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A new benchmark in support for Veterans

A new benchmark in support for Veterans


13 Apr, 2018

Service leavers seeking employment on civvy street – as well as assistance in areas such as housing, finance and mental health – can now take advantage of a new service: Veterans’ Gateway. It aims to provide a first point of contact for Veterans and their families who need support with a variety of needs. Here we focus on just a handful of those who have already benefited from its help with careers advice and employment

Name: Kevin Bath (former RN)

Location: Essex

Age: 50 

Business: Jim Jams 

Referral partner: X-Forces (start-up)

Kevin served in the Royal Navy for eight years, leaving in 1993. He was based in Gibraltar for two years and served on HMS Intrepid and HMS Ark Royal. He met his wife Kellie on a night out when they were both working in London. They have now been married for 14 years and, together, set up their business making healthier spreads. 

Finding a healthier, and just as tasty, solution to eating jams and spreads like Nutella is now much simpler than you think, thanks to the former Royal Navy Leading Hand and his wife. The husband-and-wife business partners were both shocked on discovering that a jar of their children’s beloved Nutella contained 57 cubes of sugar, but it was hard to find a healthier solution. Realising there was a major gap in the market for healthy and sugar-free alternatives to their kids’ favourite snacks, Mr and Mrs Bath decided to create their own. Jim Jams now holds the Great Taste Award and was featured on an episode of BBC One’s Inside Out East, which focused on recognising unhealthy foods and their healthier alternatives.

‘I would never have thought that my career in the Royal Navy would eventually lead to me owning my own business, but it’s proof that, with the right guidance, anything can happen to you once you leave the military, and you can achieve your goals. X-Forces, through its support network, equipped me with everything I needed, and Veterans’ Gateway is another great support in starting that journey, to explore what support is available to you and how you can reach your potential.’

To find out more about Jim Jams, visit

Name: Olivia Smith (RM spouse)

Location: London

Age: 36 

Business: Olivia & Pearl

Referral partner: X-Forces (start-up)

Last autumn, Royal Marines military spouse Olivia Smith launched Olivia & Pearl, an accessible, luxury pearl jewellery brand and online retailer. Providing collectable, classic and contemporary pearl jewellery designed for a new generation of pearl lovers, her contemporary take on pearls means they are high quality and sourced ethically while remaining affordable.

After drawing down a start-up loan from X-Forces, Olivia launched her business, which – through reducing product mark-up and making full use of e-commerce and direct-to-consumer sales – can offer luxury products at an accessible price point. With the global pearl market estimated to be worth US$10.7 billion by 2020, Olivia is keen to gain a slice of that market and follow in the footsteps of the likes of Monica Vinader and Pandora in creating an international brand over the next ten years. As an avid lover of pearls herself when she was younger, Olivia made the decision to be self-employed after numerous advertising roles and time spent as an actor in both New York and London. She ultimately decided she wanted autonomy over her own career and to be in the driving seat.

‘It’s great that military spouses like me can get support via Veterans’ Gateway. The employment support and start-up mentoring that X-Forces provided has been invaluable and allowed me to start my business. By accessing the support available on Veterans’ Gateway you can look to make your own start-up dreams a reality.’

To shop Olivia & Pearl’s brand new collection visit

Name: Duncan Welton

Location: Aldershot

Age: 46 

Employment: Marketing team in the healthcare industry

Referral partner: Walking With The Wounded

Duncan joined the Army in 1989, aged 18, and served in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) as a vehicle mechanic. During his 12 years’ service, Duncan undertook operational duties in Northern Ireland, Macedonia, Bosnia and Kosovo. He left the Army in 2001 and joined the fitness industry. However, he began to struggle financially and, in 2015, was given notice to leave his rented accommodation. Duncan became a resident of Mike Jackson House in Aldershot, which provides supported accommodation to Veterans, although the loss of his independence took its toll and he openly admits to being reclusive.

Since living at Mike Jackson House, Duncan has received support from Walking With The Wounded’s employment advisors to create a CV, have interview practice and to secure job opportunities. He has now been in full-time employment in the healthcare industry since February 2016, first as part of a successful marketing team and now the most senior member of his team.

‘I now have the energy to get up and get on with getting my life back together. Mike Jackson House helped put a roof over my head and supported me until I got back into work. Any Veteran who needs employment support should access the Veterans’ Gateway. There could be help available similar to what I received from Walking With The Wounded; they helped me on my career path. For me, it wasn’t just about finding a good job but also dealing with my other issues. Veterans’ Gateway can assist you with any concerns you may have.’

