Former Barnsley bus driver overcomes mental health issues to start own business

Last year, 54-year-old Stephen Yates felt like he had everything; he was a skilled employee earning a good wage and had a bright future with his fiancé.

The pair had originally met on a holiday in Spain, and after hitting it off, Stephen moved to Exeter in around 2015 from his hometown of Brighouse and started a promising career as a bus driver.

When the pair decided to separate in January last year, Stephen was “devastated.” He hoped to transfer to Barnsley to be nearby his cousin, but he became very isolated as this wasn’t able to happen until September.

Stephen said: “It was terrible as all my family and friends were like 300 miles away. I was still working and it was terrible still having to go in, but I knew I would be worse sat indoors.”

When September finally came around and Stephen was able to return to South Yorkshire, things didn’t go as planned. He didn’t adjust well to the transfer and missed his old workplace and colleagues; he left after just six months.

To complicate matters further, he was suffering from disagreements from within his family, which put further strain on his mental wellbeing.

Eventually, Stephen decided to seek medical help to deal with his outlook: “I went to the doctors and said I was in a bad way. I was having a bad time before Barnsley, and now I’m having a bad time in Barnsley.”

The doctor referred him to Romero Communities, a small organisation in Barnsley which offers support and guidance on a range of different topics and issues that also receives support from our Coalfields Community Investment Programme.

At Romero’s, Stephen was introduced to Helen Murphy, our community employment and skills coach for Barnsley as part of the Employment and Skills Service, who helped him to take charge of his own career.

“All my life I’ve worked for people and I had some money behind me. I thought I’m going to go to work for myself. Helen has been a gem, absolutely brilliant.”

Stephen decided he wanted to start his own business selling men’s grooming products online, and the Employment and Skills Service provided funding for him to complete some courses with Barnsley Enterprise. He gained new skills in online security, bookkeeping for small businesses, social media and marketing, as well as business and corporate taxation.

“It’s really helped me, my mind on my business; it has got me over a lot of things. I was in a dark place and now I’m not.”

Although it’s still early days for his company, Stephen has been using the time in the covid-19 lockdown to design a business plan, prepare his website and identify suitable suppliers.

He hopes to one day expand the business into products for women when it has become profitable, and potentially involve his daughter as part of the business.

To find out more about the Employment and Skills Service, and the free careers-based support it has to offer to parts of South Yorkshire, head to Facebook or call 01226 270800.

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