Former soldier to open business with just £200

David Freeman thinks he will be wiser about business this time round. Picture: Lesley Martin
David Freeman thinks he will be wiser about business this time round. Picture: Lesley Martin
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An ex-soldier whose first business on civvy street collapsed is bouncing back – and ­aiming to launch a new venture in 28 days with just £200 in his pocket.

David Freeman a former captain, launched Marchmont cafe Freemans on Spottiswoode Road after leaving regular service in 2011, but was forced to shut the business three months ago because of “many failings behind the scenes”.

The ex-infantryman is now baring his soul in a tell-all blog dedicated to examining the mistakes that led to his failure, and documenting his four-week sprint to develop a new money-spinning idea.

Mr Freeman said: “I left the army with no experience of business, and certainly no experience of the industry I was going into. I did all right on the surface, but due to many failings behind the scenes it collapsed.

“I wrote in a notebook, ‘Why did the coffee shop fail?’ and did a spider diagram of all the reasons. I filled the page in four or five minutes.

“I just want to be honest. Very few people are when they start failing. I think we need to be more candid about our ­mistakes, more publicly.”

The former soldier from St Albans in England hopes his blog will help change attitudes towards failure. “In the UK, we don’t tend to talk about failure,” he said. “We’re very private people, and I think there’s a stigma to having failed.

“I’m trying to combat that. Having failed doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to fail again. In fact, it probably puts you in a stronger position.

“I haven’t told anyone yet. I’ve been thinking for months and months, job searching at the same time, but I’m under real-life pressure, and it has taken me three months to think of this one idea.”

His new venture remains a secret, but Mr Freeman says that with just £200 of start-up capital, the business will be web-based and draw on his existing talents, rather than a new foray into the restaurant industry.

“There’s not much you can do with £200,” he said. “It’s going to be web-based, and it’s not going to be another coffee shop. I’m not going to buy anything physical, there isn’t enough cash. I’ve learnt my lesson. Every penny has a ­business case behind it.”

Given his previous experience, Mr Freeman is keen to stress that his 28-day challenge might not succeed, but hopes that even if he can’t get a new business off the ground, potential employers will appreciate his dedication. The blog has been read by 2000 people in just three days, with messages of support from his former cafe clients.

“The feedback has been awesome,” he said. “It goes some way to ease the blow to think that people are rooting for me.

“Running a business is hard, hard work and you almost get entrenched in thinking that people are against you, but that’s not true.”