This month (May 2017) we invited Nigel Cullen of LGBT Drive, to talk about his experience of running his South London-based business.
LGBT drive is a South London based driving school with an LGBT+ focus- could you tell us more about the background to setting it up?
Having worked in the LGBTQ community all my life it seemed a natural progression to develop a business geared towards my community. On qualifying as an instructor I worked for a leading driving school but soon became very disillusioned with some of the business practices, homophobia and sexism that I experienced within the industry. I decided to take a year out to develop LGBT Drive and Cullens Driving School.
It sounds like there was definitely a market for LGBT customers.
Although my business is geared to the LGBTQ community I offer my client-centred teaching techniques to anyone who wishes to learn in a non-judgemental, safe and calm environment.
I would love to reach out more to LGBTQ youth, and the trans community. I also offer refresher lessons for students who just want to feel a little more confident on aspects of their driving, such as manoeuvres or motorway driving. I’m based in South West London but students come from all over London.
What response have you had from the various parts of the LGBT community?
I have had a very positive response to my business model from all types of people in and outside of the LGBTQ community. I’d like to say that we live in a world where we can be ourselves with everyone we meet and work with but unfortunately, LGBTQ safe spaces and business are still needed. I’m happy to provide one of those spaces to do something as important as learning to drive.
How have you found the first year of LGBT Drive?
This is my third year of teaching and my first full year of LGBT Drive and I must say I have had an amazing year. I have a waiting list for students at the moment and I received an “A” grade for my teaching from the DVSA in November which was the icing on the cake (only 30% of instructors are “A” grades). It certainly made all of the hard work worth it!
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to set up their own business?
I would advise anyone wanting to develop an LGBTQ focused business to do their research. It’s also better to work on your strengths and do something you enjoy.
Before I trained as a driving instructor I was the weekday venue manager at the Eagle in Vauxhall for six years. I really enjoyed working there as I’m a people person and now I’ve discovered a real love for teaching. The feeling you get when someone builds their confidence in driving and then passes their driving test is the best feeling in the world.
Nigel would also like offer to our newsletter readers a free hour when booking a 10 hour package (use the code LGBT Lambeth when booking on the website – offer valid until the end of June 2017)