Mike Welch OBE is President and CEO of Tirebuyer.com. He recently spoke with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption about his experience growing up in foster care and his path to success in his professional and personal life.
Growing up in foster care in Liverpool in the 1980s and 1990s, there could have been many paths for me to take that led to trouble. Looking back, I realize now that it was only thanks to my foster family, which eventually became my adopted family, and a timely intervention from a British charity with royal patronage, the Prince’s Trust, that the path I chose led me to personal and business success.
My adoptive family stood by me despite troubles in school, where I struggled with my grades because of dyslexia. When I left with no qualifications at 16 years old, my family gave me a chance, first to get into work at a tire shop while living at home and then to set up my own business from my bedroom.
Where others may have dampened my enthusiasm, or even have shown me the door, my family gave me space and support so I could make the most of myself. I owe them everything I have and am eternally grateful.
Having made a success of my initial and subsequent tire businesses in the United Kingdom, I moved to the United States in 2018 to start my new business venture, Tirebuyer.com. Now that North America has become my second home, I am really invested in helping find families for children in foster care that will give them the support they need for success, the way my family helped me.
More than 450,000 young people are currently in North America’s foster care system. Those who age out of the system without the support of a permanent family are more likely to end up homeless, unemployed or incarcerated. I am determined to play a part in reversing this unhappy trend, which is why I have huge respect and admiration for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption and the incredible work it does to find forever homes for children and young people waiting in foster care across the U.S. and Canada.
I find Dave Thomas a hugely inspirational figure. I admire both his incredible story of success with the fast-food restaurant Wendy’s® and the determination he had to give back and support children waiting for a safe and loving home, as well as the important legacy he left behind. Creating a legacy that changes the lives and prospects of children in foster care everywhere is something I also aspire to.
Dave was not the only adopted child to achieve great success in his life. Steve Jobs, Tom Monaghan and Simone Biles are among many brilliant examples of the potential in the hearts of children and youth who have, for whatever reason, come through the foster care system. In fact, young people who have been in care often learn remarkable independence, resilience and determination. Shaped by their experiences, these children often demonstrate incredible grit and ability to stay strong when facing obstacles — two key characteristics needed for success in later life — especially if you want to start your own business.
My success has put me in a position where I feel I have a responsibility to think about how I can help children waiting for a family, as well as those foster families who want to give their best support to children but are unable to do so because of systems failure and bureaucracy. This is why I am keeping a close eye on the developments around changes to foster care and adoption policy in the new U.S. budget, and why I think the Foundation’s mission is so important.
Thank you, Mike, for sharing your story and for raising awareness of the urgent need for foster care adoption.
Were you adopted or have you adopted from foster care? Share your adoption story by filling out the Foundation’s story form.