News | 18 Feb 2022

Solar-powered pizzas and mental health support score in business rugby awards

Ospreys forward Lloyd Ashley scooped up the Welsh Rugby Players Association Bursary Award. In England, Gloucester captain Lewis Ludlow won the second RPA Gain Line Award of the season.

Life outside rugby is a key focus for both entrepreneurs, with mental health awareness and eco-powered pizzas catching the judges’ attention. Both awards are sponsored by Vodafone.

Swansea-based Lloyd Ashley received the bursary to boost his LivingWell business, which focuses on well-being support. Working with the rugby community, Lloyd spotted a growing need for open conversations, support and guidance around mental health.

LivingWell has been set up to break down the stigmas, to help with education and to start the conversation for people who haven’t found a safe place to speak yet.

After a warm reception and a raft of training qualifications, the Ospreys player now has his sights set on helping schools and corporate sectors to develop their support systems, too.

“This money will give me the opportunity to design a website, freshen up the image of LivingWell and support me in attracting different networks. I can’t wait to get going with it and see where it goes next!”

Solar-powered pizza

Over in Gloucestershire, a quick glance at Lewis Ludlow’s RPA Gain Line Award submission tells you that this isn’t your average 27-year-old.

As well as captaining Gloucester rugby team, the openside flanker runs a smallholding farm when he’s not volunteering as a Police Special Constable. Has he had to tackle anyone as part of his policing duties?

“Not just yet,” the 6ft 3” 102kg athlete laughs, “but it’s in the locker should I have to!”

But it’s his Openside Pizza business that impressed the judges. First appearing as a guest for pizza restaurant ‘Hooker and Eight’, Lewis was inspired to take their formula on the road to local games and outdoor events.

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With the chef’s blessing the handy entrepreneur set to work, converting an old horse-box trailer into an eco-powered portable pizzeria.

“We wanted it to be solar powered so we could be self-sufficient and not require a generator at events,” Lewis explained, “it wasn’t too bad to sort out, one of my business partners Dan had a contact – he sorted us out with four big leisure batteries which are charged by door panels on the roof.”

This is both great for the environment and the noise pollution at events, so everyone wins!

Life after rugby

Off the field, both winners agreed that it’s vital that professional athletes plan for life after sport.

“Sadly, no player knows when their final game might be,” Lloyd cautions. “It can be a lonely and isolating time off the field and it’s all about having a good support network around you. This gives you the focus and drive to look out for and seize opportunities as and when they arrive.”

“It’s huge,” Lewis agrees, “both from a physical standpoint and a mental one. Rugby is unfortunately a very short career, so whatever you do afterwards will tend to be your longest career.”

But the captain also thinks that having a side-hustle can also help on the pitch.

I play my best rugby when on my days off I can have a proper switch off, and having another business really helps this.

Lloyd believes that the right mindset is key: “Rugby players learn so many transferable skills throughout their playing career and they just need the support to transition these into life outside.”

Vodafone sponsors a number of grassroots rugby initiatives as part of its Lions Legacy Series, as well as the Coventry Wasps Rugby and Netball teams.

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