Self-employment scheme misleading Cardiff graduates

Cardiff graduates have spoken out against a network of misleading employment schemes, causing staff to work for as little as £5 per sale.

An increasing number of companies that offer self-employment job roles targeted at graduates are being criticised for not being upfront about the positions they are advertising. The name that receives the brunt of these negative reviews is The Cobra Group (also known as The Appco Group) and there are many blogs dedicated to warning people of their methods.

One blog gives a ten-step guide to figuring out if you work for The Cobra Group, which they refer to as “Devilcorp”. The Group is described in one review as a “pyramid scheme”, which uses a “cult-like mentality” to draw people in.

In reality they are a group of companies that all follow a similar business structure, offering self-employed roles. Although these companies, and others like them, are not acting outside the law, many former employees do not believe that they are transparent enough about the jobs that they are offering.

Cardiff University Graduate Andrew Hawkins was employed by a company associated with The Cobra Group last year and described how he was “sucked in by the high intensity atmosphere that promised large earnings and a lavish lifestyle”.

Mr Hawkins was required to perform door-to-door sales for a charity, and was working alone in a residential area until 10pm. After working at the company for just a week, Mr Hawkins read a review online that appeared to describe his experience with the company perfectly and alarm bells started to ring.

Further research uncovered that The Cobra Group faced many accusations that they were using self-employed contracts to provide cheap labour, and Mr Hawkins subsequently left the company.

A company based in Cardiff which has received a similar review is GB Marketing Enterprise Ltd. The company was created in 2014 and offers direct marketing, event management and lead generation services. According to GB Marketing Enterprise Ltd they help people to become “successful entrepreneurs” but not everyone sees it this way.

One former employee described his experience with GB Marketing Enterprise Ltd to Gair Rhydd. He claims he was expected to work 60 hours a week, Monday to Saturday and was told he would earn £300 a week, working out to just £5 an hour, £1.70 less than minimum wage.

Due to his self-employed status, however, this is in no way illegal. Marketing Enterprise Ltd offer entrepreneurial positions and are therefore not required to pay minimum wage, provide safe working conditions, or adhere to any employment laws.

Gregory Thomas, who graduated from Cardiff University earlier this year, described what happened when he applied for a job at the company online. He said that the description of the role was “kept very vague with a couple of power words in there to make it sound professional”.

After applying he received a phone call offering him an interview and after two rounds of interviews he was offered the job but said “no information as to the exact nature of the job was given” and that they “skipped through important details like being self-employed, low commission, number of hours expected”.

Mr Thomas described the training he received before starting the role as a “motivational pep-talk from the owner” in which he was told “shit people make shit sales” and “ten per cent of you will be shit, 80 per cent of you will be average and ten per cent of you will be great”. After this he was asked to start working, under the supervision of a manager.

The job, which had been advertised as a: “trainee manager role with fast progression in an advertising company”, actually involved selling Talk Talk packages to people on the street. Mr Thomas would receive £30 for every sale that he made, but not until he had worked at the company for two weeks.

During this period he would be required to encourage people to talk to the managers, who would then “close the sale”. For each time this was done successfully he was told he would receive £5. After learning what his job would actually entail, and spending four hours on the street trying to sell to strangers, many of whom either ignored him or told him to “fuck off”, Mr Thomas quit.

Gair Rhydd contacted GB Marketing Enterprise Ltd for comment but received no response.


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  • Call me a conspiracy theorist but I question the positive comments in this section as much as I do the positive reviews for GB Marketing on Glassdoor. It seems a little suspicious how a company with rancid tactics and track history can suddenly just come up trumps. Unless they somehow had an overhaul and changed their ways? Doubt it.

  • Ive been working at GB Marketing for about 3 months now. Being self employed is a decision, some want to be and some dont. Its not for everyone. However i enjoy being in control of my career. This job provides me with control of my future if i want to be, its all up to me. The environment of the business is unlike anything I’ve experienced, where everyone comes in excited about work, cant imagine working in a different environment.
    Throughout my time working here they have been 100% honest with me and i would recommend it.

    • Are you really in control of your earnings and your future though? Do you mean to say that after several long days of hard work, if you don’t manage to stop anyone that they will keep you on? Be so-called self-employed means that they can get rid of you at any time, and by law you have no rights if they do. And if you don’t manage to stop anyone, you don’t get paid. So I would say that someone with a fixed income is more in control of their earnings than you.

      I had a job like this before, and came in every day dreading it. To say that everybody is excited is dishonest to say the least.

  • I’ve been working on the exact same job at GB Marketing Enterprise for just over 3 months.

    As an employee, also self employed, I 100% disagree with almost all of this. Although the pay is commission, the training which we are given is next to none. After the first 2 weeks of working here I was earning in excess of £400 a week very consistently.

    We don’t even do door-to-door sales which a simple bit of research about the company would clearly show.

    I absolutely love working here and I would invite the writers of this article to do a little bit of research about the actual company itself since most people working here, including myself are earning a lot more than they would have an opportunity to elsewhere and I think it would be unfair to mislead people about this job.

    • @Taylor nice try but this company lied to me in order to try and gain new recruits. If working there is so fine and dandy then why does it feel the need to lie to potential recruits about the sort of work they will be doing? Anyway, I’m glad to see that someone is warning students and graduates about these scammers who take advantage of them.

  • Self employment is not illegal, it gives people control over their earnings especially if they want to learn how to run a business.
    GB Marketing is a completely different organization to Appco. and I think its a shame they get the same bad press.

    • If they “have control over their earnings” then why are they paid nothing after a long day of hard work just because they were unlucky? Do you call standing outside in the cold and being sworn at “running a business”?