TMT is delighted to be able to publicise the efforts of organisations such as Veteran Owned UK. Started by a former RE bomb disposal specialist, Scott Johnson, it is the sort of initiative that we should all try to support wherever we can. In fact, given that TMT is owned and managed by Veterans, I am not sure why we have not already joined! We have just applied. Ed.
Words by Scott Johnson, ex-RE, founder of Veteran Owned UK
Veteran Owned UK is an Online Business Directory started in July 2017 by myself (former Royal Engineer Bomb Disposal Engineer), after seeing several similar directories on the internet for American Veteran Owned Businesses. After searching for a British version so I could choose to support my fellow Veterans, I found that there was nothing available. Within 2 hours, there was: I purchased the Domain name, set up a Facebook Page, a Twitter account and an Instagram account and started the journey.
Originally, I thought that the Website could be set up and would almost manage itself through individuals filling in an online form and that would generate the Directory. The more I promoted the Social Media side, the more I found that there was an amazing group of diverse businesses out there looking for a community to join and support each other.
One Veteran summed it up to me why he loved the idea of a Veteran Owned Directory; he didn’t want the public to see him as a charity case or being “broken”. He wanted to be seen as a capable, driven individual who was out there carving his own place.
By creating the UK’s first, and now biggest, Veteran Owned Business Directory, we want the public to be able to choose to support a Veteran by using their business. It may be to buy a product or to utilise a service from the business but it will directly put money in to that Veteran Owned Business which is a huge boost in this current financial climate. Anyone should choose to use a Veteran Owned Business as the business is built around military principles such as Integrity, Attention to Detail, Willingness to see a job through, Desire to Serve and a work ethic that is hard to find outside of the military. Who wouldn’t want to do business with those standards?
Veteran Owned UK has been running since 21st July 2017 and as of today has over 500 businesses listed and this is growing daily as word spreads. The website is our “Shop Front” where the public can find the businesses listed with us. We also have a “Back Room” in the form of a Facebook Group that is just for Veterans who own a business, are self-employed or are looking to start a business.
This is the heart of the community where the members can help and support each other. They regularly pass on contacts to each other, form partnerships, pass work referrals, ask and answer business related questions. We run free webinars on business topics with business experts to add value to individuals’ businesses or start-up plans. We run physical Networking Events to bring people together with Guest Speakers covering Business Topics. We even had a group of business owners working together to complete a charity Cycle Ride from Scotland to the South Coast and then back North via London to finish in Lincoln. They raised money for 3 great Military Causes and called in at many Veteran Owned Businesses along the route to highlight the great work being done by Veterans.
Veteran Owned UK’s aim is to gain Veteran Owned Businesses greater exposure to the public through a user-friendly online Directory. We also want to support Veteran Owned Businesses to build closer working relationships between the Veteran Owned Community.
In short, we want to be like “Checkatrade” but for Veteran Owned Businesses of any type. Our aim is to have 19000 businesses listed in 5 years but hopefully will continue to grow past that and build a larger community from the estimated 187k active Veteran Owned Businesses in the UK currently. To do this, we want Veteran Owned UK to be a Household name like “Checkatrade” or “Yellow Pages”.
TMT has checked the Veteran Owned website, https://veteran-owned.uk It is one of the clearest and most informative of sites and thoroughly professional to boot. Scott did not mention in his text above that the association is free to join, but with options to buy extra levels of membership if required. It is also possible for non-Veteran owned businesses to pay a fee to join as long as they offer discounts or additional benefits to serving or retired members of the armed forces. In our view, it seems like a “no-brainer” to join, given the potential benefits, and an equally obvious initial go-to place if you are looking for a decent company to provide goods or services.
Scott provided TMT with a case study of a Veteran who started his own business. Its well worth reading and probably strikes many cords with those who have already ventured down this route.
The Tactical Coffee Company – a Q&A session with Veteran Owned UK.
The Tactical Coffee Company owner Darren Gray served 21 years in the Army, 19 years in the Royal Artillery, two years in the Military Provost Guard Service and then several years in the Private Security Industry before starting The Tactical Coffee Company.
What made you decide to set up your own business?
“It is the obsession for the best cup of coffee that got me started on this journey. I have always had a passion for good coffee and after completing my first coffee course in early 2015 I decided to study coffee, its history and origins. I have had many a cup of guard room coffee and drank too much compo coffee on operations and exercise to know what bad coffee is.
The Tactical Coffee Company takes great pleasure in sourcing the best sustainable coffees from around the world and designing unique blends with our partner coffee roasters to enable us to offer you the best brew available. We only use the finest, specially selected, washed and polished coffee beans in our coffee blends. All our coffees are traceable, and many are Rainforest Alliance and Fair-trade certified.
Our coffee, along with a selection of coffee making products are predominantly sold via our online store, we have posted our blends all across the United Kingdom, Germany, Cyprus, Iraq, Afghanistan and Estonia. We currently stock Five Coffee Blends, Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Ugly Five Zero and Tactical Advantage. We also sell our coffee at military events and through a small network of retail outlets.
This is not my first business. I owned three shops from 2000 to 2010 situated in Wiltshire, I sold the business to a WO1 and bought a pub in Upavon, WIltshire which I ran with my wife Joanne for two years. The pub didn’t work out due to very high overheads and very little income, so we left in 2012 and both returned to normal working life.
I started working in the Private Security Industry and have moved from one bad company to another, at the beginning of 2017 and again in 2018 the company that I was working for went into liquidation leaving all its staff unpaid. It was the second time that I decided that the only really reliable person to work for was myself.
What is the best aspect of having your own business?
The harder I work and the more effort I put into the business the greater the reward, not just financially but the sense of achievement when someone leaves a good review about my coffee or the customer service that they have received. I always get a ‘buzz’ when a customer returns and places another order, this tells me that I’m doing it right.
How has being a Veteran improved your business.
I strongly believe that that my 21 years’ service has helped me become a better businessman, one thing the Army taught me was never to give in and always strive for excellence. Since I started Tactical Coffee in early 2018 I have faced many challenges, both personal and business, each day brings new challenges, each one needs to be overcome and becomes a lesson learnt.
Thankfully there are organisations such as Veteran Owned UK and their social media groups available to offer advice and support when needed.