Working as a property surveyor in Manchester probably isn’t where you’d expect the story of someone nominated for the ‘Entrepreneurs’ Champion’ award to begin — even more so when I tell you that this person is also a Big Ideas Wales Role Model, sits on various boards including Cardiff University, Cardiff Start and Cardiff Capital Region, and was even invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen as a result of his effort and dedication to supporting the start-up community in Wales.

But property surveying in Manchester is exactly where Gareth Jones’ story of championing entrepreneurs begins.

Once he realised that he had no passion for maintaining buildings, Gareth moved from native Wrexham to Cardiff in 2007. But his time in South Wales got off to a similarly bad start, dropping out of university for a second time.Gareth struggled to find a career path, let alone job, that was in any way stimulating for him. So he started to pursue new business ideas. Something soon became clear to Gareth, however, the best business advice came from those who were just a few steps ahead, but not so far ahead that they have forgotten the pain of starting a business.

And so was born Welsh ICE (Innovation Centre for Enterprise).

Having been shortlisted for the Entrepreneurs Champion award by the Entrepreneur Wales Awards, I caught up with Gareth to find out more about his story.

Tell us about the business

“ICE is a space for start-ups of all shapes and sizes to grow and develop in Caerphilly, with added support and advice to keep them moving forward,” the 31-year old said.

“[It was] established in July 2012 to provide a unique, inexpensive biosphere where anyone with a passion for enterprise could thrive under experienced mentors and access the resources start-up businesses so desperately need. ICE seeks to make entrepreneurialism a real choice for school leavers, graduates and the unemployed, but ultimately considers applications from anyone, of any age, with a creative and innovative business concept.”

Had you always wanted to run your own business?

“Yes, but I don’t think I realised it. I knew I couldn’t work for others, but didn’t have the confidence to go it alone.”

What (or who) inspired you to start the business? And what (or who) inspires you to keep going?

“The big inspiration in the early days was a sense of loneliness, and realising from members of the [South Wales] start-up community like Ed Barnett, Naomi Kibble, Helen McAvoy, and Neil Cocker that the best support didn’t necessarily come from middle-aged men in grey suits. The inspiration to carry on, comes from the success stories that I am told every day as members achieve great, and meaningful things.”

What are your best and worst qualities as a business person?

“I think I am a good listener, and don’t judge anyone sharing their challenges and shortcomings. My big weakness is feeling the pain of failures in the community more than enjoying the successes.”

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in Wales?

“Keep moving forward.” (Straight to the point!)

Why did you enter the Entrepreneur Wales Awards?

“I was nominated by our team, which is quite sweet of them!”

Why is Wales a great place to do business?

“A number of reasons, really — driven & intelligent people, engaged & attentive Ministers, open & collaborative universities, wonderful culture & lifestyle.”

You can find out more the Entrepreneur Wales Awards here.