"My biggest achievement has been receiving investment on Dragons’ Den from Deborah Meaden and growing the business from that moment."
What did you do before you started this business?
At the age of 12, I created an online virtual gold business based on a computer game I used to play with my friends. I discovered that if I could buy the gold in bulk and sell it online, I could make some money. I saved up some pocket money and contacted a Chinese company to buy in bulk. I made a free website after watching YouTube videos on web design, and sold the gold on there. I advertised my website by creating lots of profiles (that would eventually be disabled by the game) and went to parts of the game to chat with other players and tell them about my website. Eventually, I was making money from doing this. I was contacted by the Chinese company who bought the business for £10,000.
Having left school early, I struggled to find tutors who could fit into my schedule. This led me to create a website called “Tutor Magnet”, where tutors and students could connect easily to organise tutoring. This website has recently been updated and is still going today. Business has always been second nature to me, and from an early age I sought out new and exciting opportunities.
What inspired you to start up?
When I moved into my grandparents’ bungalow, they converted the garage into my bedroom. I wanted a curtain pole put up, and after many broken drill bits we had little success. That’s when the idea of GripIt was born. We began creating the prototype of “GripIt”, and tested it on the curtain pole - it worked. I realised that it was a common problem, and that there was demand for a solution. A patent was applied for and granted four years later, after which I made the life changing decision to appear on Dragons’ Den, eventually becoming the youngest entrepreneur to ever secure funding on the show.
Tell us about your business in 100 words
GripIt Fixings is the world’s ultimate plasterboard fixing. It’s unlike any other fixing on the market, and can hold extreme loads of up to 330kg. This allows GripIt to hang anything from curtain poles to blinds, mirrors, picture frames, kitchen cupboards, radiators and even TVs.
The product is stocked in over 5000 stores across the UK, exported to 32 countries and stocked in South Africa, Bunnings in Australia and New Zealand. It will also be stocked in 2,500 Home Depot Stores in the US.
How would you describe your business to your Nan?
This is a hard question, as both my nan and grandad are very involved with my business. I often visit them after work to update them on my business, and they know almost everything about it. They also visit the office and factory to have a look around and witness the changes on a day-to-day basis.
Where do you get advice, support or help?
Whenever I need advice or support, I tend to turn to my grandad and dad. They’re both businessmen who run their own companies and have plenty of experience. As such, they can offer good advice.
Deborah Meaden, my Dragons’ Den investor, has been a constant source of advice and support. Startups.co.uk was also a great resource when starting out, which was why I was so excited to take part in the Plusnet Pioneers campaign, which aims to help start-ups realise their own ambitions.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
My family invested in the business at the early stages, which allowed me to apply for a patent and start developing the prototypes. Once the product started to sell, I knew I needed money to take the business further. Two months later I decided to apply for Dragons’ Den. I was surprised to receive a call asking me to go to the studio four weeks’ later. The time came and I was successful in obtaining an £80,000 investment from Deborah Meaden, which enabled us to grow the company and has been one of the most important moments in the company’s history to date.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
My biggest achievement has been receiving investment on Dragons’ Den from Deborah Meaden and growing the business from that moment. What’s more, the company’s growth and expansion three years later has been amazing and I’m very proud of our achievements. It’s been very rewarding for my success to be acknowledged by Plusnet, affording me the opportunity to relay my advice and experience to small business owners facing the challenges I once came up against.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
GripIt is unlike any competitors’ products, due to the amount of weight it can hold. We also like to think outside of the box when creating different kits, allowing us to delve into new markets.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
I never think of myself as the boss, and like to be thought of as one of the team. The past couple of years have been a whirlwind and I’m proud to be where I am today at just 21. I like seeing the team working hard and pushing themselves to the best of their abilities, the same way I do.
Where do you see your business in 5 years’ time?
In five years’ time, I would like to see the product in all major and independent DIY/trade stores, being used as a household brand that people automatically think of. I would also like it to become a global brand, taking the product wherever possible.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs would be “nothing gets handed to you on a plate”. It’s important to work hard and have determination, drive and passion to achieve your goals. It hasn’t been an easy journey, and like all start-ups I’ve faced many challenges along the way. That’s why I’m so excited to be a Plusnet Pioneer. This exciting programme of events, content and mentoring will inspire and inform small businesses like yours, answering the big questions that percolate in every founder’s mind. For further information on Plusnet Pioneers, please visit www.plus.net/business/plusnet-pioneers