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I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar...I digress!


How did I become a locksmith? I was serving in the British Army and was due to complete my full service in three years time. I didn’t have a clue what I was going to be doing but wanted to know as I always plan early. A friend came up with the idea of being a locksmith so I had my eureka moment right there and acted on it immediately.


I went to the education centre and looked up places that were on the Enhanced Learning Credits Scheme so I could claim for part of the costs of the course. Because I started a year before the resettlement programme kicks in, I had to fund the travel and accommodation out of my own pocket; however since this was an investment in my future, it was an easy thing to do. I saw a few different locksmith ‘schools’ on the ELC files but picked 1st Call Lockouts as they seemed to have everything I wanted plus they were relatively near to Plymouth!


I arrived on the course a few weeks later and was met by Jason who was a friendly and knowledgable character. The training was difficult for me as we started to pick cylinders and I couldn’t manage to get it. I was having wobbles and started to think this wasn’t for me, especially as everyone else was picking away with success. We progressed to mortice locks and this is when I realised I can do this. I was able to pick many, whilst talking to people as I did it and suddenly I was not just back in the game, but well ahead. With this mental boost, I revisited the cylinders to crack on with them…and still couldn’t pick for toffee. I am glad to say that I am picking with high success now though 🙂


During the course, I was privileged to meet Chris Belcher who came in to visit. I didn’t know who he was at the time but Jason introduced me to him as he was also in Plymouth. Chris invited me to visit him in Plymouth when I returned, which I did. He treated me more like a son and apprentice and looked after me right from the start. Within weeks, he and Suzzie asked if I would like to take over their clientele when they retired, which was to coincide with me leaving the army. I couldn’t believe my ears as I was only just a newbie. This was a huge boost for me as it was going to give me the start I needed to convert to civilian life after a 25 year career in the Forces.


Four and a half years later, I’ve gone from strength to strength. I’ve won a competition at the MLA show 2013 to get into a door non-destructively with the Ultimate tool, won Yales ‘Trusted Face’ of the year and come runner up in the Plymouth Business Awards. I’ve completed a Safe Engineers course with Martin Newton which has added a massive feather to my bow and a UPVC Repair Specialist course with Dennis Manning of Keymaster Locksmiths.


Between locksmithing, Safe Engineering and UPVC repairs, I’m always flat out every single day with a full diary, always booked out a week in advance. This is all without any adverts anywhere, although working hard on my SEO to be organically top of Google helps. Most of the other jobs come through repeated custom and referrals. The business is now bulletproof with a strong future, and all thanks to the training I started out with at 1st Call Lockouts, boosted by Chris Belcher’s mentoring.



Paul Bushell,