Business Start-Up Award Finalists 2023

An award to honour an individual or group of individuals linked with the Armed Forces community who have started a successful new business venture within the last two years (since January 1st, 2021) and who still retain a minimum of 50% interest in the venture.

In partnership with GKN Aerospace.

Introducing the Finalists...

AlphaOne Electrics

When Daniel Sylvester started AlphaOne Electrics – contractors specialising in renewable energy – in July 2021, he had spent his entire career in electrics: 14 years in the RAF in technical engineering; two years civvy-side as a qualified electrician; and, upon moving to Cornwall, nine years managing technical output for one of the UK’s leading communications companies.

Recognising the growing demand for sustainable energy and the poor Electric Vehicle infrastructure in Cornwall, Dan formulated a plan. With the help of a Start Up Loan, he invested in retraining to qualify in installing EV charging points and launched his business with this specific focus. It didn’t take long for his marketing efforts to bear fruit and he was soon installing charge points at homes and businesses across the county.

Within 12 months of trading Dan identified another gap in the market; high quality solar installations. He embarked on further training to expand his business in this area. Today, AlphaOne Electrics comprises a team of five, including two veterans, and is having a positive environmental impact in Cornwall.


Jim Holland was medically discharged after 13 years in the Royal Navy following a rugby injury. He spent four years struggling to resettle, eventually finding work with Vodafone then Sky, where he excelled. However, the fulfilment he had felt in the Navy was missing.

Inspired by a friend helping veterans with PTSD through nature-based therapy, Jim wanted to play a part in helping both fellow veterans and the environment. He founded ‘Carma’ (short for Carbon Karma) in May 2021, whose mission is to ‘remove 1bn tonnes of CO2 from our atmosphere’. Carma provides businesses and consumers with simple and affordable methods of making a social and environmental impact by buying tree planting packages, where trees are planted in the UK by veterans with PTSD and also globally through international charitable partners.

Carma also has a unique WebApp referral service – from which it receives no money – where 3,500+ UK retail stores give customers both cashback and plant trees on their behalf.

The Chocolate Soldier

The Chocolate Soldier provides high quality handmade chocolates to order, through an e-commerce shop and in bulk to both corporate and military events. The company uses ethically sourced raw ingredients to create amazing feasts for the eyes, nose and taste buds. It also strives towards a sustainable goal by using packaging that is either made from recycled material or is at least fully recyclable.

In the first six months of trading activity the company provided over 4500 chocolates to nine military dinners and balls, created two bespoke corporate gift box collections, and satisfied over 300 separate private orders. In all, the company has produced over 12000 individual chocolates, handmade to order.

The best validation has come from repeat business and excellent customer satisfaction; here the company’s founder, Phill, has achieved a rate of return far greater than expected, with over 40% of business coming from returning customers and an unprecedented TrustPilot score of 4.9/5 – 0.8 above the national Chocolate Artisan industry standard of 4.1.

The most truly astonishing metric is that all this has been achieved while Phill has continued to serve full-time as a WO2 in the Defence Academy.

Congratulate the finalists and join in with our celebrations on social media: #SoldieringOnAwards

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