Duane was living in a children’s home in Newham, East London at the age of 14, when he was suspended from school. The staff at the children’s home were left to teach him. As they weren’t teachers they didn’t know what to do so they left him with a computer and a book on how to program it.
After spending his late teens moving from job to job in the IT industry, he found himself unemployed at the age of 19, and out of cash.
At this point, he made some very bad decisions that would change his life forever. His peers from his upbringing in care were involved in criminal activities and he got involved in a bid to earn some fast money. This ultimately resulted in him being arrested and spending time in prison in the US and the UK. He served two and a half years in prison, where he taught basic IT skills to other inmates.
On his release, he decided to start up his own business. He said: “I was unemployed and had no qualifications – not a great situation to be in when you have a baby on the way. I needed to do something to support my new family, and saw running my own business as the only solution.
“I felt like I went to a hundred banks – but no one was willing to give me a loan when I had bad credit, no security and no experience. I grew up in the care system, so I didn’t have family to offer financial or moral support. Thankfully, I heard about The Prince’s Trust by word of mouth, and I went to them when I felt like I had nowhere else to turn.
The Trust was great and I owe so much of my success to their support. They believed in me and gave me a loan and a grant to start my business. But aside from the funding, the business support they offered really helped me get things off the ground.
“Running my own business is great, I couldn’t be happier. At first I just wanted to write computer programmes, but now I actually enjoy the business side of things. My business has evolved into a company called Kash Flow which provides accounting software for other small businesses.
“Now that I’m financially secure, I’ve been able to invest in other Prince’s Trust supported start-ups. I really believed in them, but it was also great to be able to give something back and help out people in the same situation as I was not too long ago. I also took over the networking group for all of The Trust’s start-up businesses and formed trustNetworkers.com.
I’d encourage anyone to go talk to The Trust – there’s a lot more than just the loan and the grant. They give you access to specialist advice that you wouldn’t otherwise get.
Duane has since gone on to meet leading figures from the business and IT world, including receiving praise from Bill Gates in 2008.
As well as the numerous awards the company has won, Duane has also won numerous awards himself including Young Entrepreneur of the Year and was named as one of The Most Impressive Businessmen aged 30 or Under by Esquire Magazine in 2008.