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Luxstar Ltd

Luxstar Ltd

A prestige private chauffeur business launches in South Wales with support from Business Wales, the Development Bank of Wales and Newport City Council.

Faced with redundancy due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Carl Harris from Newport seized the opportunity to turn his experience and passion into his own business. With support from the Welsh Government’s Business Wales service, Carl was able to source finance and successfully set up Luxstar Ltd in November 2020.

  • successfully incorporated
  • £24,676 investment secured
  • commitment to the Business Wales Green Growth Pledge

Introduction to business

With over 8 years of professional driving experience, Newport entrepreneur Carl Harris set up his own prestige chauffeur business, Luxstar Ltd, covering corporate, private and sporting events, meetings, airport and seaport transfers, amongst others.

Why did you decide to set up your own business?

From the age of 12, I have always worked for a living. My first job was delivering newspapers and handing out leaflets. I also had a third income at this point, which came from cutting grass and washing dishes for my family. All this taught me to be independent and helped me gain excellent housekeeping, organisational and customer service skills.

Later on in life, I went on to study aeronautical engineering and motor mechanics but decided this career was not for me. At 23, in 2013, I accidentally landed a job with Europe’s largest chauffeur company completing high-end work daily.

After an enhanced vetting, I was put forward for diplomatic work, which saw me work with the American Embassy providing services to congress, NATO, the U.S coastguard, presidents and former presidents. My passion grew and grew. The experience gained and the people I met made me the man I am today. I was able to interact with people from all walks of life, which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, in September 2020, I along with 400 others were made redundant due to Covid-19.

The rapports I had gained with people over the years, the knowledge taken from the clients I had driven, and the trust I was given led me on to explore opportunities to start my own chauffeur business with the high standards I was used to. Market research suggested I had a great USP. In 2017, I started writing down problems that clients would mention or I had observed myself. I realised that if I could iron out these issues, I could provide a similar service, if not better: I ensure every journey is a memorable and a safe experience, delivered in a relaxed and professional manner. I have an attention to detail, cater for disabled clients or clients with special needs, have a personal touch, and ensure I am reliable, punctual, consistent and dedicated, available to listen if clients want a chat, offering confidentiality and impartiality. Rectifying issues as they arise to create a great service. In June 2020, whilst serving my garden leave, I contacted Business Wales and started working with my adviser Melanie Phipps. From there, with the help of my partner and the support from Mel, I wrote my business plan and applied for the much needed funding on which my lifelong aspiration depended on.

What challenges did you face?

My first challenge was coming up with a robust business plan. I had a lot of knowledge of working in the transportation industry but no experience in running my own company. I conducted extensive market research and included all my findings in my business plan, which was heavily scrutinised by the Development Bank of Wales.

Once I secured the loan, I had 45 days to prove the expenditure as per my business plan. My first job was to source a car. When I finally saw one for sale, which ticked all the boxes, I had to travel to London to purchase it. However, once at the dealership, I quickly realised the car was wrongly advertised and in a very bad condition, so we walked away with no sale. This put a lot of pressure on the business as we wasted a lot of time and funds. Two stressful weeks went by and another car came up over 5 hours away – but this was the one.

To be a chauffeur, you are required to be licensed by your local authority and hold a Private Hire license as well as an operator’s license. I managed to get the operator’s license fairly quickly thanks to Alan Leen from the Newport licensing team. However, my first major delay was obtaining the private hire license. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, Newport licensing team were unable to give dates for drivers to sit their knowledge tests, which the local authority had to follow. This was very worrying as it set my entire business launch date back without any idea of when I could progress. This would ultimately alter my cashflow predictions and I would be left without an income. I came up with a temporary solution to use my licenses from my previous job and have my car licensed in London.

 Although this was an added expense, I managed to sub-contract for a London-based operator, which I am hoping to turn into a long-term working relationship.

In the meantime, I was also overseeing the development of my website, finalising the logo, business cards and flyers, registering with an accountant, creating social media accounts, promoting my business, purchasing equipment and setting up accounts. The grant I secured from Newport Council helped me recover 40% of the cost of the computer and website design, which I have now reinvested into the business.

In Mid-November, I finally sat the knowledge test so I can apply for the private hire license in Newport. This was such a huge relief! Starting a new business can be challenging but I would like to tell everybody considering their own venture – it is incredible how much support is out there.

Business Wales support

Carl attended a Business Wales start-up webinar and benefitted from advisory support to develop his business plan and cash flow forecasts. This helped him obtain crucial funding from the Development Bank of Wales and Newport City Council /UK Steel Enterprise to launch Luxstar Ltd.

Business Wales’ adviser Melanie Phipps helped Carl with his market research, legal set-up, pricing, insurance and bank accounts. He also signed up to the Business Wales Green Growth Pledge, committing to reducing his impact on the environment by preventing waste and pollution. By ensuring his car is well maintained and fitted with the right equipment, Carl will minimise his fuel usage and reduce Luxstar’s NO2 and CO2 emissions.

Outcomes

  • successfully incorporated
  • £24,676 investment secured
  • commitment to the Business Wales Green Growth Pledge

I would like to thank my adviser Mel ever so much for all her guidance and expertise. From our first call back in August to where we are today, she has supported me all the way in bringing Luxstar to life. Starting up any business brings many challenges, let alone in the middle of a global pandemic and self-doubt can easily set in.

I felt any queries I had were answered in such a constructive, holistic and reassuring manner, filled with information, which played a massive part in my confidence and gave me even more drive to make it possible.

After a month working with Mel, I submitted my business plan and cash flow forecast for a loan of £24,192 to the Development Bank of Wales. This was a pivotal moment, which would change my life forever. Thanks to Mel and Claire Vokes from the Development Bank, I passed their scrutiny first time and secured the full loan to start my business.

With the finances sorted, there was a lot of work to do. I had to purchase equipment, create a website, a company identity, create policies, sort out insurances and compliances, where Mel's expertise of running a business came extremely handy.

Due to the pandemic, Luxstar encountered its first delay and I found myself going straight back to the business plan and contacting Mel each week via phone and email. She introduced me to Kim Carter of Newport City Council’s Business Services Department, who helped me obtain a start-up grant.

Mel is a true asset to Business Wales and an inspiration to entrepreneurs. I highly recommend her services, Business Wales and all the experience provided throughout the process to anyone who has asked me how I formed Luxstar Ltd.

If you want to read more success stories of how Business Wales has helped other people like you to start or grow their businesses, visit https://businesswales.gov.wales/case-studies or follow @_businesswales / @_busnescymru on Twitter.

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