Jamaican restaurant Irie Jerk opens with help from SSI Task Force funding
A former steelworker has opened an authentic Jamaican restaurant and takeaway in Middlesbrough with help from the SSI Task Force.
Mark Hill, 38, from Redcar, has set up the business to bring the flavours and cooking techniques from Jamaica where Mark was born, all the way to Parliament Road in Middlesbrough.
The restaurant, which received funding through the Business Advice Start Up Fund, serves homemade Jamaican food that Mark cooks himself.
"I'm originally from Kingston in Jamaica, where the cooking skills and recipes are handed down by generations. I was very close to my grandmother, who taught me how to do it.
"At Irie Jerk, I want to give people an experience. We have just changed the menu, and spiced it up a bit, but I want to emphasise that it isn't overly spicy. Theres something here for everyone to try."
Working as a production operator at SSI, Mark was among the 2,200 people who lost their jobs in 2015, when SSI in Redcar closed its doors.
"It was a really hard time," explained Mark, "this was supposed to be a career for life, and I had only worked there for four years."
Mark explained that he had joined the British army when he was younger, and served a few tours, but needed to be medically discharged after being shot in the leg.
"After SSI, I was really fed up. I had already lost what I thought would be two life-long careers and thought to myself, why even bother getting a job if Im just going to lose it again? Thats why I decided to set up my own business, so I could do something for myself."
Mark heard about the Task Force through two of his friends who had gone into painting and decorating.
"They put me in touch with the Task Force. I received funding which really helped me get going, but it wasnt just the financial support, they assisted me with my business plan, the lease, and all the receipts.
"For me, cooking is definitely the easy part," laughed Mark, "I'm passionate and proud of my culture, so it gives me a buzz when people try Jamaican and Caribbean food for the first time and tell me they enjoy it, thats what I love the most."
Amanda Skelton, chair of the SSI Task Force, said: "Mark clearly has a passion for cooking and I'm pleased that the Task Force has been able to help him into a new career after SSI closed.
"So far we've helped over 260 new businesses start up, and money is still available to help people who are interested in doing something new. When SSI closed, many people took the first job that came along which in many cases meant a big cut in pay. We are offering targeted support to help people improve their circumstances by setting up in business or training for a better career."
To find out more about Irie Jerk, please search for Irie Jerk Jamaican Takeaway on Facebook, or visit the restaurant at 104 Parliament Road, Middlesbrough.
For more information about the Task Force funds available, please visit the website at www.ssitaskforce.co.uk
Task Force funding helps former SSI worker start his own business
SSI Task Force Funding has helped former worker Alan Thomas become the 250th individual to realise dreams of self-employment.
Alan, 59, was formerly employed as a process technician at SSI before it closed and he was hit with redundancy. In a career spanning 30 years at ICI followed by four years at SSI, Alan had a substantial skill-set under his belt that he realised would kick-start his new business as a plumbing and heating engineer, trading as Alan Thomas Plumbing & Heating Ltd.
Alan needed advice and some financial support to get his business idea off the ground and was inspired by the SSI Task Force Fund to source help on everything from drafting a business plan to sound financial planning.
Alan said: "I can't thank the Task Force enough for all the advice and support they have provided. It's been invaluable and has really helped to give my new business the boost it required. I'm looking forward to taking on staff and growing the business."
Alan is now looking to employ apprentices as the demand for his company's services is already starting to grow.
Amanda Skelton, Chief Executive of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and Chair of the SSI Task Force, said: "I'm delighted for Alan who, like many others, has shown real ambition and hard work in starting his own business.
"It was a devastating closure but I am pleased to report 18 months on the success of the Business Advice Start-up scheme. The resilience of the people and the entrepreneurial spirit has inspired us all through a difficult time."
SSI Task Force Funding remains available for individuals and businesses affected by the closure and more information can be found by visiting www.ssitaskforce.co.uk
Kevin set for new future thanks to SSI Task Force funding
Redcar-based Kevin Fuller is set to make the switch to being his own boss thanks to funding from the SSI Task Force.
Kevin has worked at the steelworks since 1977, starting as a Boiler Maker and spending the last ten years as an Asset Integrity Inspector.
He continues to carry out this role on site but is planning for the future and decided to set up his own business as a chimney sweep. Kevin now works evenings and weekends, sweeping chimneys from Whitby and Pickering to Easington.
Kevin said: "My dad worked at ICI in the 1970s and 1980s, and was a part-time chimney sweep between shifts. I would help him load his gear in and out of the van.
"He's really proud of me for following in his footsteps and would jump at the chance to come along on jobs, although he's now in his eighties.
"My dads challenged me to beat his record of doing 19 chimneys in one morning, although with each chimney taking me an hour and a half, I think that will be an impossible task!
"The Task Force helped me get things off the ground with help to buy a van and specialist equipment as well as accreditation from the National Association of Chimney Sweeps. The support has been invaluable."
Amanda Skelton, Chair of the SSI Task Force, said: "Kevin is continuing the family tradition and his new business is going from strength to strength.
"So far the Task Force funding has seen over 260 new businesses started and we are keen to make sure they are all a success. The help to get your ideas off the ground is really the start of the process.
"I want people to know that the Task Force is still here to help. Almost 18 months on from the closure we know that some people who are in jobs are looking for alternative careers or to start a new business.
"Specialist training and business start-up grant support is still available please contact your work coach or the National Careers Service on 01642 242959."
Please visit the SSI Task Force website at www.ssitaskforce.co.uk for further details on the funding and support available.
Visit the SSI Task Force Case Study Archive for more information about business that have been supported by the Task Force.