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Youth is wasted on the young?

Max Verstappen’s recent stunning win in the Spanish Grand Prix serves as a timely reminder that young people are able to achieve their dreams! Yet many older people can seem cynical about this. Out title quote is attributed to George Bernard Shaw but sounds like the sort of thing many people would say today! Certainly if you are a young person trying to make a go of a small business you can feel very keenly that “the system” is biassed against you if you are young, and many people don’t seem to take you seriously. But take heart! This is an issue that has been around since time began and many have overcome it!

Hundreds of years before Shaw, the Bible records in Paul’s first letter to Timothy “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young.” In fact the letter goes on to encourage Timothy to set an example to others. There are many young entrepreneurs who have done just that. One of the main ones that immediately springs to mind is Mark Zuckerberg, who was a Harvard student when he launched Facebook and now consistently features in Time Magazine’s list of the 100 wealthiest and most influential people in the world.

But there are other examples closer to home. Let’s look at two young people who have both made their small business into a huge success.

Jordan Daykin is 20 years old and started his first business at 12. He spotted a gap in the market for virtual gold to use in the online game Runescape. He made a success of this first venture and sold it a year later. At this point he moved into his grandparents home and, during the process of fitting out their shed as his den, came across various difficulties of hanging household items on plasterboard walls. This led to the development of the Gripit. He waited four years for a patent then launched the product.

His small business went up a gear with his appearance on Dragons Den in 2014, where he secured an £80,000 investment from Deborah Meaden. Gripit is now a £12 million global business, and Jordan has recently taken 68th place in the 100 Most Powerful Entrepreneurs List.

Cassandra Stavrou is another successful young entrepreneur who runs Propercorn - a healthy popcorn business. Unlike Jordan - who has no qualifications - Cassandra graduated in law and then worked at a large London advertising firm. However she knew all along that she wanted to be an entrepreneur and never really felt at home in a large company: “I’ve always, always wanted to run a business for as long as I can remember,” she says, “Age 14 was when I first started thinking about it.”

Cassandra was 24 when she had the idea for Propercorn and launched her small business in 2011 with her business partner, Ryan Kohn. Their motto is “Done Properly” which applies not just to the popcorn itself but is their approach to everything they do.

It seems to be working! In just four years, Propercorn’s turnover exceeds £5 million and is currently selling around three million bags of popcorn every month. It can be found on the shelves of more than 10,000 retailers, including Waitrose, Tesco and Whole Foods. “Global is the next big challenge for us,” Cassandra says.

The meteoric rise of both businesses is impressive but has not been easy. Both Jordan and Cassandra have had to overcome many challenges along the way. Cassandra recounts the difficulties of gaining credibility in the manufacturing industry: “I’ve yet to meet a manufacturer who is female. The world of manufacturing is mainly big, burly men who have been in the industry for a long time. With no track record, no experience, as a young girl rocking up in my trainers rather than in a suit … I got a lot of doors shut in my face. I also had quite a few people telling me that I should go and ask for my job back.”

What Jordan and Cassandra both have in common is passion, grit and determination. They both took different paths to launching their small business, and their businesses have grown in their own particular ways. But grow they have, and both these young people are now hugely - and deservedly - successful!

We hope that this has inspired you to persevere with your small business, no matter how young you are and how much the odds sometimes seem to be stacked against you. For further inspiration have a browse through our Case Studies pages to see how other entrepreneurs have obtained small business funding and moved further forward on the path to success.

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