The Forces Enterprise Network (FEN) exists to provide members of our Armed Forces community with the skills, resources and practical tools needed to be successful in business. We bring our passion for business and commercial experience to our defence community, and together with our non-profit partners we are making a difference in the lives of tri-service members, veterans, reservists, spouses and their families.
The Armed Forces community is unique and the challenges of a military lifestyle are often difficult to understand unless personally experienced, which is why the FEN team and founder are all from a service background or currently living a military lifestyle. We are therefore perfectly placed to address the perceived barriers and challenges of starting a business, whether presented by the soldier transitioning from their service career, the veteran, or the spouse wanting to maintain a career while living a transient lifestyle.
We provide business start-up training and business support that encourage and build on the confidence of those wanting to become self-employed. We’ve found that self-employment is the best way to draw on the individuals’ unique talents, resilience and independent nature, and FEN is there to help turn their ideas into a reality.
The challenges faced by those in the military community are varied depending on their link with the services. For example the transitioning soldier with a strong service background may possess all the attributes needed to produce a product or deliver a service but may not have the commercial awareness to bring it to market or understand their statutory obligations in running a business. Alternatively, a spouse of a serving soldier may have been hindered in their career due to living a transient lifestyle, collecting a chequered CV as they move home every two to three years. Spouses often experience a gap in their professional education, moving sideways in their careers, missing out on promotions and finding it difficult to secure work.
We've found that self-employment is the best way to draw on the individuals' unique talents
These differences are often enough to discourage members of the military community from taking the step into self-employment, which is why organisations like FEN are important as they bridge the gap between the commercial and defence sectors and blend the acumen of both environments. The result is a talent pool of individuals with rounded skillsets and the ideal aptitude for business.
Our training programmes and workshops follow a standardised curriculum but are tailored to acknowledge the uniqueness of our membership. FEN training and mentorship are delivered by experienced instructors from our partner network, ensuring that the transitioning service member and the wider military community have access to practical resources and the right advice needed to start and operate an SME.
FEN’s corporate arm is our business solutions consortium, which is based on a virtual agency model. This provides any organisation with outsourced business requirements, from PR, marketing and web development to graphic design, administration and financial services. All projects are managed by a consortium of professional freelancers with an Armed Forces connection. Bringing together professional freelancers from the military community creates a perfect solution for those that move across the globe with the Armed Forces commitment. FEN also offers a business start-up programme delivered by the University of Wolverhampton. The free training programme ‘Supporting the Unsung Hero’ is for the dependants of service personnel, veterans and reservists and is funded by the Armed Forces Covenant and HSBC corporate sponsorship. In 2015, FEN partnered with the university to offer extended online business support to their programme delegates and as a result now operates a network of business support hubs across the UK’s Ministry of Defence bases and British Forces Germany, Belgium and Cyprus.
This grass-roots support has strengthened the outreach FEN can provide to its members in their local communities and encourages peer supervision. We have created a unique business network of entrepreneurs from a previously undervalued, high-quality resource of professionals – our Armed Forces community. We will continue to build this network, and invite anyone with an interest to get in touch.
Contact us for more information or to discuss your business requirements:
By Chrstine Dedman, Director at the Forces Enterprise Network (FEN)