Geoff Reeves of Get Started retires after helping launch hundreds of businesses in Blackpool
Farewell to the Blackpool man who helped launch 1,000 people's dreams of being an entrepreneur
A Blackpool man who grew up on one of the roughest estates, went on to be a boss for Coca Cola in the UK, and then helped people launch 1,000 businesses, has finally put his feet up.
Tributes have been paid across Blackpool to Geoff Reeves, described as a man full of infectious enthusiasm, humour and brilliant advice, who has stepped down from being the figurehead of Blackpool Council's Get Started scheme.
Geoff, who also ran a successful scuba diving company in Poulton for many years, said after recovering from three years of severe illness, it was now right to spend more time with his family and is looking forward to pursuing his hobbies, including paying his collection of electric guitars.
Geoff said he had always wanted to do more for his home town and working with the council enabled him to help others and show that whatever start you had in life, there were always opportunities to change your fortune.
He said: "I started out in what can only be described as abject poverty. In the 50s Grange Park was where they 'sent people'. After the war, it was rough, we had nothing. We dodged the rent man we had candles, no electricity. People used to knock on the door and ask to borrow half a cup of sugar. I knew there must be something better.
"My father was disappointed in me, he pointed out that I could not even saw a piece of wood properly. School was not really for me either. I did go to Blackpool Grammar, the same era as Roger Uttley (England and Fylde rugby player) and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull.
"I tried to get a job at British Aerospace as was and the man took one look at me and said, 'you're not built for manual work', so like many others in Blackpool I went into the civil service. Then I started my sales career."
He worked for Green Shield trading stamps for two years and then joined Cadbury Schweppes, which later morphed into Coca Cola who he was with for 28 years.
"I did sales marketing, procurement, eventually general manger. I bought two big companies for them in the UK, Orange Crush and Canvermore. Think of a job, and I did it for them. From a man and a van, I ended up being general manager.
"After 28 years I woke up one morning and thought there must be more to life than earning money, travelling the world and having a great time! I gave it all up. Actually my children said to me a few years later, that they thought if I had stayed another year I would have died, the pressure I was under."
He had done some scuba diving in Australia as a challenge because he was scared of water at the time. He came home and decided to learn properly, then became an instructor.
"After eight months I qualified as an instructor, opened my own water sports centre in Poulton, H2O Sport and Marine. Had a great time but after eight years I was doing spreadsheets and paperwork and not teaching anymore. Then I was looking in the paper and I saw an advert in the Gazette, the Princess Trust were looking for someone to help young people think about starting businesses.
"I went along to the Princess Alex home for the blind, the lady there asked me to work for them. They never even interviewed me. I agreed to a one year contract. I had only gone to say hello!
"Then I met Peter Legg and the others and 15 years later I was still there!"
He said he was proud of the businesses that grew and did well, but he was almost more proud of the little businesses.
"We had people destitute at the end of their tether, no-one would talk to them. I used to feel so good when they went away with a real belief. They attended all the courses and ended up being joiners, plasters, decorators, They are not the high profile ones, but for the town we live in it was fantastic.
"I always said that if 1,000 earned even minimum wage form their own businesses then it is 1,000 times £10,000, they are not on benefits, they have got self respect, they have a chance to progress and that is a great thing."
Peter Legg, head of economic and cultural services at Blackpool Council said: "Geoff has been a stalwart of our service for 14 years now. We have been exceptionally lucky to have him because of his background, Coca Cola and marketing, and to have someone of his calibre helping people on their enterprise journey.
"He's just a lovely guy, he engages with everybody of all ages and has been the personification of Get Started. He is a nice, energetic and positive force, with a wonderful sense of humour, who everybody appreciates and that's why his workshops were always full."
Sean Bennett from Links, Signs and Graphics Ltd was one of the early businessmen hoping to start and run their own business through the Get Started scheme.
He said: "At the time there was a financial aspect to the scheme, but it was never about the money, it was about the advice and support that was the most important thing. Even simple things such as writing a business plan, fine tuning certain things.
"We started in 2007, every year since then we have taken a member of staff on. But we are still very much a family business. My son Carl helps me run it day to day, my wife Julie is a director, there's my other son Todd and my daughter in law Danielle."
Adam Soliman set up his tea business Charbrew with the help of Geoff and the Get Started team and now has his products in supermarkets across the UK and has gone on to found Silk Route Spices too.
He said: "I started in business straight out of University, knowing nothing, green as the grass outside. Geoff was an inspiration, just the encouragement and enthusiasm alone, not to mention the business advice and support.
"The number of people who have benefitted from his help is amazing, as is his infectious enthusiasm."
Photos and article courtesy of Blackpool Gazette
If you would like to know more about starting your own business call 01253 477147 to make an appointment with a Get Started Business Adviser
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