TE 23: Ollie Forsyth- Dyslexic Teenage Entrepreneur

Ollie Forsyth is a 16 year old from the United Kingdom who is running two businesses. His first business, an online gift shop began three years ago selling friendship bracelets and has expanded to sell many other fashion accessories.

In this episode, you’ll learn several things about and from Ollie’s life:

  • How to respond to bullying (12:20)
  • Why some young entrepreneurs gravitate to older mentors (17:20)
  • How to start a business selling real products offline (19:23)
  • The importance of customers (21:00)
  • How to turn customers into loyal friends (23:00)
  • His second business: Dealing in Classic Cars (25:00)
  • Problems in the Educational System (28:00)
  • What kind of Family Support Ollie has experienced (30:30)
  • Ollie’s Apparent Lack of Fear (33:00)
  • Ollie’s Advice to Those Who Fear Failure and Rejection (36:30)
  • Ollie explains how he has “Never Lost a Penny” (38:00)
  • Ollie’s plans for his future (42:00)

Ollie says he first got the entrepreneur’s bug when, at the age of five or six, he began selling coffee to his parents for about 20 pence. Actually, he says, he was just selling labor, his parents had already bought the coffee, he was just making it and bringing it to them. (He also charged extra if they were late getting up and he had to make more coffee!)

Ollie starts talking about his experiences in education in England. He says that, as an entrepreneur, he doesn’t advise those who want to go into business to go to university, “do an apprenticeship, or work for 1-2 years, then go into business.” He says it makes no sense to go to university and get into tons of debt and then start a business when you can go to work, make some money, learn what you need to know and start a business.

He is about to start learning from one of the millionaire entrepreneurs from the UK TV Show “Dragon’s Den”, PJ Jones business coaching for one year.

During the discussion, Teenage Entrepreneur Host, Jordan Agolli reminds everyone that, “grades do not define who you are as a person.” Rather, it is the type of person you are that defines and determines ones’ future.

Ollie says he was bullied, and struggled in school due to his problems with dyslexia. He also points out a huge deficit in education these days. “Schools do not teach enterprise to students. So, I’m about to send lost of letters to schools in September to see if they want to teach entrepreneurship” and offer to assist.

BULLYING (12:20)
Ollie says that while he was bullied in school, it wasn’t the degree of bullying that was bad, but the amount of bullying. He says he guesses their bullying was motivated by jealousy, and that he just doesn’t get the emotion of jealousy. Relating one incidence of bullying, Forsyth tells of the time he appeared in an article on the website LadBible.

Ollie says one fellow student started cyber bullying him. In response, he re-tweeted the bully’s comments to his school and the student took the posts down. Ollie says he doesn’t blame the big companies running social media platforms, but, something needs to be done about the issue.

He says he has determined to prove to bullies that they were wrong. And, he’s vowed not to hire bullies in his business.

“I’ve come out a much better person,” Forsyth says of his experience with bullying. “Because of it, I’ve become stronger, more confident.”

Jordan tells Ollie that he’s heard an explanation that has helped him deal better with bullies, “hurt people hurt people.”

Ollie advises students who have been bullied to speak to someone – a school counselor or peer mentors – they can trust to look after their best interests and listen to them honestly.

HANGING WITH OLDER PEOPLE (17:20)
Jordan notes that Ollie, like himself, spent more time as a younger student with older people than he did with students his own age. Ollie says he just always enjoyed being with people older than he was. He says he just got along better with adults, and, although he went to a private school, he enjoyed the company of public school students more than he did his private school classmates.

Going back to the subject of bullying, Ollie says he has blocked all of his old bullies from his social media. He says that approach has helped him to move on and lead a happier life.

Ollie says he, too, has observed that young entrepreneurs tend to gravitate toward people who are older. He plans on conducting a small study of about 200 young entrepreneurs to see if they were bullied or had a learning disability such as dyslexia. He thinks there is too much coincidence between these factors and entrepreneurship to not be a factor in that development.

SELLING BRACELETS (19:30)
Ollie’s Shop started as an offline business after a teacher he had started wearing a friendship bracelet. He had found out the price of the bracelet (about 20 pounds) and started looking for others to buy. As a result, he ordered 5 sets of 10 samples from international producers of similar bracelets, and sold all of them for 10 pounds each.

