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Prime Minister Honours Local Entrerpeneur

imgID1128544One local business woman is grabbing the attention of some of the big hitters in Westminster.
Hayley Thomas, 30, from Haverfordwest is the young entrerpeneur who was responsible for creating The Lions Den play centre on Snowdrop Lane, in Haverfordwest. She was recently rewarded for her hard work by being invited to Downing Street as a model success story of the Government scheme, the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA).
The scheme was launched by the Government in 2011 and gives Jobseekers Allowance claimants, who wish to start their own business, extra financial help and business guidance. Under the scheme participants are provided with a business mentor and a weekly allowance worth over £1200 over 26 weeks. They are also able to facilitate a loan to help with start up costs.
Hayley Thomas was invited to a showcase reception at the Prime Minister’s residence. Local MP, Stephen Crabb, introduced her to David Cameron ahead of the event, whilst describing her as, ‘a great Pembrokeshire success story’. He went on to say,
“It’s fantastic to see Hayley’s business achievements being recognised by the Prime Minister in this way. She has such incredible motivation and drive and has overcome some tough personal circumstances. Hayley is providing real employment opportunities to local people and a fun environment for youngsters. I look forward to watching the business go from strength to strength”.
The Herald spoke with Hayley this week, at Lions Den, to find out a little bit more about her growing business and what gave her the inspiration to start it.
“I used to be an NVQ assessor, for nearly two years. I was on a reasonable wage, so I had committed to my own house and car, and then, without warning, got made redundant during the height of the recession. I applied for sixty to seventy jobs within six months and I didn’t get anywhere. I had to go on Jobseekers Allowance. No one wants to sign on; you want to go out and work. You can feel like that’s it but the job centre staff, however, are fantastic. I soon went over to the NEA and was assigned a mentor, an ex business man. I got on a scheme whereby you get money per week as security (whilst starting up your business).”
She went on to sing the praises of the NEA.
“The NEA funding did me good. The money they gave me was for myself and not the business. I had to have a project plan. With the NEA I could claim and trade; it was a security net.”
When asked how easy it was to initiate the business, she spoke of the investment required and the hours she put into getting it off the ground. About her meeting in London Hayley said,
“When I was at 10 Downing Street you speak to a lot of Ministers. I was talking to Levi Roots (Reggae Reggae Sauce) and the employment Minister, Mark Hoban, overheard us and asked me to be part of an article to show what you can do (using the NEA). The Prime Minister announced another seventy million was being reinvested so it’s great to be a part of that. At the time I opened the business there were some people in my boat (unemployed) and it was great I could offer them jobs. That felt good and it’s overwhelming that I am now supporting people in their jobs”.
When asked what gave Hayley the idea for business she stated that,
“I used to be a Thompson rep and wanted to bring a bit of tourism to Pembrokeshire. We chose the play equipment, all jungle themed, and I designed all the artwork, doing all the painting myself. We open the play centre from Monday to Sunday and, on Monday, dance classes for children. I feel there needs to be more on the physical side for children to do. Our nursery runs from Monday to Friday”.
In terms of how her business will grow she highlighted a key area that she feels needs addressing, locally,
“I’d like to look at more focus on children with additional needs. There’s not enough for them. If I could get the funding through grants or something, I’d open up a sensory room. It’s a need in Pembrokeshire and no one caters for it. It would be nice to have some support from our local Government”.
Whether that wish comes true or not, there is no doubt this remarkable young entrerpeneur will continue to impress with her business, succeeding during a difficult time.