Stephen Keenan is the Director and Co-Founder of Happy Days Build, a social enterprise family run building company based in Sowerby Bridge.
Happy Days Build provide roofing, building maintenance and repair services across Yorkshire. In their role as a social enterprise, Happy Days Build provides training and employment for those previously struggling from homelessness and poverty.
Why did you start your business in the first place?
I grew up in a family where charity was a large part of our lives. My mum even went on to win an MBE for her charity work, and helping others was something that stuck with us as we grew up. After school I went in to the building trade and learned how to become a roofer, which I did for several years.
A few years ago, my brother, Dave Fawcett, told me that he was launching Happy Days the charity and that it would be great to have a building company on board that not only works for local homeowners but also provides an avenue for those looking to get back on their feet.
What is your business motto?
Quality and reliability is a business motto that we stick to. As a local company, our reputation is incredibly important to us, and our customers need to know if they’re spending money with us than they’re getting the best work. Particularly in trades, where there’s often the danger of ‘cowboy builders’, you have to try doubly hard to be the best.
What advice would you give to anyone starting their own business?
Anyone starting a business should know it’s hard work, so work hard. I’m sure every entrepreneur will agree that there are things that will come at you that you’ve never had to deal with before as an employee, and you are the person who has to deal with them.
The most important thing I would say is that, yes, there will be a lot of challenges, but those challenges are a positive not a negative as they give you an opportunity to grow as a person and a businessman.
What was the biggest challenge you faced starting your business?
I think our biggest challenge, and one that many entrepreneurs will face when getting started, is the financial risk. With almost any company, you know that it will take a lot of money up front and it’s never guaranteed that you’re going to get it back.
It was a big challenge, but one that had to be done. If something is your passion and it’s important to you that it gets off the ground, there isn’t a challenge big enough that will stop you from getting through it.
What do you enjoy most about being self-employed?
I love the whole challenge of having my own business, and that difficulty is what drives me forward. Quite often you’ll have something to deal with that you’ve never dealt with before, and overcoming those hurdles is extremely motivating. Being able to see your business grow is amazing, and it pushes me to achieve more.
What do you enjoy least about being self-employed?
The same things mentioned above! As I said, there are a number of challenges that will come at you that you can’t anticipate. If you’re not prepared and ready to tackle everything that comes at you head on, it’s easy to get swamped when you’re just getting started. Having that mindset that everything is a learning experience makes the challenges much easier.
Which business figure do you most admire and why?
I admire anybody that gets up and has a go, even if they don’t become famous millionaires. There are a lot of people who’ve started businesses and failed, but just to say they’ve tried their best is admirable. Anybody who’s done their own thing and had a go of it should be celebrated, from a small shop to the richest person in the world.
What achievement in your career are you most proud of?
I think just getting to the point we are at now is something I’m proud of. When I was 14 I was expelled from school and told I wouldn’t amount to anything, which as you can imagine is a lot to be told at 14. I’ve managed to turn my life around, create a successful business and support my family.
On top of that, my business is able to give back to the community and help bring people off the streets and in to a highly skilled role.
Where do you see your business going in the next five years?
I think the sky is the limit with Happy Days Build, and we hope to keep growing, working on more ambitious projects and helping more people. There is potential here for a massive social impact, as we’re seeing a completely missed generated of skilled workers. People feeling isolated in their job or unemployable can train up and go straight in to a work force that needs them today.
We hope that any success we have can be put back in to the community, and have a real positive impact on Halifax and Yorkshire as a whole.
If you could invent one new product, what would it be?
Can I say a magic wand? Sometimes it would be great to just have a wand I could wave or a genies lamp so that I could wish for everything to get done, not sure it works like that though!
If you could work for one company, who would it be and why?
At this point, I could never work anywhere else. At Happy Days I can come in and do the job I love, while at the same time having a great social impact. I love being a tradesman, and I love to help the community and people less fortunate than myself. At Happy Days Build I’ve got the opportunity to do both of those things and wouldn’t change it for the world.