How to succeed as a young entrepreneur

Young entrepreneur at her laptop
Office full of plants, check...
"I wanted to create an enterprise that allowed people, irrespective of their backgrounds, to come together"
  • | by Emily Bater

More and more young people are itching to reject the traditional career path of university and a profession in order to strike out on their own in business.

According to a 2015 study by financial services firm EY and StartUp Britain, 70% of young professionals would rather set up their own business than work for someone else.

But what's it really like to go it alone?

We asked four entrepreneurs under 25 what it takes to start your own business, and what advice they'd pass on.

Jonny Grubin, 24

When you consider that some people never own their own business, starting four within 10 years is impressive, especially when the business owner is still only 24.

Jonny Grubin, from Newcastle, started his first business at the age of 14 and apart from a brief spell in university – he dropped out after three months – he hasn't looked back since.

"I was a geeky kid," he says. "I loved building websites with the idea that a 10-year-old in Newcastle could put something online and people all round the world could see it and engage with it."

After launching an affiliate marketing business called ForFree4U in 2006, Jonny went on to create a loyalty scheme to promote independent retailers in the north east a few years later.

In 2010 he moved to London to launch SendSocial, a service which allowed social media users to send each other packages and presents, even if they didn't have the recipient's physical address.

"It was going well from the outside but we weren't making any money. Slightly naively, I didn't realise that living in London is difficult with no money. I was arranging meetings around lunch and dinner so I could eat for free," he admits.

Having a business go under before you're 20 may seem like a setback, but Jonny saw it as an opportunity to learn.

He returned to Newcastle and started SoPost.

The company works with brands such as Boots, Cadbury and Avon, sending samples to customers who share the product via social media. It helps existing 'brand advocates' tell their friends about the products that they use and love.

"As an example, I could gift a skin cream to my sister over Facebook. She would receive a post on her timeline, from where she can click through, claim the gift, and provide her delivery details. A few days later, the sample will be delivered by us, explains Jonny.

Jonny thinks that entrepreneurship is "over-glamourised" today by programmes such as Dragon's Den and The Apprentice and that young people may not understand the risks.

"My advice would be to get a job for a couple of years first and learn what you can about how the real world works, take that knowledge and the connections you've made and do your thing after that," he says.

Callum Pascoe, 18

Inspiration doesn't usually strike when you're procrastinating on your phone, but it did for Callum Pascoe, from Bargoed in south Wales.

"It all started when my mum gave me an iPhone. My hand was hurting from holding it, I was trying to balance it between books and it was such a hassle," says Callum, who was then 14. He had an idea for a sleek, plastic stand that could hold a phone.

A few years later Callum entered Young Enterprise, making a prototype Hexaphone stand with his school's laser cutter.

He sold 800 for £5 each and won Best Young Enterprise in Wales, all before completing his A-levels.

He's now got a desk at co-working space Welsh ICE, where he's had the benefit of funding and investment advice.

"My immediate thought once I finished A-levels was to get a job and save up my own money to set up the business. But I spoke to a couple of people at ICE, who told me not to wait years and to get funding through the government. Without Welsh ICE I wouldn't be doing this now."

Callum has other products in mind to expand his phone accessories range and has other inventions in the pipeline.

He thinks young entrepreneurs can take more risks than their older counterparts. "I've got nothing to lose, I've got no commitments. I still live with my parents!" he says.

Belise Niringiyimana, 23

For Belise Niringiyimana, business means more than turning a profit. She wants to change people's lives through her passion, dance.

The 23-year-old from Birmingham started what would become Dance Lyf, a social enterprise and business offering dance and exercise to people across the city, when she was 16.

"Growing up in Sandwell, I noticed that there was a lack of provision for young people that promoted health and wellbeing," says Belise.

"I wanted to create an enterprise that allowed people, irrespective of their backgrounds, to come together and that encouraged people to lead healthier and active lifestyles."

Working with schools, nursing homes and public organisations, Dance Lyf provides dance classes and workshops and supports young people who have left education and are unemployed.

Through the School for Social Entrepreneurs, Belise received business support and knowledge – she now has a YouTube channel where she shares business advice.

"It has been a learning process which I enjoy. I'm able to see the improvements within myself as well as in the enterprise," she says.

Belise would love to start more Dance Lyf franchises across the UK and thinks businesses have a responsibility to their communities: "I think it's very important for businesses to enhance the quality of life for the people they serve and their communities. Businesses shouldn't just take, they should also give back."

Michael Hammond, 23

Michael Hammond, from Kent, discovered his entrepreneurial spirit at an early age. "I visited the USA when I was younger and saw remote controlled cars that we didn't have here," he recalls. I bought them, brought them home and sold them to my friends in school – that was my first entrepreneurial journey!"

His unusual career path has seen him go from being a law graduate to owner of Property TV, a channel dedicated to buying and selling homes, in just three years.

"During the second year of university my parents sold our home and it was difficult to find the right buyers. My entrepreneurial spirit came out and I made a video tour of the house. I expanded that and started offering video tours as a service to estate agents."

After putting together a business plan and gathering investment over three years, Michael launched Property TV on Sky in 2015.

He started by buying shows that had already been shown elsewhere and his 10-strong team is now making the channel's first original programme, Property Panorama, a current affairs show about property and housing.

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