Celebrating the people behind British small businesses

Yolo-trepreneurs: the bright young business superstars making a difference

Think you need to have decades of business experience under your belt to successfully start up your own? This bunch of brilliant young entrepreneurs are all set to prove you wrong. Whether independent retailers or tech-heads, all have two things in common… they’re scarily young, and they’re ruddy great!

The Young Entrepreneur of the Year: Sharad Tandale of Innovation Engineers and Contractors, 32


Sharad’s tale is one of the most inspiring business stories you’re likely to hear. Born and brought up in the Vanjari community, a marginalised community of farmers in India where less than 1% start their own business, he braved the disapproval of his family and community to start up his engineering and construction company, helped by a Youth Business International loan of $20,000 that changed his life. Sharad is also committed to making his company a sustainable and safe place to work, offering his workers good wages and benefits.

What was the reaction from your friends and family when you told them that you wanted to set up a business?

When I decided to start my own business, my father was completely against my decision and refused to provide me with any kind of support. I was quite nervous because of my father’s reaction but at the same time I got encouragement from my mother and friends. My mother gave me $500, without informing my father, from her little savings. My friends also encouraged me.

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

In my business we need to work around the clock, hence most of the time I am in the field to guide the employees, visiting municipal corporations and various other departments to know if any new work is going to come, and building relations with them. Generally I start my field work early in the morning and try to finish before lunch hours, and after that I work in the office.

What is the general attitude towards entrepreneurs in your country?

In our country, entrepreneurs only get respect when they become successful. Bankers also are only interested in giving finance to successful entrepreneurs; they are not ready to take risk. In India one has to struggle a lot to become an entrepreneur.

What could be done to encourage more young people to set up their own businesses?

Entrepreneurship should be taught and encouraged early at school. There are facilities provided by government but awareness needs to be increased.

What piece of advice would you pass on to young entrepreneurs?

I would like to tell my friends that being an entrepreneur is not just about doing the hard work – it needs skills such as managing and leveraging time and resources, and also you need to be patient and keep a long-term outlook. Believe in yourself.

The creative whiz: Tom Hatton of ReferenceME, 22


Tom Hatton is CEO and creative director at T+Biscuits, a creative digital media company. They’re most famous for their innovative apps – ReferenceME is an ingenious way to reference your essays by scanning the bar code of the book being referenced, and also helps students organise their deadlines. Oh, and they teamed up with Dominos to make a flying pizza machine.

Did you always know you wanted to start your own business?

Not at all – it just happened naturally. I started building on some ideas to see where they went and before I knew it, I realised that what I was doing was running a business.

What’s been the hardest thing so far?

When I first started ReferenceME I took on someone to help with the technical side. They have subsequently hacked my emails and stolen IP from us which was an unfortunate learning curve and was hard to accept, but thankfully you do move on from these things – I know now to be much more cautious in the future.

Did you have to juggle school/uni stuff and your business?

I started T+Biscuits whilst at university. I spent my last year at uni travelling to London on most days for meetings, new business generation and building products.

I needed to be really efficient with organising my time, and actually it was this that helped to inspire one of the first products I built – ReferenceME. It’s an educational tool that does your citations and bibliography for you in seconds and it was designed to save students (including myself) a load of time with essays and dissertations. It is quickly becoming a must-have tool for all students and I am extremely proud of it.

Although it was a little mad at times, I can honestly say that all the travelling and juggling work with university life was worth it. I believed in what I was doing and the result was that I sold one of my projects (an app) for six figures whilst I was still at university. This certainly made all the running around a little easier!

Can you give us some tips for other entrepreneurs? 

Be as resourceful as you can. We have grown ReferenceME with almost no marketing budget at all. Just remember that with some creative thinking, it is possible to do big things with just a little. There is definitely something to be said for learning to think lean.

Also, I’d advise you to just go for it! Who cares what other people have done and how they have got there? They didn’t get there by following a path – it was trial and error and that’s the thing that makes you succeed. When it gets tough, that is part of the game, so don’t dwell and just move on.

The littlest crowd-funder: Dylan Allman, author of Cracking Good Recipes, 7

Dylan is our first entrepreneur to not yet be in his twenties… or even his teens. He’s a teeny tiny seven years old, but is already letting his business side run free with his ‘Cracking Good Recipe Book’ – a book of his own special recipes, and a project which he aims to fund via Crowdfunder. All profits go to the Wallace and Gromit Children’s foundation.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur? 

I don’t think I am an entrepreneur as I am only 7, but I am trying hard to raise money to help other people. I have done lots of things to raise money for the Wallace and Gromit children’s charity since I was three. I have held a tea party, I did a five mile bike ride when I was four which was really hard, and last year I ran a lemonade stand. I don’t know whether I will want to run a business when I’m older, but I do know I want to always help others.

What’s been the best thing so far?

The best thing has been coming home from school to see all the pledges people are making on my Crowdfunder project to help me get the books printed. I can’t believe I have raised so much money already, and everyone is really kind. I love writing the updates too – it’s the first thing I do when I come home from school.

