Q:How long were you in education for before you decided you uni was not for you? A:
I did my GCSE’s in English, maths, biology, french and spanish. I didn’t really pass any of them, but a lot of that was down to the fact that my school didn’t give me much support. I basically said I’ve had enough, and walked out two months early. That was a good feeling.
Studying French has helped me in my career though, I did a French exchange and had studied it for a while. A lot of businesses are based in France and Luxembourg so it’s nice to be able to communicate with them.
Q:How did you start your first business, Ollie's Shop? A:
The idea came around when my history teacher was wearing a friendship bracelet. I did some research and it turned out it was worth £120. I thought there must be a way to get them for free, so I contacted ten different suppliers from around the world. The deal was that they had to give me ten free samples, which all of them did. That meant I had 100 free bracelets. I sold all of them for £10 each and suddenly I had made £1000. So at the age of 13 I had made my first grand.
Q:How did the business grow? A:
I did a lot of Christmas events, it’s kind of our main market. I also collaborated with an American popstar called Stacey Jackson and we raised money for breast cancer US. We raised about $5000 which, considering I was only 14 at the time, wasn’t bad at all. I had a few celebs supporting me after that and it grew from there.
Q:At what point did the idea for The Budding Entrepreneur come about? A:
I launched the magazine about a year ago. I was coming under a lot of attention from the media, and I noticed there were a lot of entrepreneurial blogs out there. But none were really at the level I wanted. I wanted it to be a sort of entrepenurial portal, so I launched it myself. We’ve got all sorts of tips and advice on there and advice from loads of great people. We’ve spoken to Charlie Mullins and loads of other really inspirational business owners. My goal would be to one day interview Richard Branson – he’s still who everyone thinks about in terms of successful businessmen. I’ve been running that for about a year. I’ve got five or six journalists who freelance for us, and any money we make I use to help other entrepreneurs.
Q:What other ventures are you involved in at the moment? A:
I’m currently involved in a couple of things. The first is called University Bell. Unibell is a online platform for students to buy or sell products at uni campuses. So say you need a text book for the next morning, rather than waiting days for Amazon or Ebay you could get it in minutes because it’s in your campus. We’re already in every single university in the UK and we’ve just launched in every East Coast University of America. Next year we’re looking to go to France where our biggest competitors are. In April we want to move to India, which has the second largest number of students in the world. Conquering the world!
My main focus at the moment is The Budding Entrepreneur Club which is a community for the most entrepreneurial individuals in the UK. We launch in London in September followed by multiple cities within our first year and years to come. I am super excited to launch this as I very much believe building a business is about who you know and by being part of a community like The Budding Entrepreneur Club, I hope entrepreneurs are able to do that. I also have plans to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs which is yet to be made public.
Q:As you didn't go to university yourself, do you degrees are important? A:
I think it depends – some people go to university when they don’t know what they want to do and spend 50 grand on a history degree when they want to go into marketing. It doesn’t make much sense. I’m not anti-uni but I’m not a massive fan of it. I think schools need to encourage more young people to go and do an apprenticeship. You can look at it two ways – you can leave school at 16, do an apprenticeship or go straight into work and get yourself a salary. Or you can go to uni, by the time you’re 21 you’re already in massive debt, have to look for an entry level low-paying job and you won’t be earning decent money for a few years. The guy who left at 16 might already be on 40 grand a year.
Q:Did you ever consider doing an apprenticeship or another alternative to university? A:
I did lots of work experience, and that was a lot more fun than just sitting in classroom. I have a good understanding of how the media and other industries work as a result so didn’t feel like I needed to look into it any further. I was already running a business and that’s all I really needed at that time.
Q:What is it about America that made you want to expand your business over there? A:
I had a lot of American support very early on with Ollie’s Shop and I get a lot of messages from people in America wanting me to go over and give them business advice. My business partner for Unibell is based in America and they get things done so quickly, everything will always be done on the day where as in the UK it could take up to a year to get the simplest things finished and organised. Too much tea making I think! Don’t have time for any of that.
‘I did lots of work experience, and that was a lot more fun than just sitting in classroom.’