Freestyling into the future
With not one, but two, new – and very different – businesses already up and running, ex-soldier Carl Marsh is finding that life as an entrepreneur is going swimmingly
Carl left the British Army in 2010 after 12 years of service and one tour in Northern Ireland before he suffered a spinal injury and seven other health-related issues, which led to him being medically discharged. During his time in the Army he spent two years on deployment with HQ 1 Signal Brigade, a NATO branch in Germany. Carl has fond memories of meeting soldiers from across the world during his time there: ‘It was very interesting to be with American, Canadian, French and German soldiers all at once.’
He also took advantage of the training on offer, completing scuba diving, skiing, sailing and swimming courses in his spare time. ‘I am very thankful for the Army and what I was able to do there,’ he acknowledges.
When Carl left the Army in 2010, he first of all worked in financial accounts in the NHS. However, due to the medical conditions that resulted from his time in the military, he realised that this career wouldn’t work for him long term. The NHS did not provide the supportive framework he had been afforded while in the Army so – to develop and learn new skills – he realised he would need to look for an alternative career.
‘The only option I had in the NHS was to work reduced hours. This proved to be a barrier to any future development and I felt demoralised. Ultimately, I knew things needed to change. Developing my own ideas and interests has been really rewarding – being self-employed is the best thing I have ever done.’
In 2012 Carl set up In The Words Of (inthewordsof.com), a celebrity interview website. He created this initially because of his love for books and the resulting connections he had already made with authors. Despite having mild dyslexia, Carl finds that reading provides an escape. The blog often asked the authors to share their own favourite books, to encourage fans to read more. ‘I enjoyed doing the interviews and was determined to make a success of the blog. I guess I got my drive from the military ethos!’
Initially, In The Words Of focused on interviewing authors but it has now expanded into a platform where a variety of celebrities talk about their lives and work, and other general chatter. Carl also writes freelance for a Welsh lifestyle magazine and website to generate further publicity for what he does. People from the world of art, as well as writers, directors, musicians and many more, are all happy to talk to him and, as he has built his brand, he has interviewed more high-profile celebrities (see box).
IN THE WORDS OF …
Among the high-profile celebrities Carl has interviewed are:
Bill Bailey, Live at the Apollo, Mock the Week, QI, etc.
Mackenzie Crook, The Office, Pirates of the Caribbean, Britannia
David Morrissey, The Walking Dead, Britannia
Amanda Mealing, Strike Back, Casualty
Ed Byrne, Mock the Week, etc.
Andy McNab, Veteran and author of Crisis Four and Bravo Two Zero
Luke Goss, of pop group Bros and actor in 50+ films
Nicholas Pinnock, Fortitude
Robert Davi, The Goonies, Die Hard
Heida Reed, Poldark
John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
S.J. Watson, author of Before I Go To Sleep
Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist
Carl’s most recent interview was with comedian and actor, Bill Bailey, who has featured in many TV shows and comedy tours; the interview will be featured in Welsh lifestyle magazine Buzz this month. Recently, Carl also interviewed David Morrissey and Mackenzie Crook (these interviews were published in January 2018), and also attended a press-only event with Sky about getting involved with some of its shows that are due to air next year and beyond.
‘Ultimately I want this to be my full-time career and to secure sponsorship for the website,’ says Carl. ‘I’m slowly building my network and gaining more followers so I now get to interview some really interesting people. My dream interviews would be with Quentin Tarantino, who needs no introduction, and J.K. Rowling, as she started from home like me.’
Recently, Carl attended a Help for Heroes and X-Forces Enterprise six-day Business Experience self-employment course. He was the 100th wounded, injured or sick entrepreneur to complete it. He says he learned a great deal on the course, as well as gaining the support he needed to expand and develop his blog, and kick-starting his brand new endeavour: SwimHeroes.
‘X-Forces Enterprise and Help for Heroes have given me the motivation and, crucially, information on how to take my ideas to the next level. They provide an excellent support network and encourage a belief in yourself, that you really can achieve your goals. My wife said she has never seen me so motivated!
‘At Help for Heroes they understand what a discharged soldier has been through, with medical conditions that are not always visible. There are no questions about who you are, what you’ve been through or “What’s wrong with you?”. Everyone is treated the same and there is no stigma. It’s the same at X-Forces Enterprise, which is there to help the whole Armed Forces family.’
THE X-FORCES FACTOR
As Carl says, ‘X-Forces Enterprise is there to help the whole Armed Forces family’, and since its launch, the leading organisation for enterprise in the Armed Forces community has nurtured and guided more than 1,200 new businesses, and facilitated £10.4 million in seed funding. X-Forces Enterprise supports Service leavers, Veterans, spouses, reservists, cadets and dependants.
Want to follow in Carl’s footsteps? Find out more about running your own business and the support available at www.x-forces.com
Carl launched his other venture, SwimHeroes, in January. It’s a product of Carl’s swim instruction training, acquired while serving in the Army. He has always had a passion for swimming and teaching others, and also found swimming a really good way to help with his spinal injury recovery. To start with, Carl worked for other swim schools and taught at local schools, but he recently secured sessions at a local pool close to where he lives in South Wales. His plan is to teach all ages and all levels, in group and individual lessons, as well as teaching children with learning disabilities.
He is working alongside X-Forces Enterprise to develop his ideas and is receiving mentorship from that organisation’s experts. Following the initial Business Experience programme, he attended an X-Forces Enterprise Masterclass with CEO and founder Ren Kapur MBE and COO, and Chairman Martin Wing, where he discussed a more specific one-year plan for his blog.
Says Martin, ‘It has been a delight working with Carl on his business ideas. He is open and receptive to comments and ideas, yet he brings the determination and desire to make things work. He is already making a great success of his passion for teaching people to swim. I have every confidence he will do the same as a celebrity blogger.’
the 100th X-Forces
Enterprise and Help
for Heroes wounded,
injured or sick entrepreneur, with not only one but two
enterprises: In The
Words Of and
Carl is a man with a lot on his plate already, but he is certain that the move to self-employment is right for him. Although he currently works around childcare and school hours (he lives with his wife, daughter, four cats and a bulldog puppy!), he finds being an entrepreneur incredibly rewarding. On top of that, and also thanks to X-Forces Enterprise and Help for Heroes, says Carl, ‘I have motivated myself to train and hope to be selected for the Invictus Games in Sydney this year. I have been on one training camp and there’s another this month. Trials are in April.
‘In terms of self-employment advice, I’d say just do it. It’s hard and you’ve got to battle with some demons, but it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. With organisations like Help for Heroes and X-Forces Enterprise, there is so much support and advice there for you. They won’t hand it to you on a plate – they expect you to do the legwork to make it a reality – but they are there every step of the way. All I can say is a big thank you to both organisations for the opportunity. It’s amazing to see your hobby finally turning into your own business.’
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