With a baby on the way, Dan Hearn decided the time was right for a career change.
The 26-year-old, from Colchester, had always loved his job working with animals at Colchester Zoo, but says he wanted a new challenge, so he retrained to become a driving instructor.
Dan, of Wall Mews, says: “The time came when I realised I wanted to further myself in a different way, add some new challenges to my career.
“My job at the zoo involved giving talks to visitors about animals and I always loved that bit, so I thought teaching people new things was the way to go.
“I want to build a better future for us as a new family and running my own business seemed like a good option.”
Dan, originally from Mersea, had completed an animal studies course at Writtle College before finding work at the zoo, dealing with animals including lions, leopards and reptiles.
“I always enjoyed the interaction with the public at the zoo and, with teaching, people tell me there is a real sense of achievement in helping people learn new skills,” says Dan, who still works at the zoo part-time as he builds his business.
He began a driving instructor course online 18 months ago with the AA, which he recently completed. He has his driving instructor qualification card from the DVLA and is now building his customer base for his business, Learn with Hearn.
Dan says: “There are three elements to the driving instructor course which have to be completed.
“The first is an extended theory test, the second an extended practical test and the third, which is quite hard, the instruction test. You have three attempts at passing the course and if you fail after three attempts you have to wait two years before starting the whole process again.”
Dan passed on his second attempt and said it was surreal being back in the driver’s seat as a student.
He says: “I began driving nine years ago, so being back in that position was strange.
“It has definitely flushed out any bad habits I had developed over the years. You can’t teach someone to drive correctly and safely if you are taking short cuts and have bad habits.
“The course certainly opened my eyes to how much your driving skills can slip once you pass your test,” he adds.
Dan has picked up some customers from the AA, which takes it in turns to pass details of potential customers on to their instructors on a rota basis.
But he is also working hard to get his name out to new clients.
Dan says: “I have never done anything like this before, but I am getting my head around it and it’s a really exciting time.”