After he made his first 100 pounds, he started negotiating terms with the producers he wanted to do business with, ad tot them down to about 3 pounds per bracelet. “I told them, ‘I’m not ordering anything from you unless you give the bracelets to me for 3 pounds each.’ And they did that,” he explains.

In the first 4 to 5 months, he made 5,000 pounds (about $8000 US), by peddling his goods at train stations, cricket grounds, anywhere he could. Using his business sense, he understood his unique selling proposition of offering friendship bracelets in various colors, and capitalized on that and his lower costs.

His sales were so good, he says, there were times he’d be walking around on the streets of his town with more than 1,000 pounds of cash in his pocket.

A year later, he visited a trade show and picked up other items to sell. That year, he sold 12,000 pounds of merchandise, all from one simple idea of selling a friendship bracelet like the one his teacher received the year before.

His business has grown so much in the past couple of years, that he’s had to hire his mother to help in the business. To explain the growth of his business, Ollie says, “As long as you take care of the customer, the company will take care of itself.” He has used this motto to develop loyal customers. That success has gotten him featured on magazines, and further expanded his business.

Jordan says he wishes more entrepreneurs understood that “customers are the highest priority.” Ollie replies, “If you’re good to the customer, they will keep coming back.”

He says he would develop relationships with the customer:

  • ask customers questions to learn about them
  • start with their friends
  • their word of mouth will be very valuable
  • speak to them

Jordan continues expanding on that advice by encouraging other business owners to “go deeper than just a business relationship. Get to know about their family, work and/or school. Build relationships,” he emphasizes.

A 16-YEAR OLD CLASSIC CAR DEALER (25:00)
Ollie’s second business is as a classic car dealer. He says he got into the business because it was something he and his dad could do together, and his dad is in the classic car insurance business. He is also partnering with his brother in the business.

Their first investment vehicle was a 1967 Triumph GT6 from an owner in Belgium. The vehicle cost them 3,000 pounds. On the way back with the car, the back wheel fell off.

Their second car was a 1930’s Austin Ulster. That car was found in its original condition, from only its second owner. The original owner, Ollie says, was killed in World War 2. Since that time, the car had never been touched for 60 years.

He, his brother and father bought the car for 16,500 pounds, but, he says, the vehicle is worth more now, with offers of 20 to 40 thousand pounds having been made, and estimates of an auction sales price as high as 120,000 pounds. He says the trick to making a car very expensive is to make it famous, and that’s what he and his family intends to do.

PROBLEMS WITH THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM (28:00)
Ollie and Jordan discuss the differences and similarities of the US and UK educational system and their points of failure. Both agree that neither system is geared to help educate those who are entrepreneurial in spirit.

Ollie says he’s trying to reach out to schools in his area, offering to present classes on entrepreneurship. He gives a few tips for those who are struggling in schools that aren’t friendly to entrepreneurs

  • that about what business you want to start
  • go work for someone in that field of business for 6-12 months
  • get as much experience as you can
  • don’t go to college and build up massive debt, just learn what you need at this job
  • find a mento to help you
  • watch business programs on TV
  • read books
  • develop a clearer idea on how you want to start
  • start your own business

FAMILY SUPPORT (30:30)
Jordan asks Ollie about his family’s support. Ollie says his family is really supportive of him. He says he’s also getting support from celebrities (because of his age). He has garnered testimonials from olympians, MPs, and even members of the royal family.

In addition, he has had lots of success by writing to news publications and getting articles written about him and h is businesses. And, he’s written letters to celebrities asking for testimonials, or assistance in fundraising efforts for charities. “It’s hard work,”he says, “but it pays off.”

ON NOT BEING AFRAID OF ‘NO’ (33:00)
Jordan asks Ollie if he is afraid of anything after he talks about reaching out to celebrities and government officials. “If you don’t get a response,” he explains his lack of fear, “try again.” As an example, he wrote to Entrepreneur Magazine 9 times before, with no response, before writing a tenth time, which resulted in an article in the online magazine.

