A teacher told me I’d never even be a cleaner at ASDA… now I’ve got my own business

Thanks to the Alison at the Paisley Daily Express for a great article on our Founder and Service Delivery Manager, Jordan McPhail.

Read his story below:

A teenage entrepreneur who was once told by a teacher he’d never even be a cleaner in Asda has set-up a successful social enterprise.

Jordan McPhail launched Aspire Community Solutions when he was just 15 and now four years later, it employs eight people, including Jordan, gives work opportunities to people struggling with employment and helps transform communities.

Not bad for a 19-year-old from Ferguslie Park. Jordan said: “People think if you come from Ferguslie Park you’ll never amount to anything.

I’ve broken that stigma. “I went to St Fergus’ Primary then St Andrew’s Academy, where one of my teachers told me I wouldn’t even be a cleaner in Asda. “I started getting everything up and running with Aspire while I was doing my Standard Grade exams. I got good results, so I must have done ok.”

Jordan went to West College Scotland on day release from school and studied an NPA in construction, NC in building environment and HNC in construction management.

His dad James is a builder and used to take Jordan out on jobs during summer holidays which sparked his interest in construction. But he admits his current job has come as a surprise.

Jordan said: “I never thought I’d be the person managing the company, especially at 19. “It’s a bit of a shock myself.” Aspire Community Solutions is a community building business aimed at improving the local community by tidying it up and opening up green spaces.

Its services include construction, landscaping, civil engineering, cleaning and property maintenance.

They’ve just won a £27,200 close cleaning contract for East Renfrewshire Council, while other major contracts are under discussion with local authorities.

Jordan admitted he’s had to fight to be taken seriously because of his age. He said: “One of the biggest issues in getting councils on board is my age. I go into procurement meetings and they ask me if I’m definitely Jordan. There’s a huge stigma that I can’t do it.”

Being a social enterprise is crucial for Jordan, who is passionate about ploughing money and resources back into people’s communities and improving them for everyone. “Big companies have a massive turnover, but, a lot of that is profit,” he said. “I like the difference of being a social enterprise. “The great thing about it is that we reinvest the profits back into the community. “The people who use us want to use a social enterprise, they want to know the money is going back into the community and training people. “We’re getting paid for contract work, improving the community and employing local people.” Jordan has always been passionate about community work.

Indeed, back in 2015 he featured on the front page of the Paisley Daily Express after his group Renfrewshire Environmental and Restoration Group (RERG) – the precursor to Aspire – hoped to raise funding to restore the Half-Time School in Paisley.

He said: “I’ve always been somebody quite involved in the community. I was always outside playing on my bike or walking my dog. I wanted to do something to help, not just work and get a wage. I wanted to do something that did both. “I was doing things for Glenburn Tenants and Residents Association and Shirley McLean from the board there said she’d be one of my trustees, which you need to have as a charity, “She said she could see this potentially going somewhere and got a few other people on board as trustees.”

Aspire currently employs five full-time staff, including Jordan, who’s the service delivery manager, and three part-time. A lot of its workers are employed on contracts as the work comes in. Jordan said: “We take on anybody who’s facing significant barriers to employment. We provide a whole wraparound support package as well. We can help people get the right benefits paperwork. We employed an ex-offender and we helped sort out their housing. “We worked with Mirren Park School, in Paisley, and took on some of their pupils to give them work experience. “I’ve seen the difference it can make to people who work with us and it makes my job worth it.

“You get satisfaction from seeing a community space improved, and satisfaction from seeing young people come to us who’ve left school or been in trouble with the police, making a change in their lives.”

The enterprise has grown at a great pace, which meant Jordan, who also has a big brother Kieran, 21, had to tell his parents James and Sharon, about it. “I didn’t tell them when I started it,” he admitted. “I’ve only told them in the last year. Being a young person I was cautious because I didn’t know if people would take me seriously or if it would go wrong or wouldn’t work out.

“The only problem now is that things are growing, and I’ve had to tell them to get their help.”

A recent success has been a £30,000 loan from Social Investment Scotland (SIS) to purchase a branded van and equipment. Alastair Davis, chief executive, SIS, said: “The addition of an extra van will make a huge difference to Jordan and his team, allowing him take on bigger contracts, which, in turn, will achieve greater economies of scale, leading to greater surpluses. “Ultimately, the knock-on effect is that Aspire will be able to deliver greater social and environmental impact objectives, helping more people into employment and improving more public spaces. “It’s great to see a social enterprise offering such a viable and credible alternative to the traditional commercial operators competing for these contracts. “We’re really looking forward to working with Jordan and the Aspire team as they seek to take the next step on their journey.”

To find out more about Aspire, check the website www.aspirecommunitysolutions.org.uk or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AspireCommunitySolutions.org.