I was fortunate to have a good upbringing and benefit from a private education. I have always had an entrepreneurial streak in me and even at a young age, I remember selling seashells to holidaymakers whilst on a family holiday in Barmouth. I made enough money to buy myself a fishing rod and it was a great feeling.
I left school with average grades, although excelled in Commerce, gaining a Grade A GCE in the subject. Around this time, my mother and my stepfather divorced, and much to my mother’s dismay, I decided not to study A Levels, rejecting the idea of university, and opted for a trainee Sales Executive role with a computer software house.
I did well, and soon I was outselling everyone, including the Sales Manager. I asked the Managing Director to sack the Sales Manager and to let me have his job. He declined. I resigned and set up my first business venture, The Selvac Group. The business was in the competitive promotional incentives market and we soon acquired a good name within the industry, which led to us servicing many household brands: Barclaycard, Kodak Film, Moben Kitchens, Ford Motor Company, to name a few.
Within a relatively short period I was a self-made millionaire. The company had 12 full-time employees, and I was enjoying life. I worked hard and partied even harder. But I soon developed a gambling addiction and an obsession for making money.
Despite these problems, I was short listed for Shell Livewire’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year. It was 1990 and I was still only 19 years old. Then the crash! In 1991, with the country suffering a major recession, overnight our order book became depleted – with orders cancelled, combined with frozen budget spends. I used every penny I had, and borrowed heavily, to salvage the business, but it was rapidly going to the wall.
One evening, my business partner and I were discussing the severity of the situation when we both agreed to a plan that would ruin not only my life, but affect the lives of my family, friends and many others as well. The company still retained a strong credit rating, and this meant we could borrow and buy goods on credit. Goods came in, they were sold at ludicrously low prices, and we never paid our creditors.
Soon I made my fortune once again and continued living the high life. We got away with things for about a year, until the inevitable knock at the door. I was arrested and charged with fraud. In court, I pleaded guilty and, to my surprise, escaped prison and received a Probation Order. I flitted from job to job. Sometimes I had money; other times I had nothing. I wanted to get back into business and befriended one of my bosses to lend me £10,000. She did, but the venture never worked out. I was prepared to work off the debt when, out of the blue, she reported me to the police. That was that.
I received 12 months in prison. Fortunately I ended up doing most of my sentence in an open prison. It was not a deterrent, and I would visit prison on two more occasions: in 1999 for a major Ponzi fraud and again, in 2006, for an EBay fraud. It was starting to tot up. In between, I had met up with my biological father – and fathered a daughter of my own.
In 2009, I hit my rock bottom. I was an out-and-out gambling addict and problem drinker. I was robbing Peter to pay Paul and was finally arrested when I could not make good on my promises. I was remanded. An eventful three-hour Magistrate appearance and a day of reflection later, they carted me off to HMP Bullingdon where I became washed up, and very depressed.
In the holding cell, I met a fellow prisoner who could clearly see my pain. He suggested that I look at the RAPt Program. He explained that he was an alcoholic and was serving a life sentence for murder. The RAPt Program had helped him in various ways, and he had found manageability in his life that had been absent for a long while. That was what I needed. I wanted to have what he had.
In April 2010, I started the RAPt Program. Wow! I have never experienced power like it. I became immersed in the program and opened up to total strangers. I shared my darkest secrets, my moments of depression, along with moments of elation. We laughed together and cried together. The release was unlike anything I had ever known. I felt free. After graduation, I joined as a RAPt Peer Mentor and found the experience very rewarding. I also took on several other Peer Mentoring roles for Toe by Toe and on the Vulnerable Prisoner Wing. I never knew Peer Mentoring could be so enjoyable. Time flew by, and I was soon at an open prison again. I continued to Peer Mentor for RAPt, Toe by Toe, and added Aim Higher into the mix.
I became a mentor for someone who could not read or write properly. I spent a lot of time with him and with my encouragement and motivation – coupled with his desire to succeed – within a year he gained TWO GCSE’s in English and Mathematics. I was so proud to be part of that success story – amongst others.
In November 2010, I won Aim Higher Mentor of the Month and became an Accredited Mentor. This culminated in me being selected to give a speech in Parliament to the All Party Parliamentary Penal Affairs Group on the subject of Prison Peer Mentoring. The standing ovation capped it off for me. I knew then that I needed to help others.
I have made use of my time in prison, and totted up several qualifications including a BSc in Psychology, Stress Management Advanced Diploma, Level 4 Life Skills Coaching Diploma, amongst many other Vocational qualifications. I was released from prison in early 2012. Since then, I have set up a successful Internet business, and employed eight full-time staff. I am currently selling part of that business to a large media company. I continue to practice what I have learnt – 12 step – from my mentor in my daily affairs, and meditate on a regular basis. Today my life is better. I no longer have obsessive behaviour; I live a law-abiding life and enjoy every day. I have gained the respect and trust of my family and friends. I owe this to one fellow prisoner who took the time to talk to me in my darkest hour. He introduced me to a new way of life and for that I will be forever grateful. I now have a new friend for life.
I have met some truly extraordinary people due to 12 step and never get tired of hearing and carrying the message to others. I can never repair the damage I have caused to my victims but I can influence the future. Now I seek to live crime free, and to help other ex-offenders find the serenity I have found in my own life.
Scott is the co-founder of Second Chance Mentoring – http://www.secondchancementoring.org.uk