Lewis Taylor: Hunger Start [Interview]

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Stef Nienaltowski has been very privileged to have met many people in the last year, and Lewis Taylor ranks as one of the most fascinating. Thinking Hunger Start was a homeless, food based charity proves that you should never judge a book by it's cover.

Lewis's story is sad on one level, but fantastic on another. What he has overcome in his life is nothing short of miraculous. To now be giving back many hours a year through the EBP South programmes, amongst others, whilst starting and growing his business is typical of this shining individual.

Stef Nienaltowski: Good afternoon! I'm sat with Lewis Raymond Taylor, the owner of Hungerstart, and you'll hear all about this super company in a moment, so I won't say any more for the moment, but good afternoon Lewis.

Lewis Taylor: Good afternoon Stef, thanks very much for having me.

SN: My pleasure. Lewis, before we discuss your company and its value, can you tell me a bit about your own background, and how you got started in this business, which is around the coaching, speaking, training piece?

LT: Yeah, definitely. It's going to be difficult to condense it into the timeframe we've got, but I'll give you a bit of a brief background on how this has all come about. So, I've had a past of substance misuse, crime, mental illness, all sorts of stuff, and it wasn’t until my early twenties where I was exposed to this whole personal development industry. I was exposed to therapy, counselling, psycho-therapy, and then a 12-step recovery/rehabilitation. I went to a fully-intensive 6-month rehabilitation, and my eyes are really open to the extent of the help and support that was available out there. Before, whether or not I was dismissive of it, or if it was ever really sort of given to me in the first place I'm unsure, but I wasn't aware of the sort of help that was available, and when I started to see the value in this stuff, the therapy, even the things like the small workshops that I had access to in prison, I did a 6-week RAPT, that's Rehabilitation of Addicted Prisoners Trust programme.

And that was short, sharp workshops, one-hour pieces, on all sorts of personal development, and it made me think "Wow! There's a lot that can be done here". And as I said, once I started to see the value in it, I wanted more, I wanted to see what the next step was. I was constantly growing, developing, evolving myself and learning more, having a deeper awareness around the sort of person I was, and why I felt the way I did. Now, what I found was everything was very disjointed, there were meetings, there was therapy, there was all sorts of stuff, and when I look at it from an outside point of view, it tends to be tailored more, the motivational stuff, tends to be tailored more towards your sort of affluent, high-end type clientele.

Now these are the Tony Robbins motivational speaks, £5,000 a ticket, that's completely unobtainable for a lot of people, and it's also completely unrealistic for a lot of people. When I was in treatment, people would come in and do guest shares, and these would be just normal people, everyday people that have turned their life around. They'd started businesses, they'd got clean and sober, and they share their experience, strength, and hope with everybody. Once I saw that, I knew there was an opportunity to bring everything together. I thought "hang on a minute, why is this only available for people with drugs and alcohol misuse?"

This can be available for everybody, which is why Hungerstart came about. So, Hungerstart is, we built a global community online, we've got a free membership group, private Facebook group, and that has over 4,000 members from all over the world. And, that's also transitioning now into more workshops, speaks in schools, as well as obviously the coaching and mentoring. So, I know that was a bit of a long-winded answer, but it's quite a lot to get in, but I'll tell you a bit more about the other strands of it, but that's pretty much how it all came about.

SN: It's an amazing story, and you've alluded there to Hungerstart, your company. As my question, that I was going to pose to you which is still relevant, Hungerstart of course is not what maybe people at first hearing might think it is. So, why the name, and what are the company's objectives?

LT: Yeah, I did sort of allude to the fact in the first question there. Hungerstart is nothing to do with hunger in terms of food, it's to do with motivation, it's that hunger for success, that intense desire to succeed. And it's about starting your hunger. What I was saying earlier, is that I want to target people that haven't been exposed to this before. There are already people that are catering for these motivated, successful entrepreneurs and things like that; I want to target people who have never even considered personal development before.

That have never even thought that they can become motivated, they don't even know that the industry is out there, they don't know what value it holds for them, and how many options and choices it can provide for their life. So, it's about starting your hunger for success in all areas of your life. It doesn't have to be business, it can be getting in the gym, it can be improving your confidence, it can be going back into education. Whatever it is you want to do to develop yourself or improve an area of your life, we will start your hunger for that.

SN: Perfect, and coaching therefore is at the heart of that. So, in your view, in your eyes, in your experience so far, what makes a good coach, and can you tell us maybe about some of the successes you've had to date?

LT: It's hard to say what makes a good coach; it's very dependent on the individual. Different people relate to different types of people. What I've found, the number one thing that I've had success with, is the fact that people are very comfortable with opening up to me, and this is what I've found not just in terms of my professional coaching, but just in general life nowadays. When people know that you've been to certain depths, they know that you won't judge them, they know that you understand where they're coming from, they feel a lot more comfortable with bringing things up that maybe they've never discussed before.

