When Sean McGill’s life hit crisis point, he dug deep and found a reserve of energy and dedication he never knew he had. He credits his years of boxing with giving him the strength to keep going. Now he’s sharing his passion through his new business, Rath Mór Warriors, which teaches kids and adults alike the skills and discipline of boxing.
Sean was able to start his business thanks to support from North West Regional Taxi Proprietors, who are using money raised by National Lottery players to run their Community Support Initiative. North West Taxi Proprietors started 17 years ago as an advice group supporting taxi drivers into employment. Today they’re offering their expertise to people interested in starting their own business in other areas – from hairdressing to mixed martial arts.
For Sean, their advice was a lifeline. From riding high with a £40,000 a year job in finance, a dream home, and a happy personal life, Sean lost everything when the property market crashed. The pressure was too much and his marriage broke down as well.
“We lost the house – even though we’d already paid off a substantial amount,” says Sean who had always kept faith with his boxing, never dreaming that one day he’d be earning a living from his passion.
“Back then 34 was the limit for competing at boxing so I then took up kick boxing and worked my way through the grades to my black belt. It was my sensei who suggested I should teach it, and so I started to make enquiries.
“I found the premises in the Rath Mór Business Park in the city and got initial LEDU funding as it’s regarded as a deprived area. But every day there seemed to be some new challenge involved in running my own business.”
That’s when Sean turned to North West Taxi Proprietors. Last year alone, the organisation gave advice over a thousand times to local people looking to start their own business, and help 20 people into self-employment.
The kickboxing and fitness gym, situated in one of the city’s most economically deprived areas, has been a lifeline for Sean – not to mention the scores of kids and adults who attend classes.
“I’d been concentrating on establishing adult classes but they suggested that for sustainability I should target kids too. And that’s what has made this new venture so personally fulfilling for me,” says Sean.
“Some of the kids have very challenging backgrounds. Some have ADHD, others ADD, and Asperger’s Syndrome.
“We’ve young people who have dropped out of education and their leaders can’t believe they’re the same teenagers when they see them training. Most rewarding is the fact that they tell me the young people take what they’ve learnt in the gym back into their lives.”
For Sean, kickboxing can teach young people important lessons they can take with them into the rest of their lives.
“I can’t sort out kids’ personal problems but I can hopefully give them life skills to help. By the time they work their way up through their grading belts they have learned not just about the sport but about themselves, about how their behaviour impacts on others, about the rewards they can get from life, and realising that they shouldn’t expect reward as a given.”
Thanks to National Lottery players, North West Taxi Proprietors are able to continue their brilliant work supporting local people into self-employment. For Eamonn O’Donnell, project co-ordinator, the project doesn’t just help individuals.
“Unemployment levels are high in Derry, people can’t find jobs, so they are creating their own,” Eamonn said. “Helping local people start their own businesses gives the local community a boost too, more services are available, and people like to support local businesses.
“Over time these businesses will grow and they will be able to provide opportunities for employment for others. So it’s having a positive effect on the local economy and local people’s lives.”