What a washout. When it rains like this I certainly suffer from seasonal affective disorder – it makes me SAD indeed!Nothing seems to go right when it rains, from catching a train to losing your brolly. We really should have been a Mediterranean nation. But just when you think that things are going to go from bad to worse, sometimes something wonderful can occur. That was what happened to me today and it happened on the face of it in a highly unlikely setting; on a bus on a wet, windswept street in Nottingham. This was no ordinary bus, but the super charged StartUp Britain bus that has been tearing the length and breadth of Britain over the last week. And here I found myself among a most extraordinary group of optimistic doers, the startups of Nottingham. What a great gang they were. Outside, sheet rain, inside, blue sky thinking all the way. The energy on the bus was something else. Incredible passion, great belief, great personal risk – the ingredients of young businesses all over the UK. Since co-founding StartUp Britain in March, I have met early-stage entrepreneurs from all over the country, and I’m beginning to see them as a tribe of very special, very kind people. The traditional image of the rapacious entrepreneur, that they’re “in it to win it” in a solitary search for glory bears little resemblance to this generation of people leaving employment to make jobs rather than take them. Passion is such an attractive quality in people and I can tell you that in Nottingham this morning, there was an abundance of people with superb stories and a great deal of hope. If you want to see the counter opposite to the despair of the riots this month, then get on the bus. These are the people that will lift Britain out of recession, contribute to their communities and are doing things that are brilliant. They just need the confidence to know that they can do it and in many cases are already doing it by building brands that have the promise to grow. From a brilliant young drinks brand called Percy’s to a superb new sort of Facebook for recruitment, myjobsplace.co.uk, these are the living embodiment of what the Prime Minister called the “doers and the grafters” at the CBI last year. I spent a lot of time talking to Penny Alexander, a mum who is about to set up her own firm, Alexander Residence, as a writer and a blogger providing content and reviews for parenting products. For me, she was emblematic of the people we met today. Full of beans and ideas – I think she finished up mentoring me before I had a chance to give her any advice. I mentioned a rough idea for this column and before I knew it, she’d taken the photograph that you see in the piece. Now that’s what I call get up and go. And then it came time to catch the train and a long walk back to the reality of a wet August train trip home. Twenty minutes later and I was hopelessly lost. SAD syndrome beckoned. But like a ray of sunshine, who should walk by but Penny. She gave me a lift to the station and it saved me a pair of shoes and a lot of indignant complaining. So, the motto of this column is that random acts of kindness really do matter and I’m glad to report that Britain’s young startups should have a very bright future if the phrase “what goes around comes around” holds out to be true. Michael Hayman is co-founder of the public relations consultancy Seven Hills and a co-founder of StartUp Britain. You can also follow Michael on Twitter.
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