Rags-to-riches journey from Hucknall to the USA of self-made businessman

The boat that Geoff built in between operations in hospital.
The boat that Geoff built in between operations in hospital.

A former Hucknall man who has evolved into a highly successful businessman in the USA has made a return visit to the town.

And Geoff Wyatt (38) is keen to share his rags-to-riches story so that it might fuel hope for ambitious youngsters just setting out on their careers.

The log cabin that Geoff has built in New York's Adirondack Mountains.

The log cabin that Geoff has built in New York's Adirondack Mountains.

Geoff grew up in Hucknall and was educated at the National Schools, after which he tried his hand at various local jobs.

These included delivering Chinese takeaway meals and part-time work at a greengrocer’s in the town centre, while studying at Nottingham’s Clarendon Music College.

Then, at the age of 21, he decided to make a radical change and go for a fresh career in the States.

He says his senior school teachers rarely had any positive feedback for his parents, but the one thing they definitely got right was describing him as ‘the eternal optimist’. This was well in keeping with his desire to try something entirely new.

Geoff’s first employment was an entry-level job with Honeywell Utility Solutions, of Texas, who provided programme support for electric utilities. After just three months, he was leading the department in which he worked.

He continued to develop his career in the utility sector and was an early employee in a successful start-up, Site Controls, which was acquired by Siemens in 2011.

Eventually, Geoff and Mei Shibata, a business partner he met while working for Siemens, founded an advertising agency focusing largely on the energy sector.

Today, it is the largest and fastest-growing agency of its kind in the USA. The company has its headquarters in New York City and an office in San Francisco.

An astonishing factor is that, amid this success, Geoff has had to battle against major health setbacks, and he actually launched his company from a hospital bed in 2013. He had contracted ulcerative colitis and had just undergone a total colectomy.

This led to a total of eight surgeries over the next two years, due to recovery problems. But he refused to buckle and Geoff used the time between the surgeries to hand-build a 16-foot sailboat, complete with a cabin that sleeps two.

In the past three years, he has been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. But since his diagnosis, he continued to build the company and, as a side project, he built a log cabin in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.

Geoff returned to Hucknall for his grandmother’s 98th birthday and he also visited his elder brother, Jason, who lives in Jersey.

He said: “It’s always nice to take a break from the fast-paced life I lead in America and visit my family, and also to see how Hucknall has changed between visits.”

He’s now back in the States and ploughing on with with his latest project, defying not only the illnesses but also those early-life odds.