For some entrepreneurs, their first steps into the business world happen at a very young age.
You started your first entrepreneurial pursuit at just 13, what inspired you to do this?
My first business pursuit happened completely by chance – I wanted to purchase a motorised scooter but at that time it was far more than I could afford. I’d seen a stamp on the bottom that read ‘Made in China’, so I sourced a Chinese business directory and fired off a few letters to some factories in an attempt to purchase one at a discount. After persuading a factory to sell me one, I was offered double what I paid for it when riding it around the park a few weeks later. From this experience, I realised there was an opportunity to start earning money whilst at school and began importing more and more products.
What were your parents/teachers reactions to running this business?
In 1959, my late grandfather was the first person in the UK to import cameras from Japan when trading with Asia was almost unheard of. He escaped the war as a child and came to Britain on his own with nothing. Despite this, he managed to build a very successful business. I would like to think I have inherited his entrepreneurial gene and my parents always said they saw a part of him in me. As such, they were incredibly supportive of all of my business endeavours. At school I was discreet and kept my business separate from both my classmates and teachers - it was my own little secret.
What did you learn from these first steps in the business world?
The first thing I learnt was that business could be fun. Importing and trading became a hobby for me that replaced football at school lunch breaks and PlayStation when I got home. I discovered that if we put our minds to it, we are all capable of learning amazing skills and performing a variety of different tasks, despite how challenging they may seem. When I was younger, I wasn’t able to employ staff or find investment so I taught myself skills including how to build websites, market my products online and create great content without any help - many of which I still utilise today.
How did that inspire you to follow entrepreneurship later in life?
From the moment I imported that first scooter, I knew I wanted a career that focussed on trading in consumer goods - it was a ‘eureka’ moment and I became hooked. For me it wasn’t about the end result of making a sale, but more the enjoyment I got from the end-to-end process – be it conceptualising a product, finding a manufacturing partner or learning about overseas business culture. After graduating from the University of Warwick where I had put my business interests on hold, I found a job working in finance in the City of London. After two years, I realised that finance wasn’t the career path for me when I was not reliving the enjoyment I had when I was younger. I knew the only way I would get a real sense of fulfilment was to start my own business; It was these previous memories that inspired me to follow entrepreneurship once again.
You will never put your heart and soul into something you don’t enjoy
What lessons from those early days do you still live by now?
When I was 16 years old I lost all of my money when a business deal went sour. I purchased goods from a fraudulent supplier that never delivered my order and ran off with my money. Despite a number of things not feeling right with the supply-chain, I still decided to go ahead with the deal. Having had a few successful trading years prior to this, I’d become a little overconfident so I chose to ignore my gut and look solely at the figures. Since then, I’ve never once gone against my gut even if everything else tallies up. It is an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to business. In addition, I am now a firm believer in the saying, ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.’
What advice would you have for other young entrepreneurs?
First and foremost, never start a business with the sole intention of either working for yourself or making lots of money – this is a recipe for disaster. Our working careers form a considerable proportion of our lives, and the most important thing is to be doing something you truly enjoy day-in, day-out. If you can find what this is then you’ve won half the battle. I say this because you will never put your heart and soul into something you don’t enjoy, and to be a successful entrepreneur requires you to go where others may not have been. Ensure you set yourself small goals to begin with. Whilst it is paramount to have a vision and long-term dream, always make sure you break this down into achievable goals to stay motivated.
The next stage for Joshua’s business One Retail Group is getting products stocked in high-street stores, launching in Japan and opening up different, innovative income streams for the group’s products.