EXCLUSIVE: Actor Michael Sheen on how business can change lives

Ever wondered what actor of the moment, BAFTA-nominated, Michael Sheen, star of newly-released Brian Clough biopic The Damned United and box office hit Frost/Nixon, famed for his portrayals of Tony Blair and Kenneth Williams, thinks about business?

Nope, neither had we.

In fact, it’s fair to say, when Smarta popped along to today’s Prince’s Trust Awards with reasonable hope of bumping into the odd big name entrepreneur to interview, Michael Sheen, admire him as we do, wasn’t on our hit-list.

He was, however, sat one seat away from us in the celeb-packed and seemingly-entrepreneur-free Leicester Square Odeon. And in an even stranger twist of fate, Sheen, a Prince’s Trust ambassador, had been handed the job of giving out the Enterprise Award.

With HRH Prince of Wales out of reach, it was our duty to grill Mr Sheen a little further on his latest role of small business expert (well, award giver). Now we know he’s a dab-hand at slipping into character quicker than you can ‘Ooh Matron’, but he actually made a lot of sense. Here’s what he had to say:

“Organisations such as The Prince’s Trust change people’s lives.

“By giving disadvantaged people a break and the help and financial support they need to start their own businesses, they’re helping that person create something sustainable for themselves which is very, very powerful.

“For every person the Prince’s Trust helps into business it also builds a bond with society, giving back something to the economy and, like all of its work, creating a better world for us all.”

Fairy nuff, Mr Sheen. Indeed, it could have been Prince’s Trust and Dragon James Caan speaking, mentor to Gina Moffatt, who founded florist Bloomin Scents from HMP Holloway where she was serving a six year prison sentence.

“Prison took my life away, my confidence, I was so low I didn’t even want to come out. I couldn’t see a future,” tells Gina, who thanks to the help of the Prince’s Trust now has a very rosy business, supplying among other clients, the prison that once incarcerated her.

Or Sheen’s words could have belonged to Lora Leedham who grew up the tough way in a poverty-stricken area of the West Midlands but wanted a better life than her peers whose only ambition was seemingly pregnancy. With the help of a Prince’s Trust loan and mentor she’s since started her own jewellery business, has 38 stockists and has been featured in magazines such as Vogue and Cosmopolitan.

Then again, when Sheen talks about changing lives he’s more likely portraying the story of winner Louise Firinne who suffered appalling abuse while growing up in Australia and fled to Belfast only to become homeless and suffer yet more mental and physical ill health. With the help of the Prince’s Trust she’s not only got her life back on track but has established Simply Rouge, a corporate and wedding stationery business that’s rapidly expanding.

As always, the Prince’s Trust Awards were littered with celebrities and royal attendance but the stars of the show were those collecting the awards for the truly-phenomenal achievements its work has supported.

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