Getting around rules to start a business in my teens

Aged 11, I was challenged by a family friend to build her a website. This was then the start of me learning and growing a full-service marketing agency - which reached a size of 26 full-time staff working with leading brands like Intuit and Mazars, when I was only 18. Now aged 19, I have recently undergone a multi-million pound merger of Towers Design (my agency,) and I'm spending my time launching my new tech start-up, Social Marley, and investing in innovative start-ups.

Along the way of growing my company, there were, of course, a number of challenges that I had to overcome. One of the biggest was my age. Why should someone trust a teenager to carry out a marketing campaign worth tens/hundreds of thousands of pounds? This problem I would argue was also one of my biggest strengths as being young gives me a fresh outlook as to how the brand can communicate and engage with customers. 

Whilst I was building Towers Design I learnt the value of surrounding myself with like-minded people who can work with me and help progress the business whilst I was at school. Trying to juggle working for clients and being at school became increasingly tricky and every day felt like it was getting harder. Recently the law changed meaning that my generation has to stay in education until we are 18, this is fine, and works well for keeping young people in the system, but for me it was a real holdback.

I looked into various options as to what I can do after completing my GCSE exams from continuing with A-Levels to going to college. In the end, after a lot of research, I decided I would do an apprenticeship in my own business. This was completely new for both myself and the education system, but I was up for the challenge and it meant I could focus near enough full-time on the business. 

I am a big believer in trying to drive positive change and make an impact as you rise to the top of your career. If something doesn’t work for you then change it (providing its right to do so). This is a trait of most entrepreneurs, including Richard Branson and myself. 

Once I had been able to focus fully on my business it led to rapid growth. I remember doing my last exam on Thursday and the Monday the next week I moved into my first office! I quickly began to do more public speaking and events, which meant the business saw increased sales, and meant I could start employing staff to deliver for clients.

Over time the focus of the business quickly changed from building websites to having a wider approach to a businesses marketing. I realised that I am only a little bit younger than Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc and have grown up using these platforms so the skills my generation and I have for using the tools are highly valued by brands. This new found approach saw us work with some of the industries leading brands, including Pot Noodle, Mazars and Amazon. Before merging the agency Towers Design reached an impressive 26 full-time staff with a seven figure turnover. 

One of the other key challenges I had to address was business banking. To have a business bank account traditionally you have to be 18 years old meaning that I wasn't eligible for one when I started. I was using my child’s account for most of the growth of the business until my bank told me I couldn’t continue to use it for business purpose as it was against the terms and conditions of the account.

This led to me investigating and finding out that there was no bank which offered business banking to under 18s! I then set about making this my challenge to change this. After a lot of meetings and negotiations with various banks, I managed to become the first ever under 18 to get a business bank account (thanks to Metro Bank). They are now looking at ways to roll this out further. For me, this was a big change for young people wanting to start a business and is another barrier taken down for young entrepreneurs. 

I look forward to my next journey launching Social Marley and challenge you to think about ways you can make a difference to help others. 

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