Entrepreneur Of The Week – Tommie Rose
No doubt you remember the story of the Schoolboy and the £2.5M Energy Drink.
Ever wonder what happened next?
Today, in association with The Budding Entrepreneur, we’re delighted to share the next chapter of the story with you. There are some great tips we can all learn from in the interview that follows, and plenty to inspire. Enjoy!
Tommie, can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you are doing at the moment?
I’m Tommie Rose, a 15-year-old entrepreneur from Salford in Manchester.
At the moment I am splitting my time between several ventures. I currently run a t-shirt business called blackmarketproducts and am currently looking at premises in Manchester city centre for this.
I’m in the process of setting up another new business which will be an online sweet store.
Finally, I do quite a bit of work for charity – donating money and time to several different charity events, and motivational talks to youth clubs and schools.
When did your entrepreneurial career begin?
My entrepreneurial career started when I was aged 8, in primary school.
I started selling “Match Attax” football cards with all the doubles I had. I used to say to the other kids: “why go and buy a pack from the shop for 50p, it will likely contain cards you already have in your collection. For the same 50p you can buy 3 of the cards you need – you know what you are getting – make your money go further!”
This worked a treat and on top of that I would charge 40p for a “Shiny” or 70p for a “Limited” or “Man of the Match” card.
I was only making around £3 a day but that was enough for an ice cream and a can of fizzy drink and the rest I would re-invest into stock for my little business – buying more cards so my swaps pile still had lots to trade.
Are any of the members of your family entrepreneurs?
I am self-taught. None of my family are entrepreneurs.
I used that fact to drive me forward. I would always see my mum and dad going to work for 8-9hrs shifts every day, working really hard to give me and my sisters (Summer, age 11, and Jasmine, age 6) the best they could.
I used to often think to myself, even from an early age; “if I had my own business then I could look after my family and make their life easier” and this was my goal, this is where my desire and passion come from.
You started selling sweets and fizzy drinks at school, when did this start and how much were you making?
I started selling sweets within my 1st week at high school, when I was 11 years old – in Year 7.
I wasn’t very mature at the time. I didn’t realise how much of a lucrative business it could be. I got caught selling as it went against the healthy eating policy of the school so I stopped until I hit Year 9 when I was 13 years old.
I remember having a chat with my mum and dad about getting a college education. Nobody in my whole family has ever graduated so this became my goal. I had an adult conversation with mum and dad and laid out the pros and the cons of why I wanted to go to university.
I had put forward my business plan to them – selling sweets in school again but this time with the end goal being saving for my “uni fund” – putting the money earned into my child trust fund. I think they worried that I would get caught again but this time at 13 years old I was much more mature and had my goals and plans set out.
It then became clear to me just how lucrative this “black market tuck shop” could be. I soon had hundreds and then thousands of pounds in savings. I was taking in over £300 a week but out of this money I had to buy the stock from discount stores.
I used the internet to compare prices to see what supermarket had the best offers on that week for the products I was selling and then there were wages, too: I was employing 2 friends who I could trust paying them £5.50 a day each – £27.50 at the end of each week – quite a lot of money for 15 year old kids!
I used to take a lot of orders over social media – Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so I gained a vast amount of experience in all these areas.
Your school found out about all this, and ordered you to stop trading or risk suspension. Then, the story was picked up by the media and you were all over the news. Did you get suspended in the end? How did your school react to all this publicity?
I was only threatened with suspension from the school. It was a threat they didn’t follow up in the end.
This was because I stopped selling the day before the story broke, then with all the press and media coverage, and with all the support I received from big names like Alan Sugar, Deborah Meaden, Theo Paphitis, Jason Manford and Duncan Bannatyne – it put the school in a difficult position.
The school management were getting slated from all angles for not supporting my entrepreneurial spirit. It felt very strange in school for quite a while as some thought I had given the school a bad name but in fact I all I had done is show that even if you are from a council estate and have nothing that dreams cost nothing to own and if you believe in your dreams and have a passion for what you’re doing you have every chance to go far in life.
