The growing trend of gaming parties has caught the imagination of Staff Sergeant Darren Smith, who is applying his drive and discipline into his ex-military career with his wife and eldest son thanks to grant funding from Help for Heroes.
Darren, of Newport, Shropshire will be medically discharged in November this year due to a serious back injury, after twenty years’ service. He had deployed to Canada, Kenya, Kosovo and Bosnia with the 1st Royal Horse Artillery and also spent two years training recruits at the Army Training Regiment, Pirbirght. Darren, who also suffers hearing loss, said: "Training and nurturing those young adults was probably my proudest achievement in the Army. The sense of pride when being a part of their passing out parade is on par with the birth of my own children".
His final eight years had been with the Army Welfare Service, providing personal support to soldiers and their families. Through his transition process, Darren found himself on the other side of the desk, as a recipient of support from Help for Heroes and X-Forces.
Darren decided quickly after his discharge that he wanted to be his own boss. He said: "It was important to be in control of my own future. I was aware of the long hours and hard work that faced me, but felt compelled to be in control and be able to reap the rewards of the effort I put in. It was also important to me that it was family-run; having my wife and son as business partners is fantastic.”
Darren's business - Curbside Gaming Ltd - offers a mobile video gaming experience for children and adult parties and corporate events. Darren has invested in the latest gaming equipment such as PS4, Xbox One and Wii, as well as those that draw on nostalgia such as Sega Megadrive, Super Nintendo and Atari. That has all been made possible thanks to a £1,275 grant fund from Help for Heroes.
His journey from initially having the idea to launching the business has been supported by a unique collaboration between Help for Heroes and X Forces. The 6-day Business Xperience course, funded by H4H and delivered by X Forces, provides wounded, injured and sick servicemen, women and veterans support they need to get their business ready for launch. The course focuses on all the elements of the business model: USP, Sales, Marketing, Cash flow, and Business law.
Darren attended the course at Help for Heroes’ Phoenix House in Catterick. He said "To have that unfaltering support, especially at the hardest moments on this journey, enabled me to keeping moving forward and stay focussed. Phoenix House is an unbelievable place. It is everything you wish for and more, it is truly first class.
“Since the initial course, the support that Help for Heroes and X Forces has shown me has been brilliant and it helps to ensure I’m on track and remaining positive.”
For Darren, accessing this expertise and knowledge has been vital to his successful transition from the Army to civvy street.
“Becoming your own boss is the greatest feeling in the world but I found it also the scariest. I'm not ashamed to admit that I had a breakdown in the weeks building up to the launch of the business." Darren said.
"The bringing together of so many factors beyond my control, was a real challenge, and something so different to the structured and organised military machine I was used to. And it was this difference in communication and trust that really affected me. Thankfully I had the immeasurable support from Help for Heroes.”