A man who was made redundant from the former Walkers crisps factory in Peterlee has turned setback into opportunity by launching his own business.

Neil Harrison found himself unemployed when he lost his job after 32 years of employment.

The 52-year-old father-of-two decided to take a year out and enjoy some time on the golf course, walking his dog and going on holiday with his wife Vivienne.

But at the start of 2019 he decided it was the right time to get back into work and applied for a taxi licence and insurances. He also spoke to East Durham Business Service (EDBS) to see what support was available to help him go self-employed.

EDBS adviser Hina Joshi, through the Enterprise Support in the North East 2 Programme, an ERDF funded programme, worked with Neil to prepare a business plan and in February he officially launched Executive Private Hire, a taxi service which provides personal and corporate travel packages to clients in the East Durham area.

Neil said: “I am loving working for myself and thanks to my brother in law who is also a self-employed private hire driver, I am gradually building up my customer base.

“When I lost my job at Walkers after 32 years, I did wonder what I was going to do and now I am working for myself, working the hours I want to, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

“It’s so rewarding seeing my business grow and my next target is to secure myself a few more business clients in the Peterlee and East Durham area.”

Neil, who lives in Peterlee, bought a Skoda Superb with the redundancy money he received from his time with Walkers.

Hina Joshi said: “Neil is a real inspiration to anyone who has found themselves out of work.

“After having a break and some time to himself, he knew he could make a real go of self-employment and it’s great to see his business growing.

“We would encourage anyone who is in a similar position, or even those people who are employed but think they have an idea which they could turn into a viable business, to come in and see me to have a chat and get the support which could see your entrepreneurial dream become a reality.”

For more information visit edbs.co.uk or call 0191 5863366.