Civvy Life – Mark Beckham
Mark joined the Royal Anglians in 1990 transferring to the RAF to become a survival specialist in 2000 before being medically discharged last year. Having attended the Business Experience programme run by X-Forces Enterprise and Help for Heroes, he is currently developing his Natural Survivor business, specialising in delivering courses in survival, bushcraft and wilderness living skills.
How was resettlement?
During my recovery period, which was around two years, I was just setting up the business, doing recovery courses; the standard resettlement package.
Rather than going down the route of becoming a plumber or electrician, I decided to go my own way. I like being outdoors and having been diagnosed with PTSD, it helped; being in nature – nice and calm and away from it all so it kind of made sense that I would start up my own thing at some point.
Not only am I out in nature but I’m also kind of in control of everything that’s happening, so there’ll be no surprises.
How have X-Forces Enterprise helped?
I spoke with Help for Heroes about what I was considering doing and asked if they would be interested in something that would help other Veterans in the same position as me. They showed an interest straight away and someone mentioned, if you’re looking at starting a business, why not do the X-Forces course?
The X-Forces six-day course covered the essentials of business ownership, and helped me to prepare a business plan. After the course, if Help for Heroes consider your idea to be commercially viable, they’ll also help you with a grant. I was given £2,500 to buy equipment so I could start straight away when I was discharged, and X-Forces have continued to support me since.
Tell us a bit about Natural Survivor…
I do anything from a oneday course to a week away. It can be anything from spoon carving to a weekend wilderness living skills course, learning natural navigation, how to track and find water, building shelters and using what’s around you rather than technology and stuff like that.
What’s your takeaway advice for Service-leavers?
Make sure you are financially prepared because it takes time to build a business. Mine’s been running for just over a year now and it’s still very much in the infant stages. You really do need to get numbers in and that’s the hardest thing; getting the bookings in.
You can have the best business in the world but without people coming through the door… With self-employment there’s no guaranteed paycheque every month like you’re used to in the Military.
What are your ambitions for Natural Survivor?
I want to get my courses recognised with an awarding body. I’ve approached the local college to see if they would be interested.
There’s all sorts of stuff that I would like to do, like stretching my expeditions further overseas, it’s just a matter of if I can make it viable.