This week’s small business superstar is 11-year-old Henry Patterson, a Bedfordshire-based schoolboy who runs children’s lifestyle brand Not Before Tea and writes his own series of books. On the agenda is starting out in business, the best way to gain funding and what he would do for SMEs if elected Prime Minister.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your business.
I am 11 years old and I have been running Not Before Tea officially for a year (I actually started to experiment with ideas two years ago). I started out by selling bags of manure, selling charity shop items on eBay and then selling bags of sweets, so I love being an entrepreneur.
I have also written a book about a mouse and an owl who worked in a sweet shop (entitled The Adventures of Sherb and Pip: Pip Gets a Job). I then set out to bring the characters to life through products such as wash bags, aprons, bags and magic doors. The brand is now stocked in over 70 stores nationwide.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
I just love business; building something that is your own is so exciting.
You’ve previously sold manure and charity shop items, and now you have a children’s brand. What has been your favourite venture so far?
Not the manure, my hands used to freeze filling the bags!! Not Before Tea is the best one as it has so much potential to be a really big business.
Tell me a little more about your own series of books.
Yes – the first book Pip gets a job has sold over 3000 copies since September. The second and third have been written and will be launched next year.
You gained £17,000 of grant funding to help you start Not Before Tea. What advice do you have for small business owners that are trying to raise capital?
Apply for grants. We were lucky enough to get grants from the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), Innovation Vouchers and Velocity – an SME Growth Hub based in Buckinghamshire.
My mother found them all through Google and then spent hours on the forms. It was worth it though, I am so grateful for them. I think Crowdfunding is great too for small business owners.
What has been your biggest challenge as a small business owner?
For me it would have to be the book. As soon as we published the first one, people were asking when the next one was coming out! It is expensive producing books and we had to wait to sell the first print run before we could think about book two.
Many young children must be looking up to you for inspiration. What should they be doing in order to learn more about entrepreneurship?
Have a car boot sale. It is how I started and is a great way to learn about pricing, display, talking to customers, promotion and costs.
How well do you think schools do at encouraging children to become entrepreneurs?
I don’t think they have got it right yet. Fund raising is good but we need lessons on business terms such as profit. There is no reason why this should be taught in a fun business lesson.
If you were Prime Minister for a day, what laws would you create to help small business owners?
I would make it a rule that every town in England had two pop up shops where small businesses could rent space by the week.
What do you do to relax?
Spending time with my pug puppy called Martha and playing on my piano. I adore music.
What does the future look like for you – are you going to focus on your business once you leave school or will you be attending University?
I don’t think I will go to University as I know what I want to do. I love creating things and running the business.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
I am very honoured to be invited to speak on the main stage at the O2 next spring. Also, this week my new online TV channel not before tea-v got 5305 views in just 10 hours! I am very proud of that.