In his early fifties, David Prest sat in a hospital cafe whilst his wife underwent surgery. Having just been made redundant for the fourth time, the dad-of-two was “not in a particularly good place” and worried about how he would support his wife and his family. But little did he know that his next idea was sitting just a few feet away…
David, from Lytham St Annes, spent many years working in Marketing, Business Development and Sales, across a range of different sectors including – most recently – the healthcare sector. As a “people person” who enjoys making a difference to the lives of others, David says that naturally, his career highlights include fundraising for a cancer care charity and selling diagnostic equipment in an attempt to transform the lives of people living with diabetes across the UK.
“I went through quite a painful transition of recognising that I was no longer being valued in the same way I was when I was an integral part of a large international organisation...but I had to keep going”
Although David has always loved his work and received multiple nominations and awards for “Salesman of the Year” throughout his career, he was still left without work on several occasions due to company cost-cutting strategies. Noticing that it was becoming harder to find alternative work at a similar level as he was getting older, his confidence dwindled.
Speaking about his most recent redundancies, the family man says, “The sense of loss was enormous and the impact initially was that you have to accept that it’s happened and look for an alternative. However, over a period of time when you’re not successful at acquiring a position at a similar level, it impacts quite dramatically on your confidence and self-worth.
“I went through quite a painful transition of recognising that I was no longer being valued in the same way I was when I was an integral part of a large international organisation. It became extremely difficult to maintain the momentum whilst looking for alternatives, but I had to keep going.”
“My wife Linda is my sunshine every morning. She’s the most important thing in my life and for me to see her life force and her brightness impacted was, and still is, so upsetting”
Things came to a head when David was in his early fifties. He had just been made redundant from a charity fundraising role – where he’d been for three years – at the same time that his wife was taken ill. In a single desperate moment, he made a decision which would allow him to use his years of industry and life experience to take control of his own future, by working for himself.
He explains, “I found myself yet again looking to make sure that I could keep a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. This came at a time when my wife had developed some serious health issues that would require five surgical interventions over the next six years. My wife Linda is my sunshine every morning. She’s the most important thing in my life and for me to see her life force and her brightness impacted was, and still is, so upsetting.
“On one of those visits to hospital, when she was having a surgical intervention, I was sitting in the hospital cafe, asking for support and guidance – in a spiritual sense, I suppose. I was glancing across from one end of the hospital cafe to the other when I saw a vintage ice-cream tricycle in the corner of the room. It was a lightbulb moment and I knew that’s what I was going to do. I was going to purchase a vintage ice-cream tricycle and set up a small vintage-themed catering business, delivering service in and around Blackpool and the Fylde coast. Subsequently, some time later, the business which is now known as Vintage Ice-Cream Experiences was born.”
David utilised his sales and business skills as a sole proprietor to develop his business over several years. As well as selling ice-cream on the seafront, he also supports local events throughout the year, and runs a few of his own including a Mr Rabbit tea party during half-term and Santa’s grotto experience over the Christmas period.
Speaking about a typical day as a business owner, he says “The business is all about delivering delight and joy to every face that I meet because in my mind if I delivered that then everything else would come and it has done. We have a vending operation, but we also support local events and offer our services for corporate functions too. I have to do research and forward plan to make sure that my events diary is as full as possible. I need to ensure that everything is managed and catered for, in terms of stock levels, hygiene, cleanliness, legislation, licences etc. and then I have to go out there and deliver the service. I make sure that every individual customer considers themselves to be the first of that day by greeting them with the greatest of enthusiasm and exuberance.
Laughing, he continues, “I take on the personality of Mr Gino Gelato, whose mission is to tantalise the taste buds of the tourists who visit Blackpool! There’s a bit of a closet thespian in me and Gino allows me to explore that whilst interacting with all my customers.”
As David’s business began to take off, it caught the attention of the local and national media and David found himself appearing in several newspaper articles. He was also approached by Channel 5, who featured him in their six-part documentary series, Bargain-Loving Brits in Blackpool, and ITV who invited him to take part in Britain’s Got Talent.
Reflecting on his Britain’s Got Talent experience, he says, “The directors suggested that I go for a Guinness World Record attempt – producing as many ice-cream cones as I could in one minute. So, I wheeled my vintage ice-cream truck onto the stage and gave it a go. I achieved 25 of the 21 that was required, however, I did engage the support of Ant and Dec as part of the attempt. I was extremely blinkered and focused as you can imagine, so I wasn’t aware that when I was passing the ice-creams to the boys, that one of them was licking them before he put them on the tray. When the Guinness World Record rep came to inspect the ice-creams, six were disallowed because they’d been licked, so I actually only achieved 19! But the roar in the auditorium was phenomenal. It was an exhausting couple of days, but a great experience.”
“I believe that part of my life purpose has been to help heal people, so I’m now also retraining to become a person-centred psychotherapeutic Counsellor...”
Several years after making the decision to become his own boss, David is approaching his 60th birthday and feels content with his current situation. But, he’s already taking steps to create a safety net for his future:
“I feel that working for myself gives me more control over my future, but it’s scary because if you don’t achieve what you set out to, then you won’t meet your financial obligations. Therefore, you find that you don’t work 40 hours a week – instead your work just becomes your way of life. But the great thing about working for yourself is that you do have flexibility and can choose when you take time out after you’ve spent those first years driving the business forward.”
“I’m a fit man, but the physicality of pushing the tricycle around the seafront in Blackpool has started to have an effect on my ageing body. My mind, drive and vitality are still strong, but I’ve noticed that in the last 18 months, the recovery time from the physical work is becoming longer. I’m not resigned to lying down and giving up, but I recognise the reality of the situation.
He continues, “Working in the healthcare sector, led me to believe that part of my life purpose has been to help heal people, so I’m now also retraining to become a person-centred psychotherapeutic Counsellor alongside running my business. The one thing that I hope I will still have later in life is my mental faculties, which I want to use to support people who need guidance to address their own personal issues.
“I currently study at college part-time and it’s a challenge to fit my studies around my business and looking after my wife. I’ve also had to take a loan out as a student which doesn’t bode well, but I see it as an investment in my future. We all face our own individual challenges, but I have no option but to continue along that pathway to secure a future for us both.”
“I’ve learnt that you don’t need to try and take over the world in one big step...”
Having spent the last few years building his business from the ground up, David shares what the experience has taught him:
“I think I’m more content these days and the beauty of it is, I’m able to take time out to do things that I choose to do. I would love to give hope to others who are just starting out on that journey. Starting a business requires careful research and planning, but it also takes strength and courage. I think if you feel the fear, then do it anyway! You have to break through some of those fear barriers but that’s easier to do if you thoroughly research your idea to minimise risk.
“I’ve also learnt that you don’t need to try and take over the world in one big step. It’s all about stepping stones, taking steady considered steps to reach the other side of the river and reach your goals.”