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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 July 2006, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK
Teenage tycoons
By Elliot Choueka
BBC Money Programme

Ask a group of 18 to 25 years olds about the idea of becoming an entrepreneur and almost three quarters will say that it is a good career choice.

Jake Lunn
Jake started his business because he wanted a yacht

So you probably should not be too surprised that youngsters are setting up businesses at an earlier and earlier age.

Sarah Green, Oliver Bridge and Jake Lunn all run their own companies - selling furniture, shoes and personalised napkins, and all of them are making real money.

Just one thing - Sarah is aged 20, Oliver is 17 and Jake is 10.

So how did they begin?

Yacht profits

Two years ago, when he was just eight, Jake Lunn was on holiday with his parents on a friend's yacht, leafing through some sailing magazines when a particularly flashy boat caught his eye.

Jake promptly declared that he was going to buy it.

Increasing numbers of parents and teenagers feel that entrepreneurship is a suitable career choice

But his dad Nick told him that if he was to afford the ship of his dreams then he would have to earn some serious cash.

"We all started teasing him and said if you want to earn enough money to afford a super-yacht, you'd better start earning now."

It was there that Jake's business idea for making personalised printed napkins for yachts was born; Nautical-napkins.co.uk was launched.

With some financial help from his dad, Jake started up the business with a second-hand printing press bought for 750.

"We did a deal which meant for that 750, for every time he sold a set of napkins he gave us half and kept half for himself until he'd paid back the 750," explains Nick.

"Well he's done that now and now he gets to keep all of the profit rather than half of the profit."

He might be just 10 years old, but Jake certainly has a head for the figures.

"Each napkin costs 50p and I earn a profit of about 25p," he says.

"I've got a profit of over 2,000. I have about 1,000 in my bank account at the moment."

But he is not afraid to spend his hard earned cash.

He has already bought a drum kit, a guitar and a surf board.

Large shoes

Seventeen-year-old Oliver Bridge turned a personal problem - his large feet - into a business opportunity when he set up a company selling big shoes.

Oliver Bridge
Oliver contacted companies to sell their big shoes online

"I had a look on the internet. Not that much competition from the big stores and I thought OK, I'll go in for it," he says.

He got in touch with shoe manufacturers and arranged to sell their biggest sizes through his own online store Biggerfeet.co.uk.

"I'd got all of the stuff in place and the first couple of weeks of July last year I spent 10 days building my website," he says.

"Then it all just came together and from then on just started selling.

"Within the first half hour of my website being online I had an order. Since then it's skyrocketed. Sales have just gone through the roof."

Self starter

Entrepreneur number three, Sarah Green, is something of a veteran with more than five years experience in the world of business.

Sarah Green
Sarah started her first business when she was 12

At the age of 18 she started an online furniture company, 1st-for-furniture.co.uk, which, in only its second year of trading, is expected to hit a turnover of almost 400,000.

Her dad, Andy Green, explains where she got her flair for business from.

At the age of 12 Sarah was already earning a wage doing a regular paper round and it was while on her deliveries that she spotted an opportunity.

"She saw a market that part of her round was old age pensioners whose gardens were looking like wilderness years," says Andy.

"So she made up fliers on the computer, put them through and in the space of two weeks she was cutting eight gardens every other Sunday, which was great for a kid of 12 who was coming home with 40 to 50 in her pocket."

Teaching talent

The talents and aspirations of these three young entrepreneurs are exactly what the government is trying to tap into with a new scheme for enterprise and training.

It's enterprise because they're working in teams and they're working together to develop skills
Michele Rhodes
Deputy headmistress
Hastingsbury School

Chancellor Gordon Brown has committed 180m of taxpayers' money to provide secondary school children with a taste for the world of business by giving them five days of so called Enterprise Training.

Hastingsbury School in Bedfordshire has recently run an Enterprise Day for the entire school.

From the outside you would be forgiven for wondering what producing a version of the musical Grease or doing military exercises on the school field has to do with enterprise, but the deputy headmistress Michele Rhodes explains.

"It's enterprise because they're working in teams and they're working together to develop skills," she says.

"And also it's about building their confidence. Enterprise is partly about a set of attitudes and capabilities, it isn't just about business experience, so what the students are doing today is finding out a little bit more about how they work in a team, what makes them effective."

So can you be taught to be an entrepreneur or are people simply born that way?

Professor Steven Currall of the London Business School thinks the answer to that is straightforward.

"I think it can be taught at a very early age, I think through role models and examples it can be reinforced and I am convinced that many different kinds of people can become successful entrepreneurs."

Mapped out futures

Meanwhile our young entrepreneurs are not showing any signs of slowing down.

Sarah is ploughing some of the profits from her company into a new flat and she is now planning her next venture - a removals business.

While Jake continues churning out his nautical napkins, he is also working on business number two - selling surfing gear to children.

And Oliver? Well he is heading in a different direction altogether.

Once he has finished his A-levels next year he hopes to go onto to study at Oxford University and eventually become a corporate lawyer!

The Money Programme: Teenage tycoons, BBC Two at 7pm on Friday 14 July.


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