Former operations manager Gordon Lawrie had always dreamed of running his own painting and decorating business.

Using his experience in project management, the Royal Navy veteran and qualified painter poured his heart into the plan, investigating the pros and cons of being a sole trader and writing a business case.

But that’s where his dream stalled and Gordon spent almost a year on benefits after being made redundant from his previous job - until he found the help he needed to take his idea to the next step through the New Enterprise Allowance.

Gordon, 42, of Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, said: “The NEA gave me the push I needed to get started. I had been so preoccupied with trying to find another job in contract and facilities management after I was made redundant that I took my eye off what I really wanted to do.

“My self-esteem had dropped through the floor and the longer I was unemployed my confidence in my own abilities rapidly disappeared.

“But once I’d signed up with the NEA scheme, it took less than a month to go from zero to trading – and it’s been fantastic ever since.”

Although the business is only seven months old, Gordon – who qualified as a painter and decorator while serving in the Navy - has work lined up for the next six months and is even hoping to take on another employee and an apprentice.

The NEA, launched by the Government in 2011 to provide support and mentoring for unemployed budding entrepreneurs, is available to claimants of Jobseekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance, or their partners, and lone parents or sick on Income Support.

Participants receive access to a volunteer business mentor who provide them with guidance and support as they develop their business plan and through the first six months of trading. Once participants have demonstrated they have a viable business proposition with the potential for growth in the future, they are able to access financial support.

Describing how he accessed NEA through our office in Scotland, Gordon said: “I applied for lots of jobs after I was made redundant after nine years as an Operations Manager, but the employment market for my skills was in recession and I was finding it difficult to secure full-time employment.”

“I had thought about becoming self-employed for a number of years and after mentioning it to my Jobcentre advisor, I was referred to the New Enterprise Allowance programme.”

Over the next few weeks, Gordon worked with Business Advisor Margaret Silver to strengthen his business plan. Gordon had already established there was a gap in the market for his painting and decorating business in his local area, and was encouraged to carry out further market research to look at his competitors and their charges.

Margaret was also keen to make sure that Gordon had calculated in his own living costs. Together they produced a personal survival budget, cash flow projections and profit and loss accounts to establish the viability of a new business, factoring in the assets he needed such as the purchase of a van and additional ladders.

They also discussed the potential growth of the business, calculating that Gordon could employ another tradesperson by the end of the first year and offer a training opportunity to an apprentice by the end of year two.

Meanwhile, Gordon’s efforts to market his business were receiving favourable feedback from potential customers, with people lining up to offer him work from small residential decorating jobs to large residential care homes.

This was exactly the sign Gordon was looking for and he was persuaded him take the leap forward to begin trading. Home Decor SC was launched on the 6 April 2015, with an order book to carry Gordon through the next two months, and with further work being scheduled over the next six months. Gordon has also secured a contract with a national insurance provider which will deliver ongoing and continuous work for the foreseeable future, providing remedial works to fire and flood hit properties in Scotland.

Breaking off from his latest decorating job, Gordon said: “Now that my business is up and running, I can see a future where I can provide for my family and I finally feel I’m in control of my life.” “The NEA was fantastic, not just because of the support and guidance I was given but having someone who believed I could do it.”

Margaret Silver, Gordon’s NEA advisor, said she was delighted by Gordon’s success, adding: “His whole demeanour has changed since our first meeting in March 2015 and he should feel great pride in what he has accomplished. Gordon has great business skills and the determination to succeed and we all wish him every success for the future.”