I am dyslexic and I left school at 15, with no qualification or formal skills. I have twenty-nine convictions and nine custodial sentences; I have had mental health issues throughout my life, and I have had issues with drugs and alcohol.
From 2003 to 2006, I was a Big Issue seller in Withington, Manchester, and after 3-years of working as a Big Issue seller, I was entrenched and stuck in a routine. I needed to break the cycle, but I had no qualifications or skills. What I did know was that I was entrepreneurial, and I had a love of building computers.
In 2006, I started to work for Big Life Employment, and they introduced me to Recycle-IT! and I started a work placement there, with three others. The funding for this initiative ended after twelve months, and during this time, our small team of four, lived and breathed the business. We knew the processes inside and out, we were running a business, and had built relationships with partners including Computer Aid International.
The organisers saw how successful a team we were and suggested that we went through a Company Change programme to make Recycle-IT! our own, and to become directors. We were three lads, from an estate in Manchester…we jumped at the opportunity!
We collected and recycled five thousand computers, we gained a service level agreement with the Guinness Partnership for our IT collection service for 127 offices nationwide, and we were successful in gaining funding and grants to help sustain the business. We also brought on 170 volunteers and work placement students, through City College Manchester.
However, although we had started the company, we had had no training, support, or guidance, and in 2008, everything took a downturn, our team disbanded, the business ceased to trade, and I fell into a period of depression. Following years of applying for and starting a variety of jobs, and bouts of unemployment, I was encouraged by my wife Christine and my 5 children, to reboot Recycle-IT! in 2021.
The time felt right for both of us, as people are facing digital poverty more than they ever were before, recycling is becoming an essential part of business, and there is increased support and guidance in place for CICs.
Recycle-IT! reformed in March 2021 and started trading in October.
Today the business has contracts with big businesses including Crown Paints, Bruntwood and Henshaws, and Recycle- IT! is set to sign a service level agreement with Bolton at Home. Recycle-IT! is also in talks with Bolton Council and Salford Council to become an approved provider for the Greater Manchester Authority.
As an entrepreneur I became very aware that a big part of my skill set was my own natural talent for networking and engaging with others.
People say that my enthusiasm for my business is contagious, they admire my passion for what I do, and how what I do helps people.
For me, the major obstacle in business and in my life was the lack of belief I had in myself. I overcame my own lack of belief in myself when others started to believe in me, and as I was increasingly recognised for the good I am doing an the success of my business.
People from disadvantaged backgrounds seem to think there’s barriers and obstacles in our way, but there are ways around the obstacles if we group together. When you have been put down over and over, and told that you are not worth anything, it becomes ingrained, and we need reminding that we can get ourselves out of entrenchment.
My advice is to find something you are good at and do something good with it!
“Everything starts with a thought. The way you think about things can change everything, it really can.”