This month, the Soldiering On Awards have been celebrating finalists and winners from across thirteen diverse categories, recognising the hard work and achievements of the armed forces community. If you managed to join last week’s prestigious Winners’ Ceremony to honour this year’s business category finalists and find out who won, you’ll know what an incredible afternoon it was! If you weren’t able to join the virtual celebration, here are the winners of the coveted 2021 SOA Business Start Up Award, Business Scale Up Award and Business Community Impact Award.
This exciting ceremony was hosted by TV presenter Radzi Chinyanganya, who was delighted to meet an incredible mix of business people running an eclectic range of companies. The event was attended by the category finalists and sponsors, Patron Of the Soldering on Awards, the Rt. Hon. Earl Howe; Jessie Owen, Director of the Office for Veterans’ Affairs, and David Wiseman, Director of Grants and Programmes at the Invictus Games.
Sam Jeffs enjoyed an adventurous career as a Royal Navy submarine navigator until 2014, before continuing his seafaring career as a Superyacht Captain in Mallorca.
Settling back in the UK in 2019, he focused on his new business, Cheshire Quality, which retails Cheshire-based artisan products. When the pandemic hit, Sam moved the business online and set up a sister company to handle the local deliveries: Peregrine Limited.
It quickly became clear that demand for another regional courier was high to support other small local businesses, so Peregrine grew rapidly within just a few months. In June 2020, the business really took off when Sam won a contract as an Amazon delivery partner. By December, Peregrine had gone from ‘one man and a van’ to a firm of 50 drivers and 30 vans geared up to meet the Christmas peak period.
“The firm’s reputation and ability to deliver an excellent service under pressure was recognised by its customers and continues to aid Peregrine’s rapid growth.”
Sam is now moving into the HGV sector and is developing a sales and support team for domestic shipping services. He has acquired a fleet of 30 fully electric vans too, proving that Peregrine is an eco-friendly and forward-thinking firm.
“Sam has taken the resilience, communication and leadership skills he learnt in the Royal Navy and applied them directly to his business. With the confidence and self-belief the military gave him, he has taken such big leaps in such a short space of time. He’s been able to manage realistic expectations, grow a motivated team and expand his own fleet – this time on the roads rather than the water!”
Sam Jeffs said:
“So delighted, thanks so much everyone. Our growing success goes back to me not sleeping really! It’s perseverance, ‘no’ isn’t an option, losing isn’t an option, you just have to keep going.”
Over the past two years, the firm has enjoyed significant, rapid growth and now delivers specialised services to the NHS for cleaning and domestic support in seven hospitals, as well as for the Ministry of Defence. Its specialisms include infection controls, and its highly-valued work with the NHS has supported combatting the spread of Covid-19.
AAA Caring Caretaker is a company that values its people, including those with disabilities – both seen and unseen. They pride themselves on social value credentials, employing many veterans, especially those suffering from mental health issues. Commitment to developing its team has enabled the firm to tender for major commercial contracts, as the respect from Richard’s employees helps to ensure AAA Caring caretaker has been able to adapt and become a highly profitable enterprise.
“Lessons Richard learnt whilst serving in the RAF, such as responsibility, accountability, commanding teams in challenging operational conditions, often with immediate improvisation in order to achieve the goal, have taught him how to grow in stature and manage people.”
In order to further develop the business, the firm accessed start-up loans via X-Forces Enterprise and Funding Circle to invest in training standards. They obtained ISO 9001-2014 certification and bought new equipment, and have since won contracts with Blue Chip Companies worth up to £1million.
“The firm’s reputation is of a company that can not only meet the criteria of the contracted work, but exceed expectations and deliver a first-class service. It values its clients and staff as integral to its success, for now and in the future.”
“It means a lot – especially for the whole of my team. I’m not known for being speechless or short of saying anything but here we are! Thank you everyone, absolutely chuffed and delighted of course”
“Back when we started the business, there were a couple of times where we tried to do everything but we had to take a step back, and move forward in a different format. That’s where I think the military service element comes in – looking at an operation, is it going right? Is it going to plan? The tenacity to say ‘actually we can change this’, and ‘we can do this’. We don’t always know where we think we’re going, but we have to recognise where things might change, and take the step to change it. That might make or break another company!”
Combat2Coffee was founded in 2018 by former soldier Nigel Seaman as a Community Interest Company. Nigel was recovering from depression and PTSD, and wanted to help other veterans suffering with mental health issues, so he trains them as barristas, then helps them to find employment in the growing coffee shop sector.
Initially, Nigel converted a caravan and horse-box into mobile coffee shops helped by a team of veterans from all three services. These were taken to events to generate the revenue required to cover their operating expenses. Importantly, they also became places where veterans could meet for companionship.
After seeing Nigel on TV, the Governor of HM Prison Hollesley Bay invited him to create the “Lansbury” coffee shop within the prison. Residents working on the project included veterans coming to the end of long sentences. The personal skills and self-confidence they have gained will enable them to work for Combat2Coffee on release, with a proper wage and access to peer group mentors. Further facilities have since opened, where veterans can gain valuable work experience.
“Despite problems caused by Covid – and Nigel having a leg amputated – Combat2Coffee has extended its reach, especially among veterans serving custodial sentences. Other prisons would now like to replicate the experience.”
The Landsbury is self -funding, with the cost of refurbishing minimised by companies donating materials as part of their community engagement programmes.
“The company now roasts its own beans which has reduced costs and enables it to sell high quality coffee at reasonable prices to a number of outlets including schools, service units and charities – as well as a growing monthly subscription delivery service.”
“I’ll probably get emotional… It means a lot – not just to me, but also for the narrative around mental health. I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD from the services. After much deliberation I went to Combat Stress and did the intensive trauma programme. I had a coffee machine in my room and I realised all the other guys came to my room for a decent brew, and through that, started talking about our issues and concerns. Because of my journey, and the journey I know others suffer, this award raises the profile of this even more.
“Thanks to all the finalists too – they’ve kept me on my toes all week!”
“We are delighted to congratulate these inspirational winners and it was incredibly special to gather everyone together and celebrate our amazing community after such a challenging 18 months.
“These virtual events have allowed us all to come together and celebrate once more, as we build-up to our glamorous in-person Gala Dinner on December 15th. Having not had the opportunity to celebrate in-person since 2019, this December will be the military gala dinner of the year and being able to have everyone together for a night of celebration is something that we’ve all needed for some time. I’m very much looking forward to shining a light on the incredible armed forces community.”