THIS time last year Richard Hill woke up to the news he was one of 200 staff at Gloucester Prison facing redundancy – today he runs Ritch Hill Cycles, one of 5,000 new business start-ups begun in the county last year.
Figures from GFirst LEP, the business group tasked with driving the county's economy, and the caveat of a three-year business survival rate – one of the best in England – bode well for Mr Hill's success.
Years spent as an instructor at the now closed city prison were taken-up working with in-mates to recondition bicycles for charities such as Gloucester-based Fair Shares and Tetbury-based Jole Rider.
While it was his charges who were meant to leave at the end of their term with life-affirming skills which could help them in the world of work, it turned out to be Mr Hill who coupled what he learned to an entrepreneurial drive.
"A lot of the other prison officers were able to be relocated. But I was an instructor, which is more specialised, so I ended up taking redundancy," recalled Mr Hill, 46, a father-of-one who lives in Stroud, went to Archway Comprehensive and did an engineering apprenticeship with former Gloucester business Redlers.
"It took a while to get used to what had happened and weigh up starting my own mobile cycle repair business.
"I had an interview with Gloucestershire Enterprise and applied for funding from the Enterprise Allowance."
After 19 years working for the prison service he admits preparing to start his own business was daunting.
His wife runs her own mobile hairdressing business and he was once tempted to start his own printing business, which was eventually overtaken by the IT revolution.
Post redundancy market research ensued before he took the plunge and self-financed his new business using his redundancy money – the biggest expenditure being an estimated £5,000 on a van.
Sign-writing on the vehicle was done by CR Signs, Nailsworth.
"Finding a supplier for spares was difficult. It was a Catch 22 – if you hadn't been in business for any period of time, they didn't want to know."
Eventually he found a reliable supplier in Manchester who can do next-day delivery for any spares he is not able to carry. As well as repairs from punctures to adjusting brakes he is staying open minded on where the potential is – supplying new and second hand bikes, full services, wheel straightening and re-builds. Customers get MOT-like reports listing potential work and cost.
"I have had to be realistic in my expectations. I have gone from 19 years when I was earning a steady wage, and that is difficult.
"You have to be self-motivated and you only get paid as much as you can work, but while I work some weekends I also have a better work-life balance now too."
Ritch Hill Cycles (07947 247884) can be found on Facebook and a website is coming soon.