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 is passionate about enabling individuals and communities to support themselves through enterprise. Her focus, throughout her career in sales and marketing, have been strategies that promote business sustainability.
She has combined her years of experience from various organisations to concentrate on entrepreneurial endeavours and support new enterprise, bringing together Corporate, Government and local stakeholder’s agendas. She has channelled these various contacts and working relationships through X-Forces, of which she is CEO and Founder, supporting new enterprise in the ex-military community.
Ren was awarded an MBE for service to Entrepreneurship in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
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.
Briony is a graduate of German from the University of Reading. Prior to joining X-Forces, Briony worked in a Policy, Communications and Events role for one of the country's Local Enterprise Partnerships, where one of the key priorities was fostering start ups and supporting SME growth. Briony is responsible for both planning and delivering communications to key stakeholders and the organisation and delivery of the X-Forces events.
Craig brings 13 years military experience to X-Forces. Prior to joining X-Forces Craig served with the Grenadier Guards and has deployed on numerous overseas operations as well as exercises. Most recently Craig was an instructor at the Infantry Training Centre. Craig is responsible for managing the relationships as well as ensuring the delivery of project outcomes for X-Forces corporate clients.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Shez’s role is to provide administrative support to X-Forces through cross functional activity internally, ensuring the smooth running of operations. Prior to joining X-Forces, Shez trained as a marketer for an independent financial firm before working as a qualified marketing officer in the biotechnology industry. Additionally, Shez has a keen interest in social impact organisations.
Sian has 14 years’ business experience working across a range of sectors including trade bodies, NHS and charities. Her previous role was at the Management Consultancies Association, where she recruited members, managed events and had responsibility for commercial partner recruitment and engagement. Sian’s interest in the military / emergency services comes from her experience as a police officer for Merseyside police and is an ex-Naval reservist. She has a BSc (Hons) in Physiology from the University of St Andrews. Sian will be working with all of the key X-Forces stakeholders including our Big Business organisations, military charities and government departments, as well as executing projects for delivery.
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.
A qualified teacher and Co-Founder of Essential Teaching UK. Gavin is proud to have over a decade of experience in providing engaging, dynamic, inspirational education and training. 20 years of service within the Royal Navy, Gavin has had the pleasure of working with all three services as a Training Management Officer. Whilst leaving the RN, Gavin founded Essential Teaching UK Ltd a Education & Training Consultancy. It is this knowledge and enterprise experience that now supports aspiring future X-Forces Business Enterprise delegates. Gavin has a Bachelors Degree in Education (Honours), holds Qualified Teacher Learning & Skills (QTLS) and is a Member of the Society of Education and Training.
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.
Noreen is an experienced international brand, marketing and communications specialist with over 30 years’ experience working with global brands and businesses. In 2007, she set up Market Accents, a WE Connect certified woman owned business specialising in sustainable growth through smart marketing strategies and effective integrated communications. She is also actively involved as an NED on a number of boards and working groups including: Trustee, Commonwealth Girls Education Fund; Director, The Malta Business Network; Ambassador, Pink Shoe; TeamEB Lead: Marketing and Exports, the first UK Economic Blueprint for SMEs and women-owned businesses, and the All Parliamentary Party Group (AAPG) for Women and Enterprise: International Trade and Connections.
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.
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! He 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.
In 2014, Gareth John left the Army after six years in the Royal Engineers and five years in the Territorial Army. He left the Army wanting more independence and saw freelance work as the right path, so he got in touch with X-Forces. Three years later, after an X-Forces Start Up Loan and mentoring, G John Surveys Ltd launched. Gareth’s enterprise is now a strong, sustainable, one-man surveying business that specialises in multiple areas of surveying and construction site management. His products and services have expanded over the last six months, and Gareth has taken on new projects including site management as the business continues to grow. Most recently, X-Forces connected Gareth to Balfour Beatty (the large international infrastructure group based in the U.K) who are looking into the possibility of incorporating G John Surveys into their supply chain as part of X-Forces Big Business Supporting Small Business campaign.
After drawing down a Start Up Loan from X-Forces earlier this year, Olivia Smith decided to start Olivia & Pearl, an accessible luxury pearl jewellery brand and online retailer. Providing collectable classic and contemporary pearl jewellery designed for a new generation of pearl lovers. Through reducing product mark-up and making full use of e-commerce and direct to consumer sales, Olivia & Pearl offers luxury products at an accessible price point. With the global pearl market estimated to reach 10.7 billion by 2020, Olivia is keen to gain a slice of the market and follow in the footsteps of the likes of Monica Vinader and Pandora in creating an International brand over the next 10 years. As an avid lover of pearls when she was younger, Olivia made the decision to be self-employed after numerous advertising roles and time as an actor in both New York and London. She ultimately decided she wanted autonomy over her own career and wanted to be in the driver seat.
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.
James Lawrence, former British Army infantry solider and co-founder of Ex-MilitaryCareers.com, is the X-Forces Ambassador for London. Ex-MilitaryCareers.com is a free to use job board specific to the Ex-Military, they are a social enterprise set up to tackle bridging the gap from the Military to Civvy street. They have built partnerships with training and other providers, so that Ex-Military Careers can offer holistic support to ex-military personnel. Using this model, we are shifting the focus from the traditional donor v. giver relationship to one of a respectful partnership, empowering servicemen and women through meaningful employment once they leave the military.
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.