So, in terms of what makes a good coach, there's different varieties. Some have a wealth of academic knowledge, and that can be very important, however some have the ability to take people on a shared journey through the experiential type knowledge that they've picked up along the way like myself, and sometimes some people may argue that that's invaluable. However, like I said, it depends very much on the person and their style. In terms of successes I've had with people, I'm actually the most surprised by it. I coach all types of different people. I started off doing volunteering, and that was not through the business but that was people with homelessness, and substance misuse, but since then my clientele has grown to students, millionaire entrepreneurs, believe it or not, I really can't get my head round that, and I coach them in a variety of things.

The majority of it is mindset, so it's allowing people to remove the barriers that are holding them back. I've had the whole experience of finding out what's stopped me from doing the things I wanted to do, so I've got that knowledge of my own personal experience, but I was also in treatment for 6 months, and it was a progressive process where I was in there for 2 weeks, and then a newbie would walk through the door. I would see all their breakthroughs, I would see all their denial, I would see everything that held them back, and I would see all the confidence they were getting themselves, and I just absorbed that all, so that's why I focus on mindset now because I've got a really good grasp of the depths of holding people back.

Some of the successes I've had is within business, the business people that I coach, some of them have managed to double their monthly income, some of them have managed to go to full-time with their businesses, and one of them, the millionaire entrepreneur, who I coached, funnily enough actually took a step back and got rid of his business, and now he's moving more into passive income and property development, things like that, so he's freeing up his time and spending more time with his family. But ultimately, it comes down to having that peace of mind, changing ways of thinking, and it very much depends on what objectives they have, but I will do my absolute best to work towards their objectives to get them the results, so it's completely variable.

SN: Brilliant. Very hard question, who represents therefore your typical customer, if such a beast exists, and more importantly, because you've given us a little reveal there about you've got quite a wide customer range, but if you can talk about what constitutes a typical customer, what differentiates you from your industry colleagues and competitors, because it's actually quite a tough industry you're in?

LT: I've gone through this battle, I've even gone so far as hiring a marketing coach, I'm really battling against it; I've always been a bit of a maverick, obviously, and that's carried me on in my entrepreneurial life as well. I'm finding it quite difficult to stick to a certain sales strategy in order to target customers. I want to help change the world, that's what I want to do, and I find it very difficult to say I'm only helping that kind of person, so what I've done is I've compromised, and I've niched down exactly what sort of service offering I provide. So, rather than niching down to the specific type of audience, type of customer, I'm doing specifically mindset coaching, which is a sub-category of life coaching, which is a sub-category of coaching, and I specifically help people to break the mould.

Hungerstart is the business, it's the workshops, it's the speaks, it's also everybody else that I have working with me as well, so contractors and staff, it's the whole company, it's the community, it's everybody helping each other. My personal one-to-one coaching programme, and my own brand "Lewis Raymond Taylor" is breaking the mould. So, I specifically help people to adopt new ways of thinking, and push themselves in a new direction when they possibly feel stuck. I know that was a bit of a long-winded question, but to answer your question, I don't have a specific customer, but what I do is very specific.

SN: And your passion comes through like a beacon, so as we get towards the end of the interview, what's the vision. Take me forward a couple of years, Lewis Raymond Taylor, where will Lewis Raymond Taylor be in two or three years’ time?

LT: Well, I've got to be careful now, because I don't want to come across arrogant, but I'm feeling really confident these days. I went through so much time in this bad, you know in prison, and all sorts of things, and I've had a difficult upbringing where my dad would say things like to me "you'll never amount to anything" "you're a buffoon" "you're stupid" and I believed that for so long, and now that I’ve overcome those hurdles and am able to see the progress in my life, and I've gone from prison to rehab to college to university to entrepreneur to travelling to helping people, I don't know what's going to stop me now.
I used to use the expression 'everything was spiralling out of control', and its sort of the reverse now. As long as I keep doing the right thing, moving in the right direction, helping people, I do the volunteering still, I'm doing the right thing. As long as I keep on develop myself, staying motivated, staying hungry, I don't know what's going to stop me, I'm just going to be moving from one thing to the next. So, the vision for Hungerstart is a global community, I want to help everybody, I want to bring everybody together, motivate, support and inspire them to develop them self, improve an area of their life.

And me as myself, maybe I'll be a coach to the stars, who knows, but I'd like to be a speaker with big audiences, I've been doing that recently on smaller platforms, but I'm hoping that will grow, and who knows what will come with that? I never expected to do the talks and the workshops, that's a progressive thing in such a short space of time, so who knows what next is there for me? And you know what, right now, I'm optimistic for the future, just taking it a day at a time, helping one person at a time, and what will be will be.

SN: And Lewis Raymond Taylor, you deserve that success, and Shaping will do anything it can to help you, and I look forward to coming back and talking to you in say 6 months’ time, and just seeing where you are on that journey, but for now thank you very much indeed.

LT: Thank you very much for having me.

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