Our, ’Ten Minutes With,’ series of interviews gives businesses the opportunity to tell us how they’ve adapted in response to the Covid-19 crisis, what their experiences have been and as we carry on living alongside the virus, what their business plans are in the future.
This week we’re talking to former soldier, Ant Bailey, who owns a number of companies including out of school alternative education provision at the Velocity Academy in Weston Coyney. Here he tells us how his troubled past has shaped his vocation in life and how he plans to use his experience to help change young people’s lives.
Give us five words that describe yourself?
Tell us about your business?
I’ve owned different businesses over the years, but my key focus now is on the alternative education provision I set up in June with my business partner Nicki Tomlinson.
It’s the called Velocity Training Academy and is based in Weston Coyney.
The Academy has been established to work with young people who seem to struggle with the mainstream school environment for a variety of reasons such as behaviours, emotions or isolation.
We have a real focus on leadership, working with young people to realise their potential. We want them to become positive and active young citizens, using sport and outdoor education to engage and encourage them to achieve and make a great success of their lives.
Classes are small so we can give the young people our focused attention and our approach is to be firm but fair.
What did you do before launching your business?
I was in the army for nine years and served in the Staffordshire Regiment, working my way up to Corporal.
I’m a massive Stoke fan and back in the day I was involved in some trouble and convicted for football violence. I spent six months in Strangeways and lost my military career as a result.
I came out of prison no longer part of the army – a job I loved. Through my own fault, I had to start again and had various jobs from being a milkman to working as a private bodyguard in Iraq.
I was shot at more as a bodyguard than I was in the army. I did that for three years before coming home and setting up a gym in 2009.
I fought professionally in mixed martial arts for a while and still own the gym and a security company – using my experience and lessons I’ve learned. I now want to use that experience to help young people and show them that you can break the cycle and have a good life.
Why do you do what you do?
It sounds contrived but I want to make a difference and show young people who are going down the wrong path, that I’ve been there myself and you can turn your life around.
I had a troubled childhood. My brother was a paranoid schizophrenic, so I saw firsthand how that affected family life and as I got older, I didn’t always make good choices. The football violence I got sent to prison for isn’t something I’m proud of, but that experience has shaped who I am.
How has COVID-19 affected business?
It’s affected all our businesses. The gym’s still running at half capacity. In terms of Velocity we’re not getting many referrals at the moment but under the circumstances that’s only to be expected and we’ve just got to ride the storm.
Have you learnt anything about yourself?
My time in the army polarized just how fragile life can be, as has COVID-19 so I think it’s reaffirmed how important family is and how we all need to spend time together.
Are you going to do anything differently after lockdown has been lifted?
I’m always on the go – I very rarely sit and relax. Lockdown made me relax more and I’m going to try and take more time out going forward.
What are your plans for the future?
We’ve got a clear vision for Velocity and that’s to give the kids purpose and help them achieve a better life.
We want to be role models who they can learn from and listen to.
Making money isn’t our driver, it’s about inspiring people, building success, and changing lives.
And finally, what was your dream job at school?
Aged eleven I knew I wanted to be in the army and serve in Iraq, so I’ve achieved that. Now I want to inspire young people and help them achieve their full potential.