Business focus with the CEO of Happy Days
Dave Fawcett is the CEO of Happy Days, a charity focusing on helping the homeless and vulnerably housed across the region.
Based in their office in Sowerby Bridge, Happy Days operate several businesses to support their charitable works, including a cycle shop, building company and café and a mobile video diary room company.
Why did you start your business in the first place?
I had originally founded a film production and marketing company called The Mill Group, but I’ve always been involved in Charity locally. I helped to start the Ebenezer Food Bank and Calderdale’s Homeless Shelter.
I felt there was a gap in Calderdale for supported housing for ex-homeless individuals. I’ve always been keenly aware of the plight of homeless people after I produced a documentary on a man sleeping rough in Sheffield during my time at University there. I felt compelled to leave the company I’d founded, even though we had just landed the ASDA account for video production and start Happy Days to try make a difference.
What is your business motto?
While we’re a charity, the work we do is supported by the businesses in the Happy Days Group, so we bring a business-minded approach to a lot of our work. For us, being successful in business and having a positive impact as a charity is about perseverance, and a working-class ethic of hard graft and resilience.
What advice would you give to anyone starting their own business?
You must love what you’re doing if you’re going to start your own business. Particularly in the early days, your own business can take over your life, so at least enjoy it!
Rather than wasting time worrying about things within your company, you’ve got to be proactive and positive. There’s a great quote that says, “Worrying doesn’t change the outcome, it just makes you feel bad in the meantime”.
What was the biggest challenge you faced starting Happy Days?
I think the hardest challenge I personally faced is nothing related to business operations at all. Happy Days is unique in that, while we have business operations, our primary goal is to help the community, so I’ve had to learn how to cope with the vulnerability of homeless people in Calderdale.
We often work to support people who may be suicidal or depressed, and that can be a big challenge personally.
What do you enjoy most about running Happy Days?
Without a doubt, the thing I enjoy the most is helping people to get off the streets and in to a safe place. We’ve found that, with so many of the people we’ve helped, just building up the foundations of a decent quality of life is enough for them to take the initiative and get back on their feet.
There are so many enjoyable things that come along with that, like reuniting families who’ve been torn apart by addiction. It’s amazing to see the positive outcomes that can come from even just helping a little bit.
What do you enjoy least about running Happy Days?
As a charity, there are a lot of challenges that we must face financially. Funding is becoming harder and harder to get, and we want to do it right. We’re lucky in that the charity is also supported by the work of the businesses in our group, but those require investment also. You want to employ the best people, but naturally that costs money!
Who do you most admire and why?
It would have to be William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army. His family descended into poverty early in his life, and despite his father dying when he was just 13 he went on to create a movement that is one of the world’s largest distributors of Humanitarian Aid today.
He’s also got great links locally, and his oldest son, Bramwell, was actually born in Halifax.
What achievement in your career are you most proud of?
I’d like to think that my greatest achievement hasn’t happened yet, as there’s still so much more to do! In 2014 I was proud to win the Points of Light Award, which recognises people making a change in their community, and was presented to me by then Prime Minister David Cameron.
Overall, I’d have to say that my greatest achievement was making the decision to step away from a comfortable life at my own business to form Happy Days and get it to where it is today.
Where do you see Happy Days going in the next five years?
We’d like to expand Happy Days to the regional level, so that we can help to tackle problems like homelessness across all of Yorkshire. Naturally the next step after that is to become a national charity. We’ve started doing some work on this already and have set up a 5-bedroom flat with a café below in South Shields caring for the homeless.
In the very long term we hope to have our own housing stock, and a network of homes we own across the country that can provide a space for those suffering from homelessness to get back on their feet.
If you could invent one new product, what would it be?
It would have to be a cure for cancer. I’ve lost two friends to cancer in the past year, and I’ve seen the effect it has on families.
If you could work for one company, who would it be and why?
I couldn’t see myself working anywhere else, and I don’t want to!