A Coleraine man who took over his late father’s business to try to support his family whilst in his early teens has won a Prince’s Trust exemplar award.
Ryan McMullan, 26, received the ShredBank Young Ambassador Award during a ceremony in Titanic Belfast.
The Prince’s Trust and TK Maxx & Homesense initiative recognises the achievements of disadvantaged young people who have succeeded against the odds, improved their chances in life and had a positive impact on their local community, as well as those who have played a part in supporting the work of The Trust.
Ryan, 26, from Coleraine, who lost his dad when he was 14, explained whey how he felt compelled to take on the business. He said: “I knew that if I didn’t try to run it myself, it would close down. But because of the demands of the business, I stopped seeing my friends and got depressed. I even thought about suicide.
“When I was 22, the business took a downturn and I had to make myself redundant. I spent the next nine-months working towards starting a car cleaning business, but couldn’t get planning permission. It felt like the die had been cast.”
At that point, Ryan was referred by his advisor at the Job Centre in Coleraine to Make Your Mark - a Prince’s Trust programme in partnership with Marks & Spencer that gives unemployed young people the skills they need to find work in the industry.
He was offered part time employment with the retailer at the end of the programme and was elected as a representative for Coleraine’s Business Involvement Group, before being promoted to store coach and securing a place on the company’s trainee management programme.
“Life just started going right after Make Your Mark, and I decided I wanted to help other young people move their lives forwards with The Prince’s Trust, like I had done. So I became a Young Ambassador for The Trust.
“Being a Young Ambassador was an amazing experience. I had to work through my nerves, but once I’d done my first speech, it got easier and easier. I spoke at so many events and even co-hosted an awards ceremony. It was incredible. And it made me realise that it’s not what you achieve, it’s what you overcome that defines you and your career.”
Willing and able to go out of his comfort zone to help others, Ryan has donated more than 60 hours of voluntary work for The Trust whilst holding down a permanent managerial job at Marks & Spencer.
Speaking after the presentation, Ryan said: “This award means so much as The Prince’s Trust is really special to me. They really do believe that youth can do it - for me and the rest of the young people they support that sense of belief is invaluable”
Jenny Adams from ShredBank said: “Ryan is a true inspiration and at ShredBank we are delighted that with this award, we are able to encourage a young person who has excelled and inspired others”.
Youth charity The Prince’s Trust gives disadvantaged young people the skills and confidence to find a job. Three in four young people helped by trust move into work, training or education.