Paul Lewis with his branded bicycles
Visit the busy shopping precincts of Wallasey and New Brighton on the Wirral and your eyes will likely be drawn to a unique form of advertising: bicycles pulling bespoke promotional hoardings.
The man pedalling this innovative and environmentally-friendly form of marketing is Paul Lewis, a veteran of the British Army Parachute Regiment, whose active duty was cut short while serving in Iraq.
"I was pretty ill at home with PTSD after serving in the forces and I thought to myself that I just had to snap out of the mood," explains Paul, whose start-up business has just received vital investment from Heropreneurs.
"I started seeing advertising in fields on the back of old trailers and I thought that was a great idea. I crafted my original business plan, which took a while because of the illness, but I realised I couldn't afford to put lorries and vans on the road or in fields. It was very expensive," he adds.
"I knew I had to simplify the original plan and that's where the idea of bikes came from. The smaller funding was much easier to achieve, I knew someone would be happy to cover the cost of a few bikes, rather than fund road-going vehicles."
Luckily, Paul was introduced to Heropreneurs, the UK based charity that helps people who have left the Armed Forces establish their own businesses. Not only did Heropreneurs provide essential business advice but it also secured funding, signalling the first investment in a start-up business.
Peter Mountford, the Chairman of Heropreneurs, said: “We have been very impressed by Paul and the effort and thought process that has gone into creating his new business. We very much hope that Wheels Ahead will be a success, and equally as important is the focus and attention that Paul will put into this enterprise. It will hugely assist in his recovery programme."
Paul is still in the early stages of his business and is busy juggling a part-time job and ploughing on with Wheels Ahead - a task his illness makes even more challenging.
"I currently do two and a half days on the bikes to drum up interest in the business," Paul explains.
"I'm on the bikes at 9am and then they come back in at 5pm. It doesn't matter what the weather is doing, I'll be out there, promoting the business," he adds.
In the near future, Paul hopes to employ ex-service men and women, as well as extend his patch to the busy nightlife of Liverpool, where he hopes to attract the attention of the area's bustling nightlife scene.
But he is taking every day as it comes. "It's very hard to run a business with PTSD, because sometimes I find it hard to get out of bed, other times I have a terrible night's sleep and then I'm really tired the next day," he explains.
"I'd like things to move quicker but I've got to take small steps for my health."
Heropreneurs has committed to Paul and Wheels Ahead and continues to offer guidance on a weekly basis.
"I’m delighted with the help that Heropreneurs has offered me," says Paul. "It has given me the chance to make something of myself again, along with getting this help, I have had a fantastic mentor, Glenn, who has inspired me and continues to provide support to get me through the bad times."
The funds that Heropreneurs is investing in Wheels Ahead were donated to the charity by the British Venture Capital Association (BVCA). Following the investment into Wheels Ahead, Heropreneurs has further funds to invest and is also looking for further donations to the charity in order that it can make more investments into businesses started up by Armed Service leavers.
Peter Mountford explains, "We see many great businesses created by Armed Service Veterans and would like more firepower to be able to invest in them and help them on their road to success."
To read more about Wheels Ahead, visit the website.
Website Design & Development by Blaze Concepts