As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, the British Library put on a great event on Monday night allowing the audience to quiz some successful entrepreneurs in their own Question Time addition. On the panel appeared the likes of Orla Kiely, the renowned fashion designer, Stephen Fear, the British Library’s Entrepreneur in Residence and Sam Hargreaves, the 21 year old founder of Gadgets4Everyone. Urban Times had the opportunity to interview Hargreaves who launched his gadget recycling company at the age of 19. The story began for Sam at 16 when his sister turned down an iPod that he had bought her from the USA. By selling it on in the UK he realised that he could double his money. He then decided, to his mother’s dismay, that the £5,000 he was saving to buy a car would be better spent buying up hundreds of iPods from the States. Gadgets 4 Everyone now has 11 staff, a million pound turnover and has recycled over a million devices. Urban Times got the chance to speak to Sam and pick his brains about the keys to success.
Being a young and successful entrepreneur, what tips would you have for other young people looking to startup their own business?
If you’ve got an idea then go for it! If you’re confident and interested in something then put everything into it. Being young is definitely an advantage because it means you can make mistakes and be able to fall back and not have too much to lose. For example, at the time I started I was living at home in my parent’s house. The worst thing that was going to happen was getting grounded! If we compare this to someone who’s 40 and who has a mortgage, you could lose your house if the business goes wrong. At a young age it means you can throw everything at it.
Having sacrificed going to university in order to set up your business, what would you say to other people who are tossing up between going to university or not?
It depends what you want from life. For me, even if I was going to university I always wanted to own my own business. If someone wants to become a doctor – then university is the natural choice. However, if someone is adamant in their mind that they want to work for themselves, and they want to prosper in that way then you should go for it, as long as you’re 100% confident in what you do. You have to be of the mindset that, “It has to work. There’s no other option.”
Of course you can also be successful by going to university. There’s multiple routes for everyone.
So was your business entirely self-funded?
Yes, the £5,000 that I saved up for my first car went straight into buying up iPods from the US; to my Mum’s dismay! I doubled that money and it was a snowball effect from there. When starting your business my piece of advice is not to be too greedy. You have to sow the seeds first before you reap the rewards. Make sure that you have something for the future because if you eat all your harvest this year, then you might not have something for the next.
You were a People’s Choice award winner of the Local Business Accelerators, an initiative set up by the regional press to boost local business. How much have said schemes helped you?
The LBA was funded by Sir Ray Tindle and was recommended by David Cameron. People like this, who believe in you and give you that opportunity and the edge is fantastic. Through that I’ve met my mentor, Deborah Wharton. It’s not so much that you go to your mentor and say, “Oh this is my problem. What do I do?” Rather, you lay your cards out on the table and, normally, Deborah just sits there and listens and doesn’t even saying anything. By the end, I’ve solved the problem by myself! Having that person to offload to makes it possible to do that. The exposure it gives you is also great; Carla, who does my PR, knows who exactly to talk to. If something is a success then it should be heard of, rather than all the doom and gloom that we see in the paper!
Where do you hope Gadgets4Everyone will be in 20 years time?
I hope we would have expanded worldwide; we’ve just begun tackling the European market now. The business is extremely sustainable. There will constantly be a demand for gadgets and so if we play our cards right I can see it being a success in multiple countries. I’m definitely looking forward to the future!
Do you have plans to set up any alternative businesses?
I have already started putting together other companies. The skills that I’ve learnt setting up Gadgets4Everyone has really helped me, alongside the people I’ve met along the way. It’s not just what I know but who I know.
I have a lot of ideas going on in my head. I wake up in 3am, bolt upright, and run to my laptop to jot some of these ideas down. I’ve been doing that for quite some time now! I’ll wake up in the morning sometimes and think, “What was I on about?!” but other times I can sit down and work on some of the more brilliant ideas. I’m constantly thinking, eating, breathing business.
What kind of field will the new businesses be in?
I’m very into web development so it will be along these lines. But I’m open to anything. My ultimate dream is to own a restaurant, and that’s something completely unrelated to gadgets, but it’s something I think is really interesting so I have big ambitions to go to different places.