The growing trend of gaming parties caught the imagination of ex-Staff Sergeant Darren Smith, who is applying his military drive and discipline into an enterprise with his wife and eldest son.
Having served for twenty years in the Army, Darren looked to enterprise to plot his path following medical discharge. He had deployed to Canada, Kenya, Kosovo and Bosnia with the 1st Royal Horse Artillery and also spent two years training recruits at the Army Training Regiment, Pirbirght.
Darren said “Training and nurturing those young adults was probably my proudest achievement in the Army. The sense of pride when being a part of their passing out parade is on par with the birth of my own children“.
His final eight years had been with the Army Welfare Service, providing personal support to soldiers and their families. Through his transition process, Darren found himself on the other side of the desk, as a recipient of support from Help for Heroes and X-Forces.
Darren decided quickly after his discharge that he wanted to be his own boss. He said “It was important to be in control of my own future. I was aware of the long hours and hard work that faced me, but felt compelled to be in control and be able to reap the rewards of the effort I put in. It was also important to me that it was family-run; having my wife and son as business partners is fantastic.”
Darren’s business – Curbside Gaming Ltd – offers a mobile video gaming experience for children’s and adult parties and corporate events. Darren has invested in the latest gaming equipment such as PS4, Xbox One and Wii as well as the those that draw on nostalgia such as Sega Megadrive, Super Nintendo and Atari.
His journey from initially having the idea to launching the business has been supported by a unique collaboration between the’ Help for Heroes’ charity and business support service ‘X-Forces’. Since it started in 2014, the Business Xperience programme has supported over 50 wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women. The 6-day hands-on course delivers bespoke support tailored to each individual’s circumstances and ideas to build confidence and knowledge in the world of business, which is for the most part a completely alien environment.
For Darren, accessing this expertise and knowledge has been vital on his transition from the Army to civvy street.
“Becoming your own boss is the greatest feeling in the world but I found it also the scariest. I’m not ashamed to admit that I had a breakdown in the weeks building up to the launch of the business.” Darren said.
“The bringing together of so many factors beyond my control, was a real challenge, and something so different to the structured and organised military machine I was used to. And it was this difference in communication and trust that really affected me. Thankfully I had the support of X-Forces and that mentorship was and continues to be invaluable to me.”
The course Darren attended at Help for Heroes’ Phoenix House in Catterick provided business planning tools and advice, plus access to a business advisor that is on-hand for guidance for a period of years after launch. Darren said “To have that unfaltering support, especially at the hardest moments on this journey, enabled me to keeping moving forward and stay focussed. Since the initial course, the support that X-Forces has shown me has been brilliant and it helps to ensure I’m on track and remaining positive.”
Since its launch in July 2013 X-Forces Enterprise has nurtured and guided more than 650 entrepreneurs from the Armed Forces community, facilitating more than £6.7m pounds in seed funding, as an official partner of the government’s Start Up Loans Company. To find out more about X-Forces Enterprise support and funding opportunities please visit http://bit.ly/2t2Vw0f