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.
Lieutenant General Richard Nugee
Lieutenant General Richard Nugee was commissioned into the Army in 1986. He served on numerous operational tours in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Cyprus and Afghanistan while at the same time focussing on personnel (HR) roles within the Army and Ministry of Defence. This included instructing at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, being responsible for the organisational design of the Army post the 2010 Defence Review; and latterly spending the last 4 years as Chief of Defence People (i.e. Defence Global HR Director) responsible for central policy for all Service personnel, their families, all Defence Civil Servants and the nation’s veterans. In January 2020 he took on a review of Defence’s approach to delivering carbon net zero by 2050 and is the Defence representative across Government for COP26.
Appointed MBE in 1998, CBE in 2012, CVO in 2016 and CB in 2020 he was awarded the US Legion of Merit for his services in Afghanistan in 2014. He has numerous interests both within Defence and outside, including as a Non-executive director of the NAAFI. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD, a Companion of the Chartered Management Institute, has an MA in Military Affairs and is a Graduate of the City and Guilds Institute. He is Chair and Trustee of a number of charitable trusts.
Lt. Gen. Richard Nugee accepted the role as X-Forces Enterprise Patron in June 2020.
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, Armed Forces Champion for the Federation of Small Businesses, and newly-appointed board member and SME Lead for Enterprise M3 LEP.
Diane Côté, former Chief Risk Officer at the London Stock Exchange Group, has been a valued member of our advisory panel for some time. Diane’s role will focus on the wider X-Forces Enterprise strategy and championing women entrepreneurship in the community.
Prior to joining LSEG, Diane worked at Aviva Plc where she held the roles of Chief Finance Operations Officer and Group Chief Audit Officer covering all the international divisions of Aviva Group, and was also responsible for its Group Financial Crime Investigation team.
She was also Group Risk Managing Director for Standard Life Group during and throughout its demutualisation. Diane has also worked for Prudential Assurance and The Mutual Group.
Starting his career as an electronics engineer at BAE Systems, Andrew moved into management consultancy in 1994. He subsequently became a founding partner of Curzon Consulting in 2002 and has since grown the organisation into an award winning UK based consultancy.
During his consulting career he has directed numerous large-scale business transformations and growth programmes across a broad range of sectors including Financial Services, Media, Engineering Services and Utilities. Andrew has a particular specialism in operating models, operational efficiency, profit optimisation and customer growth.
A Corporate Member of X-Forces Enterprise (XFE) Big Business supporting Small Business initiative since October 2017, Curzon Consulting proactively support XFE by providing ongoing consultancy support to the XFE leadership team on a pro bono basis.
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.
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.
Will is a graduate of Business and Management where he was granted a 1st class degree from Birmingham City University.
Preceding Will's 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
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.
Roisin is a graduate of Events Management from Leeds Beckett University which is The UK Centre for Events Management.
Prior to joining X-Forces Enterprise, Roisin has experience coordinating a variety of events such as conferences, exhibitions, workshops and networking events. She has worked on events with clients in several different sectors including Corporate, Charity, Education, Government and Local Authority and for the SME community.
As Marketing & Communications Executive, Dan helps maximise all XFE marketing campaigns in support of XFE beneficiaries and partners.
Dan is a graduate of BA English Language and Linguistics from the University of Sheffield.
Prior to joining XFE, Dan gained experience working on marketing campaigns in both traditional and digital media, with a strong understanding of brand management and key forms of communication, in addition to a consistent creative output through various freelance projects. Dan 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.
MBA and BCom Marketing graduate, Faraz Ansari, started his journey with X-Forces Enterprise in 2020 as an intern from Anglia Ruskin University, soon becoming our full-time Digital Marketing Assistant at the turn of the year.
Through his internship role, Faraz gained a wealth of knowledge and experience working within the UK military community, and now supports the marketing team with brand management, communications, website development and SEO optimisation.
Prior to joining XFE, Faraz held a variety of traditional sales and marketing roles in India, in sectors such as renewable energy and skills development. Through an extensive network of entrepreneurs and business-people, he obtained valuable skills in marketing products, services and people.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Neel is X-Forces Ambassador for the Greater London region.dorkingbrewery.com
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.
Lee is X-Forces Ambassador for North Wales & Merseyside.thealehouse.pub
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.
Lee Harris-Hamer, the Owner of White Horse cleaning services, founded the business in 2016 and has found great success through referrals over the past couple of years.
Lee spent 8 years in the British Army, which taught him to be forward thinking, disciplined and has a great eye for detail that has enabled his business to expand in a short period of time. Lee brings top quality service and knowledge to business; White Horse cleaning services is an environmentally-conscious Commercial cleaning and management company serving North Yorkshire businesses.
Lee was appointed as North East Ambassador for X-Forces enterprise since November 2019 and is also the elected National Councillor for the Federation of Small Businesses covering Yorkshire, North Yorkshire and the North East region. When Lee isn't doing all things business, he enjoys spending time with his wife, two boys and two ‘crazy’ working Cocker spaniels.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A Military Wife & Mum of 3: Predominantly known as The Military Matchmaker.
