Rebuilding lives and communities JJ’s way
WHEN JJ Fitzgerald was on a short break in Spain to help him come to terms with his mum’s
sudden death earlier this year he saw in his diary a work-related appointment back home.
He’d signed up to speak at a construction skills centre in Lancashire to kids who had
experienced a troubled start in life.
Given his personal grief he could be forgiven for overlooking it and no-one would have batted an
eyelid if he’d sent his apologies and tried to postpone to a later date.
He flew home, kept his word and shared his own career journey to inspire young people -
whose childhood was not too far removed from his - to believe in themselves.
His mum taught him well.
You could travel the world and not bump into anyone so focused on making a positive difference
to people’s lives as JJ.
Brought up on a council estate in Fleetwood, setting up his business on a laptop in a bedroom in
his mum’s house, JJ knows what it’s like to struggle and has been through his own dark times.
He’ll tell you that once, when his biggest supplier, which represented 80% of his business, went
bust he lost £380,000 overnight. It threatened to send him under in more ways than one.
He was wandering the back streets of Fleetwood wondering if life was even worth living. A
colleague’s wife, a trained counsellor, phoned him and persuaded him it was.
JJ openly says: “she saved my life”.
He never looked back.
He’s gone from a one-man start-up to employing 80 staff in a highly successful construction
business which turns over £6m.
June 1 marks the 11th birthday of his business - definitely something to celebrate when you
consider the challenges faced by businesses and society over the last decade.
But for JJ , through all the ups and downs, business and money is never a means in itself, it is
instead an opportunity to help others, especially those who society might otherwise overlook.
“I am a big believer in ‘there but for the grace of God go I,” he said, all too aware of how his own
life might have panned out if his mum hadn’t instilled strong values and kept him on track.
One day a business associate took him to a Manchester event on a private helicopter. When JJ
got back to Blackpool in the evening he stopped for a loaf of bread on his drive home and there
was a homeless woman asking for money outside the shop.
“If ever there was an illustration to me of the contrast between how people’s lives turn out that
was it right there that day. From someone having a private helicopter to a lady begging on the
streets. I took her round the shop, asked her what she wanted, helped her put it in her basket
and paid for it.”
Passionate about giving young people a better start in life, inspiring them to be the best they
can be, and supporting a range of pioneering training and employment initiatives, JJ isn’t afraid
to show them the lifestyle they could have if they work hard..
“I believe you have got to show young people the pot of gold - show them a path to achieve that,
and give them a chance to take that route.
“There are two types of people in this world - those when they see a fancy car on the street who
say ‘I am going to have one of those one day’ and those who key it all the way down the side.”
JJ left school without a single GCSE qualification. He is a big advocate of - ‘if you are willing to
graft and if you do things for the right reasons there’s always a way’.
JJ started his business fitting aerials and satellites and doing electrical work. Now Evolution is a
one-stop shop for completing quality renovations of private housing, social housing, and
sheltered housing all across the North-West.
Evolving Spaces, Changing Lives by providing better homes and employment and training
opportunities is at the heart of Evolution’s mission. It runs through JJ’s veins. Thanks to his clear
business vision it also permeates all the way through his team.
He hires for attitude and trains for ability. He wants people with the best work ethic - whether
they are joiners, plasterers, or electricians; labourers, decorators or bricklayers.
Evolution then trains, invests in, and develops its people so they have the opportunity to build
their skills, careers and lives. Clients benefit from getting the best possible, value-for-money,
quality service and Evolution ploughs its success back into helping communities. It’s a positive,
life-affirming business cycle.
Communities in Blackpool, where the company is based, JJ’s hometown of Fleetwood, the rest
of the Fylde Coast, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Lancaster, Morecambe, Chester and
Cumbria, are all better places thanks to Evolution’s existence.
“We believe business is a force for good. We put people, places and the planet at the centre of
everything we do, offering a brighter, sustainable future to those living in our communities
“We invest in people, not just places - creating a lasting legacy of skills and opportunities -
rather than just buildings.”
“Mental health and well-being is so important. If you have a job with a good employer, you can
build a life from there and we have the opportunity to provide that to people, some of whom
might not have been given that opportunity otherwise.”
JJ is always happy to partner up with organisations with a like-minded ethos. He learned from
his darkest personal times to see the virtue in his business, as well as in his personal life, of
“When things are tough it’s important that you don’t go into your shell. Instead reach out and
work with other people - other businesses - and you will find that people help each other,” he
JJ sits on local community-focused boards to make a positive difference - including Fleetwood
Trust which is aiming to transform his hometown.
He’s standing as a councillor in Fleetwood too - a great believer in being willing to stand up for
what you believe in and putting yourself out there to help make positive change happen, instead
of just standing by and criticising from the sidelines.
“I am determined to fight for these communities, so that if you are someone who grows up here
you have the same opportunities as someone growing up in a more affluent area of the country.
“Why am I so driven to achieve that? I think it probably goes all the way back to the values
instilled in me by my mum.”
JJ won’t be easing up on his mission anytime soon. If ever.