A Blackpool businessman who sold off his car wash businesses is hoping to inspire marginalised young people to follow his example.
Sam Smith who ran Excellent UK in Common Edge Road for 15 years is now the driving force behind Support the Youth and community interest company.
Its aim is to help youngsters get the basic employment skills needed to find work or start their own business.
Sam grew up in a tough area of Bolton and when younger found himself in care, sleeping rough and had a spell in prison but after the birth of his first child turned his life around.
He said: “We moved to Blackpool and I started my car wash business with a sponge and a bucket from the boot of my car.
“It grew over the years and we moved into other forms of cleaning. We must have cleaned 40 to 50,000 cars a year at one point.
“I noticed that many of the young people I took on had little or no basic skills. We had to organise training and I thought that was something worthwhile to do and something needed in Blackpool where a lot of areas have low aspirations and expectations.
“After 15 years and four children I decided to sell the business to concentrate on this. For one of our first projects we have teamed up with South Shore Academy. We have 12 youngsters on the project which is about creating entrepreneurs.
“There is a mixture of children of varying abilities and they are setting up their own business, a vouchers scheme to give them the skills they need in the world of work.
“We want to inspire and enthuse young people who have become a bit disengaged and empower them.”
Two of his team have been through periods of long unemployment and are keen to use their experience to help young people.
Bradley Jones from Poulton studied sport at college and was aiming to become a PE teacher but found university life did not suit him.
He aid: “I found it hard and dropped out. It was 18 months before I found any work after that. I joined Support the Youth in August and have really enjoyed the school project. Working in a school was what I always wanted to do.”
Larry Cutress studied dance and drama and after working for Disney, was part of a project working with young people in Blackpool until it ended and he was left unemployed for a year.
He said: “I met Sam through the Job Centre and started volunteering and am loving every minute of it.”
Support the Youth, whose patron is former Blackpool footballer Mickey Mellon, has opened its first shop in Chapel Street, Poulton to fund its activities.