Working life stories: From reporter to ethical entrepreneur

Martin Gerhard talks to Beena Nadeem about his working life, from radio journalism to setting up an ethical start-up and about coming back after a series of knockbacks.

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Martin Gerhard is busy packing for Christmas and it’s only October. But for those in retail, it’s the busiest time of the year. “It’s a bit surreal as we started on all of this in July,” he says.

Martin set up Boostology, an ethical gifts company after a career in journalism, a series of other start-ups and jobs and several knockbacks. He is keen to dust himself off and start again, a quality he attributes to the resilience he has developed over the last decades of working in different jobs and start-ups.

In his fifties, Martin started his career as a local radio journalist, before moving to BBC’s Five Live where he worked until 2004 as a ‘roving reporter’.

He wanted to be his own boss. “I was a freelancer, so I was able to set up my own business. I started a gift website called present.com and began work on that full time. “It’s not the same skillset as being a reporter,” he says.

However, in 2013, the business started to go downhill. Martin’s company was hit by a Google update that demoted the site. “We lost the business. But I learned what to do next time,” he says.

From cinema nights to the world of interiors

Running a business for more than a decade and not wanting to return to journalism meant he had to find something different.

Martin decided that he needed to do something ‘fun’ for a while and launched a Sunday cinema night, complete with cocktails. It ran for nine months before he found a job running a metal work company.

“I essentially talked my way into that. Obviously, I’d run my own company before, and they were looking for someone to take over that side of things. I had the skills they needed,” he says.

After he had enough of that, he started to work for an interiors company in London around 2019. But like many, he lost his job there because of the pandemic, leaving him thinking ‘what would I do with the rest of my life’. “It was the most hideously awful year because not only did I lose my job, but I also found out that we had one of those homes affected by cladding – and had to find £40,000,” he says.

Resilience

Despite all of this, he has kept going. This year he set up Boostology. The site specialises in planet-friendly products with a wellbeing slant. Their best-selling item, an alternative to scented candles, is potpourri made from volcanic rock so none of it is ever thrown away.

There are organic, vegan and plastic-free gift ideas. The company has banned products that are made entirely from plastic and pledges to plant a tree for every order placed with it.

Martin says: “It’s amazing how resilient you can be, how, despite being thrown a load of lemons, you can still find a way to do something positive.”

He adds: “What seems really bad at the time will one day get better. If I were 18, I probably would have had a meltdown, but I’m 50 now and I know you can always recover. It’s up to you to make those changes.”

He believes older people bring different skills, saying: “If you have an office full of 20 year olds, I think you’re missing out. Being super tech-savvy isn’t everything. You will always need a broad spectrum of different attributes that will make a place work better.”

*Join us for the first National Older Workers Week. It runs from 22nd-26th November and will include a series of online events for employers and candidates with leading experts and employers. There will be a panel discussion on the results of our survey of older workers’ experience of Covid and their attitudes towards their working lives, a best practice event on everything from eliminating age bias in the recruitment process to returner programmes and lifelong learning, an event for line managers on managing multigenerational teams and a candidate-focused  event sharing older workers’ experiences with expert advice for those who wish to change their careers. Find out more and register for the free events here.



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