do something that plays to his strengths and skills. Recognising a definite lack of games shops in the area, Taylord Gaming was launched in September 2017. As well as offering a space to game, the shop stocks cards, models and paints to purchase.
The Pothead and Panface urban bistro in Tidworth produces quality, fresh food in a varied menu. Irene caters for private parties, functions and weddings, as well as pop-up installations at many big events in and around the South of England.
Military spouse Irene started out serving street food in a gazebo before progressing onto her first restaurant, and accessing a Start Up Loan to improve the shop from A1 to A3. The business is a family affair, Irene and her husband are the proprietors and have an active hands-on role, with their two daughters working as head chef and front-of-house.
Formerly a Musician in the Royal Marines, Mitch Cuss from Daventry founded CINN Learning and Development in November 2014. The business is a learning and development constancy which specialises in leadership and development sales performance coaching.
After accessing a Start Up Loan through XFE, Mitch also attended several X-Forces workshops in finance and business management.
Mitch believes that you never really ‘leave’ the Forces, as the camaraderie and sense of humour not to mention the experiences, shape who you are and can be assets in business.
CINN offers commercial clients expertise in developing management competencies, improving customer experience and providing powerful coaching to individuals at all levels and by pushing boundaries and challenging assumptions.
Maddie started her working life in audit with KPMG but it was after working in canine rescue and rehabilitation that her first business was born. The Posh Pet Kitchen is a bespoke pet food company offering some of the most indulgent dog treats on the market. Maddie’s passion in life always has been and always will be to get tails wagging, so she set about providing all varieties of pets and owners with quality, valuable products they will love.
In starting her business, which was launched in 2018, Maddie has shown great promise for a young entrepreneur, impressively embracing the vital role of marketing to great success.