The number of entrepreneurial youngsters has doubled nationwide in the past 20 years. But what’s encouraging them to make the move to self-employment? We spoke three young entrepreneurs in the Louth area to find out why.
It’s no big secret – Louth is an epicentre for independent businesses. Some provide services, from tech support to window cleaning, while others make up the town’s vibrant high street. Many of these are managed by people who attended the area’s schools less than a decade ago.
• When life give you lemons...
Take Susanna Waumsley, for example. She’s 25, Grimsby Institute-educated and the owner of Lemon Tree, a gift and home scents shop nestled next to the Card Factory and local giant Eve & Ranshaw.
Susanna’s been on the payroll before. She worked in the beauty and retail industry, but found life with a job description didn’t fit with her own passions and lust for growth in retail. She told the Leader that running her own business in a prime location was ‘a dream come true’.
“Setting up my own business was all about challenging myself in a field I’m very passionate about,” she said.
“I’ve always dreamed of being my own boss and offering a good and healthy working environment to others – I want to be an employer who truly values her staff.”
Susanna found that being on the payroll didn’t allow her the freedom to grow that she so craved. “I felt like there were limits to my progression,” she explained, “and being at the helm of Lemon Tree allows me to decide exactly which direction I want to take my business in.
“The only way to do that for me was to take the self-employed route. It was a daunting prospect to leave a comfortable job, but so worth it.”
• Virtually present...
As well as effective social media marketing, Susanna has the asset of a well-dressed and attractive shop front to pull the punters in.
But what happens if your business has neither goods to sell, nor a premises from which to sell them?
Enter Andy Green, 21, tech guru, entrepreneur and up-and-coming public speaker.
A cerebral palsy sufferer, Andy’s clearest route to the working world was through self-employment.
“Due to my disability, a lot of jobs felt somewhat out of the question,” he explained.
“Even office jobs rely on mobility – mine isn’t the best.
“I tend to tire easily and need to take fairly regular sick days – employers may not understand that.
“Therefore, the freedom and flexibility of self-employment is a huge highlight, and perfect for me.”
Andy started Lyke Ltd, a digital solutions company, when he was a teenager. His presence is totally online, but that’s not necessarily a boundary for him.
“In an industry like mine, it’s sometimes about overcoming a rurality,” he said. “That’s why being online is great – geography is a non-issue.
“The main challenge is establishing a brand and standing out against other small businesses. The competition is good, but it is a hurdle to overcome.”
Andy said his disability isn’t so much of a barrier in his work as his age.
He said: “People have made comments about the fact I’m only 21, and dismissed me because of it, too.
“It’s frustrating because I’ve actually got a lot of experience behind me.
“My pet hate is how university is pushed as the only option for youngsters. There’s so much emphasis on qualifications but in my opinion, genuine experience is the key.
“At the same time, not everyone should start a business. It’s all about finding the route that’s best for you.”
• Living to work...
What started out as a way of making money on the side for Jake Addison, 24, and his brother has become an international enterprise and nothing short of a household name within the industry – in less than two years.
“I started making e-liquids for myself and a few friends when I worked in the RAF,” he said. “I sold them to a few people on the base and it became something I really enjoyed.”
The brothers started trading in the vape industry as Brews Bros in 2017, with a premises on the industrial estate as well as an online shop.
Life on the payroll wasn’t for Jake. “I hated work,” he said. “I didn’t have any passion and I wasn’t comfortable with the thought that I was exerting myself in order to fund management’s lifestyle.
“But running my own business with my brother has been a revelation – I have so much drive now and I’m always striving for next month to be at least ten per cent better than the last.”
Jake and Liam have worked hard to grow the business, which distributes e-liquids all around the world.
Jake said: “I’ve been managed badly before, meaning I just coasted as an employee.
“But our employees love coming to work. For me, that’s the dream – looking forward to getting into work every day.
“I feel that older generations are very accepting of working as a means to an end, but I don’t want to feel relieved when I retire. After all, I’ll be working most of my life. I want to enjoy myself.”
Like Andy, Jake feels the opportunity to trade online allows rural businesses to thrive. He said: “Living rurally isn’t limiting anymore, especially now we live in a social media world.
“Connecting with international customers is easy – you can have one-to-one conversations with them online and answer their questions.
“It means we’re a friendly face people can trust, which strengthens the brand.”
Going your own way may be a well-trodden path, but around half of start-ups fail in their first year.
Being self-employed is, without doubt, a precarious position. With the threat of higher-than-average debt, and a comparably uncertain income, taking the entrepreneurial plunge has its costs as well as its benefits.
Susanna said: “I had to learn a whole new world of paperwork and protocols that I never even knew existed. I’ve had to learn how to keep my books and do tax returns.
“I really think schools are missing a trick, having skills like these on the curriculum would be a huge plus.”
For Jake, being responsible for employees has also been a step up. He said: “Finding that a member of your staff and the company just aren’t gelling is difficult, and having to terminate someone’s employment is the worst feeling in the world.
“But, if you’re the boss, you’re the one who has to do it.
“It can be hard to switch off from the job too, which can put a strain on relationships.”
He added that learning the mechanics of business on the job can be a bit of a whirlwind.
“I’ve made mistakes that have cost us a lot financially – but you have to pick yourself up and learn from them and become a better entrepreneur because if them.”
• Words of wisdom...
What are our entrepreneurs’ keys to success? For Susanna, it’s all in the planning.
She said: “You’re your own boss, so managing your own productivity and hours is worth giving 110% to.
“Make the most of them by planning your business model well and rising above any setbacks.”
For Andy, confidence is key – as is the power to say no.
He said: “If people question your age, don’t let it get you down. Perseverance and determination are the best qualities you can have and with these overcome any doubts people may have about you.
“Furthermore, be in control of your workload. People often tell you to say yes to everything and figure out how to do it later.
“I take a different view. There is value in saying ‘no’ to people.
“It protects you – if you find yourself doing a job you’re not passionate about, it’ll show in your work.”
“If you’re confident, your customers and clients will be, too.
For Jake, it’s to learn the value of money and invest wisely.
“Don’t be afraid to take risks – we’ve thrived from developing a product that’s currently trending in the UK, so if you spot something you think will take off, go for it.
“But also understanding that you need to invest in yourself and your own personal development – whatever form that may take.”
In a world governed by social media, enveloped in the borderless platform of the online market/workplace, running a business from the back of beyond is increasingly possible.
And, for the young people in our local area, it’s a chance to do something they love for a living - without leaving the beauty and charm of their home town.