He also says he always keeps in contact with those he meets, and he takes business cards everywhere.

ADVICE FOR THOSE AFRAID OF FAILURE (36:30)
Ollie offers advice for those afraid of failure in response to Jordan’s request, “Never say no,” he says, “if they say it will not work, prove them wrong!”

But, he continues, “if it does fail, you’ve learned the lesson – don’t do that again.”

He goes on to encourage the young entrepreneur, “take a risk – you’re never going to get very far in life if you never take a risk.”

NEVER LOST A PENNY (38:00)
Ollie says he’s never lost a penny in his business. He says he’s done his research, taken advice from a few key people, and he knows he shouldn’t lose as he goes forward. He offers three recommendations for those who wish to go into business for themselves:

  • approach a mentor
  • search the internet for mentors in your business
  • look for charities with mentors
  • have confidence

OLLIE’S PLANS FOR THE FUTURE, TAXES AND DUBAI (42:00)
Ollie says he wants to expand his fashion accessories business into a line of clothing that is fun and inexpensive. He is also starting his own magazine, like his idol, Richard Branson did in his teen years. And, he plans on moving to Dubai for about 10 years, calling it the entrepreneurs lab.

Jordan asks Ollie why would he want to move to Dubai. He says it is the perfect “entrepreneur’s lab.”

  • tax free
  • many entrepreneurs are living there
  • economy is booming

In comparison, he says, UK is not very entrepreneur-friendly

  • economy is failing
  • the millionaires are moving out
  • 40% tax rate

OLLIE’S SUGGESTIONS TO IMPROVE BRITISH ECONOMY (44:00)

Ollie then makes a number of suggestions of how economies not very friendly to new businesses could improve in that area, keeping business, and new jobs in that region. In addition to improving the educational system as he mentioned earlier, he thinks 40% is too much taxes. “Why should an entrepreneur give almost half of his salary to the tax man?” he reasonably asks.

He concludes his discussion on reforms that are needed in the UK, “If I become wealthy, I’m not living here, it’s as simple as that.”

OLLIE’S HERO – RICHARD BRANSON (45:30)
When asked by Teenage Entrepreneur host, Jordan Agolli, about his hero, Richard Branson, Ollie explained that he wanted to meet Branson for many different reasons. Both are dyslexic, and both had their businesses up and running by or before the age of 16.

He says meeting Branson is on his bucket list. And, while it’s a “dream,” it is something he is actively pursuing. To that end, he’s doing charity work with Branson’s mother this summer.

THE LEGACY QUESTION (49:30)
Jordan asks Ollie what he wants his legacy to be. Ollie’s immediate response is “If I can die, becoming a millionaire in my twenties, and a billionaire before I die, I’d be a happy chap.”

When asked why money was his motivation and legacy, Ollie replies, “it is the achievement of being bullied and dyslexic, not just the money,” and, he says, he knows that he has to be happy. He later adds that he would like to start teaching others how to start a business, and concludes that he’d like to be “well off. But, also helping people start businesses. [That] would be great.”

PARTING ADVICE (51:50)
When asked for final words of advice for teen entrepreneurs, Ollie quips, “If you’ve had a few failures, never, ever give up. Start again. Rethink your concept,” he continues, “If your first idea hasn’t worked – move on. Not all your ideas in life will become a huge success.”

JORDAN’S PARTING WORDS (52:00)
Jordan noted a few things about Ollie’s story that led him to invite the 16 year old onto the show. “His ability to not give up when bullied, or someone doesn’t respond.”

Jordan is amazed by the story of making 10 contact with Entrepreneur magazine before he finally was included in the publication as a teen entrepreneur.

Ollie, Jordan says, “inspires me to make changes,” and to commit to “not giving up.”

Jordan offers a challenge to his audience:
What is something you’ve tried to do, but you’ve had no response, or even a “no”. Make an effort to accomplish that task again, but use a different approach. Be creative. And, let me know how it goes.

BUILDING A SCHOOL
Don’t forget that during the month of September, 2014, Teenage Entrepreneur is raising money to support the construction of a school by Pencils of Promise. http://teenpodcast.com/promise