Entrepreneur seeks 'Young Business Tigers' for £5k investment in new competition (From Bucks Free Press)
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Entrepreneur seeks 'Young Business Tigers' for £5k investment in new competition
A HAZLEMERE entrepreneur who made his name charting the ever changing whims of the weather is hoping to send a stiff breeze of good fortune towards two up-and-coming businesses – with £5k investments in each.
Jim Dale is the founder and owner of British Weather Services, an independent global meteorological company which has been delivering forecasts and weather information since 1987.
He describes himself as “an entrepreneur by nature” and that he has been that way inclined since he was a young boy.
And now, through the BFP, he is searching for like-minded youngsters to apply to take part in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style opportunity for investment and mentoring – in the Young Business Tigers competition.
Jim was born in Manchester, and lived in Oldham when he was young. He left school with few qualifications, and found his first job at a cotton mill as a labourer. He joined the Royal Navy, aged 16, as a steward/ caterer, later he discovering the meteorological branch and fulfilling a lifelong passion.
Jim said: “One of my hobbies as a boy was skygazing – I just felt the weather in all its facets, it’s in my blood, a natural affinity.”
He qualified as a meteorological observer for the Navy, where he was first based at RAF Northwood but soon travelled the world – particularly in the South Atlantic, where he observed wonders like penguin and sea-lion colonies. He visited far-flung locales such as the Falklands, South Georgia, New Orleans and the West Indies.
In South Georgia whilst the weather could be extremely hostile, he described it as “an inspirational time and the most inspirational of places”.
“The Navy was the start of my wanderlust and I also gained huge meteorological experience.”
He left after eight years, moving to London and working in various jobs before joining a marine focused meteorological company.
Jim was made redundant when the firm made cutbacks and with a young family on the way, he was in a potentially desperate spot. But he says the moment he got the news he was inspired to step out on his own.
He said: “Within a minute I was picking myself up. I thought I can do what they (his previous firm) do – and compete.”
And with that he was on his way to founding British Weather Services, making the most of his contacts and ideas – particularly one involving a premium rate call centre for weather.
Setting up shop in his own home – in 1987, before the onset of the internet and communications technology that nowadays makes home-working common, he relied on the trusty fax machine and his meteorological experience for much of his fundamental information.
Recruiting freelancers to join him (including the likes of former BBC favourite, John Kettley), the service soon took off, and continues to thrive. He said: “We were constantly innovating – to work from home, to have a website, to have a mobile phone the size of a brick at the time. We simply kept pace with technology as it moved.”
As the internet grew in popularity and more weather information became available for free, the firm evolved further to remain profitable.
BWS found niches it could fill, including giving forecasts to bookmakers to help them judge various market odds for global sporting events. BWS also offered their services to legal practices, insurance companies and logistics firms. Jim himself also occasionally appears on both television and in print to offer weather advice or comment.
And those tactics paid off. Jim said: “We’ve never had a negative year; we’ve never lost money and the last two to three years have been our best ever.
“Again, it’s simply because we have used our initiative and intelligence to make things happen”.
Jim says he also strives to maintain a fit and healthy lifestyle, coaching sports with youngsters and co-founding the AFC Lightning football team at Great Missenden. He is also writing a true-life novel, based on his experiences.
And he wants to give something back to the community by making an investment in the business of a young local entrepreneur (aged, ideally, between 16 and 21 years old) who may be in need of finance and sound business advice. He plans to offer this investment in return for a minor stake in the company.
“I want to give a helping hand – it’s not just the money; this will also have me acting as a mentor, to offer what I can when I can”.
“Relatively successful people like me should always be able to pass on knowledge and other necessary ‘tools’ to those around them so they have increased chances to prosper”.
Jim is looking to make a £5k investment in each of two companies finally selected from the applicants - and in the future he hopes other local businesses may take the baton and make similar investments into young business start-ups.
He said of any budding entrepreneurs: “I am looking for ‘wow factor’ - something that makes me sit-up and think, yes fantastic idea, motivated owner. I want to help you.”
Applicants and queries should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org, marked Young Business Tigers Competition, by January 17, 2014.
Applicants, aged 16-25, should include a summary of their idea and why they should benefit from a £5,000 investment – in no more than 300 words.
A shortlist of applicants will be invited to give a short presentation at a date TBC.
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