There are two things about people leaving military service and starting their own business ventures;

  • They are more likely to recruit and create employment opportunities for other members of the armed forces community;
  • They are also making that transition and contributing to wider society through the wealth that they create for themselves and others.

There are many household brands which were set up by people who left the armed forces: Tesco and Trailfinders to name two who have recently celebrated 100 and 50 years respectively of successful business operations. There are other more recent start-ups that are growing and establishing themselves: UK Connect, The Military Mutual and Inzpire. But they all had to start somewhere.

This award honours an individual or group of people linked with the Armed Forces community who have started a successful new business venture since January 1st, 2020, and who still retain a minimum of 50% interest in the venture.

GKN Aerospace

This award is generously sponsored by GKN Aerospace. 

Mark Miller of GKN has said,

“These award finalists represent the very best in an extremely strong category. This is testament to the entrepreneurial spirit and dedication of these inspirational new Business Start-ups coming out of the military community. The continued success of start-ups supported by XFE and the candidates in this category serves as an exemplar for what can be achieved through commitment and determination. GKN Aerospace is very proud to support this category and work with the SOA and XFE – it is an honour to recognise the sterling efforts of all of the nominees and finalists. Well done to them all.”

The Ambassador for this award is Mike Cherry.

The Finalists for the Business Start-Up Award are:

Craig Smith

BSU - Craig Smith

When Craig Smith created NDA Homes Ltd in March 2020, he knew that poor-quality work cost customers and businesses dearly, potentially leading to business closures. So he aimed to create a trusted company based on military values that would be known for quality construction.

In its first year, NDA Homes turned over £725,000. A steady increase in profit is a testament to Craig’s leadership, which builds on his military experience in the Royal Logistic Corps, including tours of Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq.

“Craig’s strong leadership combined with a commitment to rewarding hard work means early finishes on Friday. This is just one reward for the tradesmen working as part of his team, and an example of his inspirational approach in the strive for quality.”

Craig is an active supporter of a local military charity helping Veterans to find work in the construction industry. He also supports the Veteran’s foodbank by loaning a vehicle to aid deliveries.

NDA Homes Ltd has grown by 100% since its incorporation and covers multiple sites across Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire and Cheshire. Its portfolio of construction projects includes new build, renovations and home extensions, with a new focus moving forward to include luxury homes. Developing these construction projects will require growth, and Craig’s next steps include seeking apprentices and administration support to meet the demand.

“Resilience comes from experience and Craig exploits his previous military experience to enable his business to thrive and develop. NDA Homes Ltd’s commercial business model includes a focus on building trust and this extends to all parties, such as merchants, customers, funders and tradesmen, to create quality work as the end goal.”

Murray Hambro

BSU - Murray Hambro

An IED blast in Afghanistan in 2010 resulted in Murray Hambro losing both feet. Once fully recovered, and with a new-found love for fitness and CrossFit, Murray became a personal trainer and worked in various gyms.

In 2019, Murray accepted an offer from his coach to open their own CrossFit gym together. They found a unit and, with a lot of hard work, the gym was built in just four months. But on the very first day of opening, Covid struck and the UK went into lockdown. Unable to claim any grants because it was such a young business, Murray relied on word of mouth to promote the gym – and they managed to break even in their first year!

“Murray has a “what you see is what you get” approach to his coaching and has used the leadership and organisational skills he was taught in the military to coach and mentor members. He is always smiling and joking, and genuinely wants to see everyone achieve their goals.”

During the lockdown, classes were adapted for Zoom with members using household items as weights! Everyone loved this, as it kept the community intact and allowed them to train together despite being in lockdown. The gym is now fully functional with three self-employed coaches and 125 active members, and plans are in hand to open a second gym in another location.

“Murray is a role model to so many at the gym. Not only is he a great coach who really cares about his members and their fitness, but he has shown through his own journey what hard work and perseverance can achieve.”

Helen Mason

BSU - Helen Mason

When Helen Mason was medically discharged from the Army in 2020, it was difficult to gain access to resettlement activities and job interviews due to the lockdown.  Her supportive friends helped her to settle back into civilian life so, to thank them, Helen made cocktails in old jam jars and delivered them to their doors for some lockdown cheer.

As word spread of the delicious jam jar cocktails, Helen found herself delivering more and more. She’d been doing it for enjoyment up to that point, but as demand grew, she began to charge. Helen loved her Friday night deliveries, and felt that the enterprise had helped her reclaim a sense of purpose and the opportunity to reconnect with her community.

“Jammy10 is completely different from any other cocktail delivery service on the market. It’s a business with soul and creativity.”

Facing the challenges of learning about business, Helen sourced product suppliers, built a website, and learned accounting and marketing skills. She branded the business and put the cocktails into her self-designed packaging to create a “cocktail hour in-a-box” that slides sweetly through the letterbox!

Helen runs a community-centred Jammy10 Cocktail Club through the website, which currently has over 850 subscribers. Club members are more than loyal customers; they’re a community – part of the journey and future of the business. Helen’s cocktails now reach every corner of the UK, with a Jammy10 signature gin launching shortly!

“Setting up and running a business has taught me that you can do anything you put your mind to. I’m so proud to say that I have PTSD, but PTSD no longer has me.”

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