Image Source: Ivan Lian

When I was 17 I started my first ”˜real’ business. I was in my first year of sixth form and was working part-time in a computer store fixing virus-infected PCs. The store sold all kinds of computer-related items, but it had no real online presence. No ecommerce store. Not even a simple website. The store owner was a really nice guy and we got on well but it baffled me how he could miss such a big opportunity.

I figured that I could setup my own online store and run it on the side whilst I finished school. Maybe I would even make enough money to leave the computer store. So I went out and set up accounts with all of the companies that supplied the store. I had about £100 to buy some stock so I started small, buying cheaper items with the hope that I could find some that would be popular and then double down on those.

I worked flat-out through the easter holidays and setup a simple website to sell the stock. I probably should have been revising for the business exam that I had coming up, but I figured that actually building a business was going to be way more useful than staring at textbooks. Turns out I flunked that exam.

As well as the website, I started listing the items on eBay. I didn’t know anything about marketing or sales but eBay seemed like a logical choice. The customers were already there, I just needed to convince them to buy from me rather than my competitors. Maybe I could even persuade previous customers to come back and buy something from my website, cutting out the eBay listing fees.

I bought a second-hand blackberry and setup a Skype number so that the business looked more professional. I remember calling up suppliers during lunch breaks and between lessons to place orders. It was way more interesting than the majority of my school work.

One day we had a guest speaker come in and talk to our business class about how he had started a business from nothing. The speakers name was Edd Smith, founder of Dreadworx. Up until then my business had mainly been a hobby. I did it because I enjoyed what I was doing. I never thought that it would amount to anything. Edd changed my whole perception on business. He gave me the best business advice I’ve ever received, and showed me that it was possible to take something you love and make it your full-time job.

I ran my computer business for the majority of the time I was in sixth form. The business had grown steadily and it was profitable. I wasn’t going to be overtaking PC World in market share any time soon but I loved the feeling of making a sale. That business taught me a lot, and I made a lot of mistakes. The biggest thing I learned was that with a bit of hard work (and a little bit of luck) you can build something from nothing.

Matt West