Name: Jel (Jeremy) Bearder 

Location: Essex

Employment: Park manager, British Military Fitness

Referral partner: Civvy Street (RBL)

Former soldier Jel (Jeremy) Bearder served in the Royal Regiment of Artillery from 1986–91. He had always loved sport, and represented his regiment at football, rugby, tennis, cricket and athletics (junior Army discus champion 1990), and competed at swimming (butterfly) within his unit. When he left the Army he missed the comradeship he’d enjoyed with his fellow soldiers.

Added to this, Jel’s relationship broke down in 2008. He left the family home and his two boys behind, and became quite low. He realised he needed a decent career and, as sport and competing had been such a big part of his life, a friend suggested British Military Fitness (BMF).

On learning more about this organisation, he became very excited about the potential to work for BMF, but found he would need to complete an NVQ level 1 course before he could be considered as a trainer. Not in regular work at the time, the course fees were out of his reach.

Shortly afterwards, and just by chance, Jel was passing his local Royal British Legion office, so he popped in for a chat. They quickly put him in touch with Civvy Street, the RBL’s employment service, which helps ex-Service personnel make the transition to civilian life. Within a couple of weeks, Civvy Street confirmed that not only would it cover the costs of the level 1 NVQ but also the level 2.

Jel has been working for BMF for more than nine years now and is currently the park manager at four London events as well as representing BMF at events across the country and abroad. He says: ‘Leaving the Forces and then having to choose and find a new career can be a really challenging time. You need support around you and having experts on hand is vital. The service Veterans’ Gateway offers will be invaluable for those beginning or already on their journey to a new career. I can’t thank the RBL enough for its assistance in providing me with a new career and helping me to build a new life. It’s given me a new direction and purpose, and I will be forever grateful. If 2018 is your year for finding a new path, get in touch to see if there’s support available.’

Name: John Geden (former RMP)

Location: Hayling Island

Age: 52 

Business: Sinah Common Honey

Referral partner: X-Forces (start-up)

Aged just 17, John Geden joined the Army in 1983 as an Officer in the Royal Military Police. After his military service, John joined Hampshire Police and worked in a number of departments over his 22 years of service. In 2014, he was diagnosed with PTSD, and received support from Help for Heroes and Combat Stress before taking early retirement. 

Back in 1991, after John retired from the Army, he was given the opportunity to take a resettlement course in bee keeping. John completed the ten-week course, where he quickly became captivated by the bees. ‘I feel safe next to an open bee hive – after all, who is going to come and bother me?’ he says. Ever since he did the course, John has owned bees on and off, and 14 years later his bees became his business.

Sinah Common Honey is small-scale business that produces local, natural honey from Hayling Island and in the surrounding areas on the southern slopes of the South Downs. The honey is produced locally, is 100% natural, and can be found in local food markets, farm shops and Southern Cooperative Stores in Hampshire and Sussex.

John attended a Help for Heroes and X-Forces six-day business skills course in order to develop his brand and learn more about the ins and outs of running a small business. Since the course, John has been able to turn his love for bees into a business that makes him happy. Although Sinah Common Honey does not produce a massive amount of honey on an annual basis, John runs approximately 140 colonies at a time and is proud to guarantee that every pot of honey is local, fresh and natural. 

He must have taken notes during his business skills course because in 2016 he was awarded the Service Leaver Business Start Up of the year. Former BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull – coincidently, a fellow bee keeper – presented John with his award. Says John, ‘After attending the Help for Heroes and X-Forces six-day workshop to develop my brand and learn more about small business development, I’ve been able to turn my fascination for bees into a business that really makes me happy.’

In addition to selling honey at local food fairs, farmers’ markets and the local co-op, Sinah Common Honey also produces beeswax candles and wedding favours, as well as running bee-keeping courses for beginners and more experienced bee keepers. John is also looking into creating alcohol-infused honey products and his newest endeavour is to produce honey cosmetics. 

His beeswax-based cosmetic idea is still in the early stages of development, but he hopes to create a beeswax, honey and propolis balm for soldiers who have lost limbs to use where their prosthetics rub against their amputated limbs. He hopes to partner with other military charities to make this idea a reality in the near future and to bring the product to the mainstream marketplace. 

He also gives his time freely to run bee-keeping courses for Help for Heroes beneficiaries, in order to help other injured, wounded or sick Veterans. ‘I have experienced first hand how hard life can be and, in particular, the difficulties in holding down a job when you are suffering from PTSD. X-Forces has been there from the start, supporting me every step of the way and the service that Veterans’ Gateway offers allows individuals to deal with multiple issues that might be impacting their employability. It’s a great first point of contact for any Veteran.’ 

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