He had served nine years as an electrician technician, maintaining equipment at bases in the UK, the Falklands and Cyprus, working on a variety of airfield vehicles, tactical equipment and aircraft ground equipment.
His business, Protect Valeting, launched in March 2021, offering community and commercial mobile valeting and enhancement services in and around Cardiff. Like many start-ups, the pandemic in 2020 was a crux period for Jacob, offering space to rethink his profession, and he began to plan his business alongside an employed role.
“Conversations started the year before lockdown when a friend and I were cleaning and maintaining people’s cars as a hobby but, once lockdown came, as well as a tragedy, we came to the realisation that life had the potential to be cut short and we owed it to ourselves to attempt to build on the conversations, turning words into action.
“There has always been the feeling of wanting to be able to express my ideas but the confidence has always been lacking. It has taken many discussions and exposure to various situations to obtain the level of confidence required to bring those ideas to life. Business is risky which is why not many people act on their ideas, however good they may be, but this was one of the rare moments that felt right and could not be ignored. There was a specific goal, which has slightly expanded, and a detailed plan on how to execute it, with a framework ofbuilding a company that maintains a positive business/customer relationship through all stages of development.”
Facilitated by X-Forces Enterprise (XFE), Jacob drew a Start Up Loan of £10,000 which made it possible to buy a vehicle as well as office equipment, bulk consumables and cover the bills for the first months. In a unique programme supported by the Royal British Legion, XFE assigned Jacob a business mentor who checked in and provided support and guidance for the 12 months post-launch.
“The monthly check up by XFE has been really good. Even though I don’t know my advisor personally, it has been helpful to have the opportunity to offload on someone impartial and take their advice. Most of the time I have used these conversations to review the positive developments that have happened in that month, but to have a trusted ear is valuable either way!”
Finances proved to be the biggest obstacle in the early days. It was hard to establish the right pricing and, when some business customers didn’t pay, it impacted the operation. Jacob reflects that this was a learning opportunity that shaped their prices and policies going forward.
“Non-payers made a massive dent in income. I felt Ihad to suck it up being a ‘newbie’ but learned from it and now discusscommitments in their entirety before agreeing to provide services.I also learned early-on that the pricing was not financiallysustainable and increases were necessary.This proved difficult to implement and b2b customersattempted to hold us to our initial pricing. I have become more confident in the services provided and therefore, the companies worth. I would advise anyone leaning towards introductorydiscounts when starting out to understand the customer and how to communicate your temporary reduced pricing.”
Jacob’s passion for valeting means he loves his work and, by continuing to work a day job alongside the business, he recognises that he’s sacrificing his free time. He remains focused and dedicated to the goal, with a pragmatic mindset that is likely to come from his military experience.
“I enjoy the responsibility of ensuring I make best use of the time available to me. It has not been easy and it has taken time to make peace with the business developing at a slower pace due to the time shared alongside family and main job responsibilities. The ability to spread my time and energy across all areas is a challenge, but one I have embraced and hope to master.
“To others that are considering starting a business, I would say that they should ensure it is something they will continue to enjoy. Be patient yet persistent. Thorough market research is vital, and don’t be afraid of asking those already in the industry for information. I also advocate reading; You never know what you may come across that may inspire you or reinvigorate that entrepreneurial fire when it is running low. It’s already happened to me!”
When asked for his favourite part about having his own business, Jacob explained the sense of freedom he now feels.
“I enjoy the responsibility and the ability to immediately implement changes that benefit the company. It has been a steep learning curve but the simple fact that new things are constantly experienced make a vast majority of the journey thoroughly enjoyable. It is always a motivation when I see the company logo, fuelling the drive to want to do better. The freedom gained from creating the start-up will always be a positive aspect.”
Protect Valeting operates as a mobile service currently, and Jacob is building a membership model to retain customers. He has eyes on expansion in order to provide employment for others.
“The main objective will be to maintain the residential customer numbers by building on current relationships with the aim of building branches out from this, using incentives currently under trial. For the commercial clients, the aim will be to obtain work on a consistent basis, which will then lead to employment opportunities. As there is a large amount of work required in the background, this will require patience to ensure this becomes a successful venture but it most certainly is a challenge accepted!”
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To find out more about Jacob’s business, visit: