A former teenage drug dealer says he is “glad” he got stabbed because it inspired him to reach out to young people at risk of getting caught up in crime and violence.

Amani Simpson was stabbed seven times and nearly died after intervening in a fight.

It meant the business owner, who had already turned his life around after getting involved with the wrong crowd as a teenager, was forced to re-evaluate his life.

In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, Mr Simpson made a promise to himself and God that if he survived, he would spend the rest of his life helping others.

Today, Mr Simpson of Enfield runs Aviard Inspires which works with young people to help them develop careers in media and business instead of getting involved in crime.

While he has now got his life back on track as a business owner, it was not always so straight forward.

As a teenager, Mr Simpson, who had always been intelligent, felt he was not challenged at school and had no positive role models.

This led him to get involved with the wrong crowd and rebel.

He said: “I went to school playing the violin, but I had a lack of identity.

“When you are an 11-year-old going into a new school you are susceptible to people’s opinions, you are following people who don’t know where they’re going.”

It was after starting a fire during a maths class and stealing the deputy headteachers teacher’s wallet that he was finally kicked out of Enfield Grammar School.

He was then sent to Southgate School in Enfield where he left without a single GCSE at aged 15 – including a U grade in business studies.

At 16, his delinquent behaviour became so bad he was sent to a secure unit in Edmonton for three months.

Shortly after leaving he met an older man who got him involved in dealing drugs.

Mr Simpson said: “I didn’t have to get involved in the street culture, I had a loving family, but it was attractive to me. As a young black boy growing up at the time it gave me a sense of identity.

“At 16 I was dealing heroin and crack cocaine. I was doing it through a warped sense of identity.

“I rented my own flat, paid for with drugs money.”

One day, after nearly being arrested for carrying drugs, he decided to try turn his life around.

He did a course in music and events management at Big Creative Education college in Walthamstow in 2006.

It was the course that motivated him to open Aviard with six other people in 2008, originally as a music and events management business.

It was shortly after this, even though he was no longer involved in crime, that the stabbing happened – during an event he was promoting.

He was forced to close the business.

Mr Simpson said: “Mentally that was the darkest time of my life, I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and couldn’t trust people.

“But if I hadn’t got stabbed I wouldn’t be here telling my story.”

After being reopened by Amani in 2015, Aviard now uses 75 per cent of its profits for projects that work directly with the community, such as going into colleges to speak to young people about working in business.

Mr Simpson said: “For me it’s about empowering young people through events and business.

“Street hustlers are not using their skills in the right ways, they are using them to sell drugs or commit fraud. To counteract that we need to make them use those skills in the right way.”

As well as running his own business Mr Simpson has met both the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and the deputy mayor for policing and crime, Sophie Linden.

He also spoke to the London Assembly last month about how violent crime in the capital can be reduced but does not think politicians have enough insight into how young people fall into crime.

Mr Simpson said: “I think politicians in London are doing as much as they can but 95 per cent of them don’t know anyone who has been stabbed or has been linked to people in those communities.

“We are talking at young people, but we need to talk with them and find a solution."

As well as running his business he has just become an ambassador for Violent Crime Prevention, a group run by Neville Lawrence whose son Stephen was fatally stabbed in 1993, to help young people stay out of crime.

Mr Simpson plans to continue working across the community and with politicians to make sure as many young people as possible are diverted away from getting involved in crime like he did.