The Mission

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How did you come up with the idea for your enterprise?

I have always wanted to run my own company and, having left the army, I worked as a property manager in London for a number of years. I managed some car parks with badly run car washes in them and thought that it was an opportunity to take a lucrative industry and professionalise it. At the same time I wanted to help veterans who were returning from Afghanistan and Iraq and leaving the army but finding the transition to civilian life difficult. I mashed the two together and Urban Car Spa was born.

What is your educational and/or professional background?

I studied Geography at the University of Nottingham and then joined the army via Sandhurst. I spent ten years in the army doing things as wide ranging as Operational Tours in Bosnia and Iraq and Trooping the Colour. Having left the army I then spent 7 years as a property manager in London before setting up UCS.

What were the reasons and purpose for setting up your social enterprise?

Veterans need all the help they can get. A lot of them have seen and done things that no one should be asked to do and as a result, they sometimes have trouble reintegrating back into society. They can also become very institutionalised whilst in the forces. UCS gives them a job when they might not be able to get one elsewhere and allows them to work in a team environment that is familiar to them.

How did you start putting your idea into action? eg business planning etc

I started with a comprehensive business plan which I then showed to as many people as possible and got honest, constructive criticism. I then re-wrote it about five times until I was happy with it and then I went to seek investment. I did a Dragon’s Den style pitch to about 80 potential investors and managed to walk away with some interesting parties which turned into investment. Later that year we opened our first site.

How did you let people and potential clients/customers know what you were doing and market your organisation?

Marketing is always a critical part of any business and we have always marketed to our audience. Good signage, leafleting and SMS marketing to current clients have always been a critical part of what we do.

How did the SEIP bootcamp help you to develop your business/strategy etc?

 I am working with business support team at the Innovation Centre in Bath to map the next elements of our business. We have some exciting plans and we are that crucial stage where we can get out of working in the spare room and progress into an office space.

 What are your long-term goals for your organisation and aims for the future?

We aim to be the largest owner run car wash provider in the country and maintain our high rate of employing veterans (currently 90%).

What do you do in your spare time?

 I enjoy spending time with my wife, watching my eldest boy playing sport, my daughter acting and singing and spending time with my youngest boy. I also enjoy walking around the Mendips and supporting Bath Rugby when I have some time to myself.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of setting up their own social enterprise?

 It can be a very rewarding experience, however it won’t be without problems, so make sure you have everything as well organised as possible before you start.

Would you recommend the Social Enterprise Programme business support to others and why?

Yes - The involvement with the programme allows you to explore new ideas with people who are like-minded and sympathetic. Being an entrepreneur can be a very lonely experience and having people who are genuinely interested in helping is of great value.

Supported social business:

Urban Car Spa

The UK's premium ex-forces' car wash

Interview with Founder, Jonny Rees-Davies


"It is a great opportunity for individuals or start-ups to gain support when they are still subject to external influence.We found the experience invaluable, as it helped to focus our plans for the future substantially."

Food Drop

Everest and Miranda - Startup Bootcamp March 2017

"WPA will have been providing free play services supporting the needs of BANES communities for 25 years, and we want to make sure we will be here supporting local communities in another 25 years!"

Wansdyke Play Association 

Stacey Pottinger - Startup Bootcamp March 2017

Home / Case Study - Urban Car Spa

Military Veterans leave the armed forces for all sorts of reasons; they may be voluntary, medical or redundancy based. Whatever the reason, veterans can find it difficult to adjust into a society that they have been institutionalised from for their career. UCS is designed to help them make that progression.

Urban Car spa is a fast growing business that operates high quality car washes throughout the UK. UCS is also developing a skills academy that will use funding to develop veterans skills and train them to do jobs for life. The academy will bridge the funding gap between the veterans and the opportunities made available to them through Enhanced Learning Credits for which many of them are eligible. Getting veterans into sustained employment is the final goal of UCS.

UCS has joined the programme as the team prepares for investment to take advantage of lucrative business expansion opportunities.

Find out more and apply for the Social Enterprise and Innovation Startup Bootcamp or Business Incubation