I recently had my 17th Birthday and life is good. It’s good because I’ve recently finished secondary school and received my GCSE results which I was really pleased with. It’s also good because I now get to spend all my time working on my two businesses, Towers Design and Social Marley, rather than juggling them with school work as I have been doing for the past 5 years! Don’t get me wrong, I loved school but now I can focus 100% on what I’m truly passionate about – business.
I always enjoyed using computers and when I was 11 a family friend asked if I could build her a simple website. So I learnt the basics of web design, mainly by watching YouTube videos, and did the job for the princely sum of £50. I realised that I could do this over and over again, so I joined a freelancing website called People Per Hour. Within a year, I had already secured 25 customers and so decided it was time to set up a business – Towers Design.
Towers Design continues to grow and I now have a great team of 15 people working for the business and hundreds of business clients on the books. We have expanded our range of services to a full serviced digital agency offering design, printing, website development and hosting. For the past year I have spent a lot of time on my latest venture, Social Marley, a new platform for businesses to manage their social media accounts. We are currently seeking investment and looking to launch in 2016.
I am breaking down the barriers facing young entrepreneurs…
Although I enjoyed creating the websites for my clients, I found my young age created problems for the business. For example accepting payments online was difficult, because you have to be 18 to have a merchant account. To get around this, I had to make an online merchant account in my dad’s name, even though he had nothing to do with the company.
Also because of my age, I was unable to get a business bank account which meant we couldn’t accept cheques. Then one day when my bank found out that I was using a child account for business they froze the account. I had to ask the Federation of Small Businesses to get involved and fortunately it was resolved.
Another issue with being a young business owner is credibility. Some people just don’t believe that you can do a great job and deliver the goods. Fortunately I met plenty of people who did believe in me enough to give me that chance and prove myself.
Last year I was really honoured to be awarded the ‘NatWest Young Entrepreneur Of The Year – Special Merit’ at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2014 and to be a finalist in the prestigious Startup Awards 2014. This year I was awarded ‘Young Entrepreneur Of The Year In Kent 2015’ at the Kent Invicta Awards and was a Finalist at the Kent Excellence in Business Awards.
I’m now an ambassador for several organisations, including The Federation of Small Businesses, Young Start-Up Talent, The National Enterprise Challenge and Young Entrepreneur Networking Association. Together we will hopefully tackle the unnecessary barriers and obstacles young business owners face. I also talk at various business and youth events all around the world. I’m happy to share my experiences and if it helps to inspire other teenagers to start their own businesses then that’s good too!
“Start now, do not wait for your business to start itself or for you to leave school. You will learn loads from running your own company so make sure that you actually take the leap and give it a go.”