The father of three had tended Ceredigion’s parks and gardens for four years before he was made redundant in 2014.
He picked himself up and set up as a self-employed gardener and handyman. But when misfortune struck again, in the form of a condition which limited the use of his hands, he decided to turn his passion for antiques into a new career.
With help from the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA), a guidance and support service for unemployed people delivered in Swansea by public services provider A4e in partnership with Business Sense Associates, Meurig opened Harbourside Antiques and Collectibles.
He is now getting financial support from the NEA while he ploughs all his takings back into the shop and stock.
Meurig said: “After being made redundant for the first time in my life I decided I wanted to be my own boss so I didn’t have to go through that again.
“The gardening and maintenance business was going fine but I needed surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome which was causing pain and restricting mobility in my wrists so I had to stop. “I have been really interested in antiques for about 20 years and have a lot of knowledge. There are no antiques shops round here so when a commercial property became available near my home, I looked in to opening one up.”
A friend told his wife about the NEA, launched by the Government in 2011 to provide support and mentoring for unemployed budding entrepreneurs claiming Jobseekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance and lone parents on income support.
Participants receive access to a volunteer business mentor who will provide them with guidance and support as they develop their business plan and through the first 6 months of trading. Once participants have demonstrated they have a viable business proposition with the potential for growth in the future, they are able to access financial support.
Meurig, who was on Employment and Support Allowance because of his hands, had his business plan accepted and he now receives a weekly grant and access to support and advice to get him through the difficult first few months.
He said: “It’s been enormously helpful. I was nervous and excited when we opened on April 1. We have had a steady stream of visitors but while we’ve been waiting for the tourist season to start I’ve had to put every penny that goes in the till into paying bills and buying stock. The NEA grant has made sure I can get by".
“It feels brilliant to be my own boss and to be doing what I love. We’re heading in the right direction and I feel confident about the future.”
A4e has now combined with Avanta to form PeoplePlus, part of a group of companies operated by Staffline Group Plc, a leading outsourcing organisation. Following the recent acquisition of A4e by Staffline, PeoplePlus will be formally launched later this year, making it one of the largest welfare to work providers in the UK, delivering Government contracts including the NEA and Work Programme.