Nigel Seaman was diagnosed with PTSD in 2016, which was linked to his Armed Forces service. Nigel had left the Army after 12 years and embarked on a second career as a prison officer, which ended in medical retirement when Nigel began suffering from depression, anxiety and flashbacks from an incident experienced during his time on operations with the Armed Forces.
A private counsellor referred Nigel to Combat Stress and, with their support and intervention, he was formally diagnosed as suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Nigel was accepted onto a 6-week trauma related course that started his ongoing recovery, through which he was able to feel more like his old self.
It was during his recovery treatment that Nigel came up with his business idea to support Armed Forces veterans who may be struggling with life outside of service through a mobile coffee shop and barista training courses.
“I started the business in order to work with former members of the Armed Forces and their families. With coffee comes conversation, so the mobile unit is a friendly, safe zone; somewhere veterans can talk openly and I could help signpost them to get the help they need.
“Furthermore, I want to give veterans the opportunity to learn a new skill and help those who may need it to find work placements, including veterans who may be in custody or under a rehabilitation order.”
“I’ve always had a passion for coffee. Due to my poor health, and the incredible support I received to get where I am today, I decided to combine the two themes and do something to help others who are suffering in the dark places that I have been.”
Having decided to use coffee as the vehicle to help others, and wanting that journey to be end-to-end, Nigel decided to partner with a fellow veteran who roasts coffee beans to produce the Combat2Coffee Recovery Blend, hence the business’ slogan ‘Roasted, Toasted and Poured By Veterans’.
Combat2Coffee was formed in October 2018, following Nigel’s attendance on the Help for Heroes Business Experience course, a bespoke scheme run by X-Forces Enterprise (XFE) that has helped 200 WIS servicemen and women in 33 cohorts over the last three years.
“X-Forces has helped me an incredible amount. Their business course was the foundation, followed by their support at every step, plus networking with other veteran-owned businesses and now mentoring to push the business forward.
“X-Forces and Help for Heroes have helped me to make my dream a reality. They’ve been absolutely fantastic. Future projects I’m working on will hopefully continue the growth to expand both the team and infrastructure.”
During his work in the prison service, Nigel saw a high proportion of Armed Forces veterans in custody, and subsequently feels strongly that ex-offenders should benefit from the Combat2Coffee initiatives. The Combat2Coffee barista training is delivered using a using a mobile coffee platform, which has enabled Nigel to make the training available to Armed Forces veterans that are currently in custody, as well as those in the community.
“At present, around 6% of the prison population are known to be veterans. To me this is unacceptable and I feel, in some ways, our society has let many of these veterans down. There are limited purposeful rehabilitation or job-related courses in custody to allow these individuals to get back on their feet again so I have decided to try and give something back. I understand and must accept that I will not be able to help everyone, however if I can support just a few, I will.”
On completion of the course, veterans will be awarded a recognised National Level 2 Barista qualification and, provided those in custody meet the necessary requirements and pass the relevant risk assessments, they are then given the chance to be taken out into the community to practice their new skills at events and public places.
Nigel hopes that this intervention will lead to a greater chance of employment for the veterans involved, and that veterans in custody who take part will make their own opportunities to break their offending cycle.
Within the community, Nigel hopes to provide veterans with the opportunity to set up their own coffee business, with support from Combat2Coffee.
While he continues to define the finer details of the programme, and seek valuable partnerships for Combat2Coffee, Nigel suggests that building the business this far has been both rewarding and challenging:
“There have been obstacles along the way, relating to my physical and mental health, but also finance. Deciding on the exact nature of the business has taken time too. It has been important to understand my market, whether there is a demand for my product, and working on building that relationship and trust with my customers.
“If I were to pass on any advice to others embarking on business, I’d say don’t rush. That’s been a trait of mine. I have found that standing back and looking at things with a 360-degree view helps to achieve your goals.”
XFE CEO and founder Ren Kapur MBE said:
“A unique and remarkable theme we see among our ex-serving business owners is the intent to give back to their community. These individuals feel a strong connection to their fellow veterans and a desire to support one another. Business is proving to be a viable vehicle to achieve this shared purpose.
“Having been through some very dark times, it is inspiring to now see Nigel’s positivity and drive to use coffee to create conversations that lead to referrals and career opportunities.
“It was during the voluntary sabbatical that I took in 2012 to support the ex-offender rehabilitation programme that I found 9% of our Armed Forces encountered the custodial system, which inspired me to set up XFE for all ranks and situations. I believe our success is, in part, the level platform we provide for all, that which we hope for in society, and Nigel has captured the essence of that. Well done to him, his beliefs and his business.”
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X-Forces Enterprise (XFE) is an award-winning Community Interest Company that nurtures entrepreneurial ambition in the UK military community, and official delivery partner to the government’s Start Up Loans Company and MoD’s Career Transition Partnership. XFE supports Service leavers, veterans, spouses, cadets and Armed Forces family members to start their own businesses with a full package of training, finance, networking and mentoring. Start your journey by registering today here.