Before opening Military Matchmakers doors, Carrie worked in the dating industry as Director of Matchmaking and Memberships, gaining many years of personal matchmaking experience. She is also a certified Life Coach and Mentor, a Dating and relationship coach, an NLP practitioner and a student of Psychology. Carrie is passionate about collaboration and works with other independent professionals in the industry. With a sister business, in Adult Health and Social Care, that shares the mission to combat loneliness, Carrie has an enhanced DBS check and a solid understanding of empathy and compassion in the new world of dating.
"I don't want to be the biggest. After all, all good things come in small packages. However, I do strive to give the best service and dating journey possible, with no swiping!"
Gary Tucker completed 23-years in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. On leaving the military in 2016, Gary had a brief spell in the commercial sector before taking the plunge to form Network Training Partnership with his business partner Jane Cattaneo. NTP specialises in producing bespoke training courses for the automotive, logistic and emergency services.
The company has rapidly grown and been rewarded by their hard work by winning Business Start-Up at the 2019 Soldiering On Awards, a finalist in the Talent in Logistics Awards, Silver Award Holders under the Armed Forces Recognition Scheme and more recently Gary was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to the Automotive Industry at the 2020 Institute of the Motor Industry's Centenary Awards.
Additionally, Gary is the CEO of PATAM Group Limited, a company that produces digital identity App solutions as well as being a member of several committees across the automotive industry.
Chris Flannagan’s service background is with the British Army, a career that was cut short due to a medical discharge. Following years of subsequent rehabilitation and ill health, Chris worked with Wiltshire Police and Thames Valley Police, working in a variety of roles from Custody to the Emergency Control Room. Chris enjoyed the challenges the Police offered, but his original injury and subsequent ill-health prevented him from furthering a career in emergency service drone operations..
With a drive to forge a new career in the commercial drone industry, in 2019 Chris established ‘TLP Ltd. – Drone Security Specialists’. Using his background with the British Army and Police, the aim of TLP Ltd. was simple – to redefine the future of security and public safety.
In the two years since TLP Ltd. launched, Chris has accessed a broad spectrum of support from X-Forces Enterprise, including workshops, events, start-up loan funding, and networking events. With each opportunity Chris has embraced with X-Forces Enterprise, his business has grown in strength, he is now an award-winning commercial drone pilot, with a developing team delivering services from their base in Wiltshire across the UK.
RAF Veteran James Wilthew, owns and operates The Afghan Rug Shop in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire - the only shop purely selling fairtrade Afghan rugs and products outside Afghanistan - anywhere in the world.
Of the four operational campaigns James took part in, one was a 6 month tour of Northern Afghanistan in 2003 as part of the UK Provincial Reconstruction Team. It was here that his fascination for rugs started and where he founded a friendship that was reignited 12 years later, after he managed to track down the man he had previously bought rugs from in Mazar-e-Sharif, using social media.
James won a ‘Highly Commended’ in the Solderingon Awards in 2019, for his positive impact on the Afghan community he supports, which was his introduction to XFE. ‘Having seen the great work XFE do and the support they offer veterans and leavers interested in business, I was honoured to be asked to be an Ambassador in my region’.
Hannah Saunders left the RAF in 2017 to set up an adventure skincare start-up, Toddle, of which she is the Founder and Director of.
Hannah attended the High School for Girls Gloucester, Sheffield University and then Loughborough University to conclude her education. She then set out on a year in America, travelling and working; at an American summer camp, as a Nanny and a gymnastics coach in Florida.
She then joined the RAF in 2008, highlights include; receiving a Chief of the Air Staff Commendation, coming 3rd out of 150 cadets for the 9 month Officer training course, gaining a Masters in strategic HR and working in a range of jobs from HR assurance, through to training management and intelligence. Hannah enjoyed the RAF immensely, particularly the people, challenging jobs, skiing and representing the RAF Cross-country running team.
Leona Barr Jones
A multi-award winning, outstanding senior leader with extensive experience. An accomplished Fellow, ambassador, chair and NED. Leona’s skills lie in driving successful strategic and operational transformation, engaging with key stakeholders. She has a proven background in direction, leadership and management, specialising in strategic, operational and tactical planning.
Financially astute with a wealth of successful business and business growth experience, read more below about her professional portfolio, including managing the successful implementation of large change programmes on time and in budget, both in the UK and worldwide.
Leona’s specialities include: direction, leadership and management; strategic and operational planning; equality, diversity and inclusion; training and development; project and programme management; change and transformation management; audit and corporate governance; reorganisation; HR and finance strategy.
Emma Davies is XFE Ambassador for Scotland, and leads the only Scottish ex-military recruitment company, Joint Force Alba. She helps SME organisations in Scotland to recruit uniquely experienced & highly skilled talent with an Armed Forces background.
This can include engineers, Health and Safety professionals, IT and cyber security experts as well as project managers, administrators and logistics personnel.
As well as offering 15 years experience in commercial recruitment & HR, Emma is a British Army Veteran having served 13 years, working in joint force & multi-national environments in the UK & abroad.