Fulfilling your dream of being your own boss and running your own show can be incredibly exciting. But if you’re a one-person business like Durham’s Zero78Training, it can also be exhausting, as you try to do everything yourself; and isolating, particularly when you’re trying to get the business off the ground during a pandemic. That’s where DABS – Durham Ambitious Start Ups – can offer training, finance and access to a community of like-minded people for support and ideas.
Founder and lead trainer of Zero78Training is Jason Smith – Seaham born, Durham bred, cold water swimmer and passionate about mental health support. Jason did 35 years in the military and saw action in many conflicts, but from 2009, he began to develop a real interest in mental health support for colleagues.
“It was the height of Iraq and Afghanistan, and we were experiencing the worst that war can throw at you. I started getting involved in mental health support for people and their families, then trained as a mental health first aider, and from about 2014 I started doing more general adult training outside the Armed Forces – but it was still a bit of a hobby at that stage.”
By July 2020 Jason knew his passion could become a business reality and he resigned from the Army to focus completely on Zero78Training. Jason is fully accredited, and uses evidence-based, nationally recognised training: “I’m not clinically trained, but I am qualified to help managers talk comfortably about mental health. They want to help their team but in most cases just aren’t equipped to know how. I’m not asking them to become psychiatrists, but I will give them skills to understand what mental health issues might look or sound like, and some simple steps they can encourage their team to follow, such as better sleep, less alcohol or less social media.”
Jason soon realised that the huge demand for his services meant he would soon be stretched too thin if he didn’t find more efficient ways of running the business:
“That’s where DABS came in. When you’re starting out, the temptation is to say yes to everything, regardless of whether it makes sense time wise. I could provide training every day of the week, but there is a limit as to how much I can do without burning out myself, and I’ve been able to get the support to recognise that and loads of other good business practices.”
Jason saw a Twitter ad for DABS and did some online training on how to set up and run a business:
“There was no sugar coating, and they were open and honest about the risks being your own boss can throw up. It’s all too easy to operate on an emotional front when you start
out, and you need someone to rein you in and talk through the pros and cons. It was also great to hear from other business people who were also doing the training – their journeys, progress, collective knowledge and experience – and what to avoid.
“The future is bright – I’m booked up for months, and getting closer to my vision of a small training centre delivering courses, employing a few people and growing my online training offers – in part thanks to DABS.
“The DABS team really make me feel as though they are investing in me individually, and really want to help me succeed. I might be a single operator, but I’m not on my own, I have a huge community of support right across the region that I can call on any time, and that collective experience is invaluable.”