How do you juggle school stuff and your project? 

It’s quite hard work and sometimes when I get home from school I’m tired and don’t feel like doing much, especially today because I had art club so didn’t get home until half past four. But I have to do the work because I have promised the charity I will do it and I want to help children who are not very well.

I go straight on the computer when I get home and write an update, then I have a snack and sit with mum to go through anything that has happened in the day. Today I am answering these questions, and later in the week I am coming home from school at lunch time so a newspaper can take some photographs. Mum has told the school what I’m doing and they really like it.

What business person do you most admire? 

My mum. Mum is really good at business, she works really hard and she has helped me to learn a lot. She helps me with things like money and helps me understand how to tell people what I’m doing. She is funny and kind and I think she is the best business mum ever.

Can you give us some tips for other entrepreneurs?  

If they are crowdfunding then making a video is a really good idea. People can watch it and find out more about you and then hopefully they will give money. I know that Mum is doing lots of things to help me in the day when I’m at school to tell people all about what I’m doing, and she uses Twitter a lot, so doing those sort of things are important. If there are things you can’t do in your business then maybe find someone who can do them for you.

The entrepreneur with a passion for music – Patty Paterson of Needa Records, 25



From working in PR for clubs to DJing in them, Patty Paterson has always been involved in the house music scene – eventually starting up his own record label, Needa, when he was just 24. After raising money through crowd-funding, the label will soon be releasing its first EP on vinyl.

What’s been the hardest thing so far?

Contracts have been a bit of a struggle as I’ve never dealt with them before. Once they are complete though, the feeling of excitement and anticipation makes up for the stress. I’ve also had some great advice on how to deal with the legal issues, and all the other things I hadn’t thought of when setting up!

What’s been the most amazing experience so far?

The response from my BloomVC.com crowdfunding campaign was pretty wild (). I set a £1000 funding target, but I never really expected to get all the support and donations that I received. It has really given me the drive to do my best with Needa.

What would you say to any young entrepreneur haters?

I wouldn’t say anything to them, as I couldn’t care less. Actions speak louder than words, and success will prove them wrong!

Can you give us some tips for other young entrepreneurs? 

If you are passionate and driven about what you are doing, and you are willing to commit your life to your business then that’s a good start! Build up the right advice and support network too – as I’ve already said, the support I got from friends, connections, and the network I’ve made through Bloom has been invaluable.

The PR superstar – Emily Austen of Emerge, 23


At just 23, Emily already boasts clients such as Calum Best, Oliver Proudlock from Made In Chelsea and Stavros Flately on her books – her company covers talent management, PR and events. Setting up the company in her second year of university and even managing one of the TOWIE cast members during her finals, she should be an inspiration to student entrepreneurs everywhere.

Have you encountered any prejudice?

Yes. Because I’m 23, I can’t feign life experience. There is something to be said however for new eyes on stale projects. I’ve grown up in the technological revolution – social media is my language and therefore my currency. It’s important to look at what people can do, rather than what they can’t.

Largely I think people respond negatively to things they don’t understand. I often have people older commenting negatively about my business, questioning how it started, whether there was private funding etc. People like to criticise and assume I’m incompetent, which is totally fine as I’ve got no problem proving them wrong! It ought to be said though that there have been lots of supportive people who have helped me along the way too.

What’s been the hardest thing so far?

Anyone who says the financial side of running your own business isn’t the hardest part is lying – or is really rich. There appears to be a general assumption that if you run your own business, you have loads of cash. The reality is that you pay yourself last, and the business comes first. It can be difficult tackling numbers and working out expenditure in relation to anticipated business growth, and it’s a constant thought that everything has to be cost effective. The only other thing that has been difficult is that it can be lonely sometimes – but that’s part and parcel of running your own business.

What hacks you off the most about running your own business?

The irregularity of my routine can be tricky. I’ve been home once this year, I don’t have time for relationships and sometimes have to be reminded by friends that I’m getting the balance wrong. It’s difficult to make predictions, and the pressure can be extraordinary at times. You have to change your mindset from trying to avoid feeling stressed, to accepting that it’s going to happen, and learning how to manage it. The nature of my business is that you are managing people’s reputations, their lives – you can’t make a mistake.

Can you give us some tips for other young entrepreneurs?

Listen, but don’t absorb everything. Everyone you meet will have an opinion on your business and your decisions. Many are useful, but some are not. A successful entrepreneur will have an inbuilt gut decision-making process. It’s crucial to be sure of your convictions, and to back yourself.

In the early days, I over-promised and told people I could do things that at the time I didn’t know how to. But I sure as hell went away and learnt how to do it as soon as I left the meeting – there are some amazing books that can teach you a large amount in a short space of time. Know your limits and set targets according to those. You can be aspirational and realistic. Do what you love and know your market. Einstein said ‘Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its entire life thinking it is stupid.’

Want to know how to become an entrepreneur? Check out our article explaining how!