I do understand now the healthy eating policy and that I was breaking the school rules, something I should not have done.
What businesses do you currently own at the moment and what are your future plans?
I own a t-shirt company called black market products, I am also expanding the range to include hoodies and jumpers and gym wear. I am looking at prime locations in the city centre of Manchester for my first shop!
I am also in the process of setting up an online sweets company because that’s what I became well known for. The stunt on eBay where I auctioned a Lucozade bottle signed by myself brought in a lot of publicity. In the end, eBay pulled it due to their selling restrictions, but not before the bidding hit £2.5M! The winning bidder was an Australian businessman who has now committed a substantial amount of money to my trust fund for business and education.
My future plans are to branch out even further. I am currently doing some filming – a documentary of a council estate kid who went on to be Britain’s youngest on-paper millionaire. So, acting is also something I am looking into as well as trying to help others my age who feel there is nothing for them in life other than street crime or teenage pregnancy or prison. I aim to tell my story and motivate others.
Can you tell us more about your support for homeless and other charities around your home town?
I have done quite a few things for charity since hitting the headlines. I helped at a “Coffee for Craig” event in Manchester where I helped out passing out clothes and refreshments to homeless people.
I am supporting Manchester Angels, this is another charity that supports the homeless people of Manchester. I will be there handing out clothes and blankets and talking to the homeless to see if there is any advice or help I can give them. Last December I bought £1,300 worth of presents and donated them to the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital for children who will be in hospital over Christmas.
It was a surreal experience. I have always wanted to give something back to the hospital that saved my life. Only 3 months before, my appendix burst and I had to have an rush operation. I was in there for 5 days afterwards so I know what it’s like to be in hospital and to see the kids smiles that day filled me with pride.
Who has inspired you to be an entrepreneur? Have you had any support from successful entrepreneurs?
I was inspired by watching shows like Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice. These two shows I would watch every time they were on.
The great thing with YouTube is you can go back and watch shows from years gone by, like the shows where they would buy cheap and then sell at a mark-up or repackage the product. This helped me with profit margins and selling strategies.
I have been lucky to have lots of celebrity support. Both Lord Alan Sugar and Deborah Meaden gave me personal messages of support which were read out “on air” when I did Good Morning Britain with Ben Shepherd and Susanne Reid.
They had already shown me great support through Twitter and so had Duncan Bannatyne, Dave Fishwick, Theo Paphitis, and many other big names in the business world.
You were raising funds to go to university. Are you still planning on going?
I am still planning to go to uni but things change… I will still be doing some form of studying alongside my business as I can’t forget my original dream.
One thing which has become apparent to me is people often go to uni hoping as a result to be a success in life and run their own business…..but this is something I am already doing at the moment and earning a good sum of money from.
However, I still want to be the first person in my family to get a degree. I think it’s important that just because you get some success you never stop making yourself a better, smarter person.
Where do you see yourself five years from today?
In five years’ time I aim to be a multi-millionaire with a retail empire right across U.K. as well as one of the best-known motivational speakers in the world.
Finally, what piece of advice would you give entrepreneurs?
Always do your homework on any venture you enter into. Why just compete with others doing the same thing or selling the same product? Find the niche in that product or the USP, unique selling point, what makes your products different to those of everyone else out there.
Also, passion is a big thing. If you don’t have passion for what you are doing then you will never get it to work.
I am still in school but even in the holidays I will be up at 7AM doing as much as I can online and with my business.
You must have passion, desire and dreams.
We all have dreams but if you have a desire to achieve those dreams then this can really push you on in life and the main thing is to believe.
If you believe in yourself, your own ability to make a difference, you won’t go wrong.
Too many people try “put you down” in life but if you believe it will give you the confidence you need to succeed in life.
#BMP Belief Motivation Passion – this is my motto in life.
Without motivation, what’s the point?
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