Is starting out young worth it?

Is starting out young worth it?

Kieran Aitken didn't enjoy school and threw himself into entrepreneurship young. But was it the right thing to do, as he counts down to his twentieth birthday?

I'm 51 days away from my 20th birthday.

Obviously, that's something to look forward to. However, on reflection, I'll be leaving behind many of the advantages that being a teenager and in business has.

This whole 'thing' started from the decision to become an entrepreneur.

It was 2012, and times were turbulent. I was sitting in the back of a car when I decided to run my own business, make my own decisions, and be my own boss.

I wasn't school’s biggest fan, and the school probably wasn't my biggest fan at the time either. Being entrepreneurial was encouraged by some teachers, and loathed by others. But why should it be? If you want to do something, then you shouldn't allow yourself to be swayed too heavily by the opinions of others.

After setting my goals, the learning process started immediately. It's amazing that when you find something you're deeply interested in, you'll have no reservations when it comes to giving it your all.

I became a sponge for information: reading every business book I could find. Amazon became a conveyor belt for delivering the latest publications straight to my doorstep. I was constantly reading, watching, thinking, and planning.

Aged 16, I gave it a 'real go', and launched a valeting service with the money I had saved. It was never the most glorious of businesses, but we charged a subscription of £24/month to each customer and the constant stream of cash was used to invest in other areas.

Being out in the pelting rain in winter wasn't appealing, but the graft paid off, and by the end of 6th year we had a few part time employees, and a nice budget for future opportunities.

Entrepreneurial Spark in Glasgow, back in 2015, were kind enough to let me through the doors and see how different start-ups in diverse industries operated. I wanted to be around entrepreneurs whom were taking 'the leap of faith', and watch them as they go through the journey.

I worked, without a wage, in three or four different businesses. The wage that I got was the experience of being in start-ups at different stages of growth. It was amazing, and very insightful.

I was learning quickly, and the next step would be important to get the right backing, and build a solid network of contacts. I became one of those pesky, cold calling guys trying to get the backing of people I admired.

It worked, and had a snowball effect: the more people I met, the more people I was introduced to, and my network grew quickly.

At 17, whilst sitting in a factor reception in Glasgow, I overheard a phone call to Sir Tom Hunter's office. I heard he was due to visit the same factory two days after me: Wednesday 20th May 2015, at 12 noon. So, I took a day off school, travelled to the factory, stood outside for a few hours, and pitched Orbit to him in the middle of the car park.

On my first scheduled meeting with him at his office I was nervous, and after being shown around the Dundonald based office, I told Sir Tom the story, and the vision behind Orbit.

A few days later, Orbit was in front of RBS, and many more individuals and organisations whom were a massive help. The minute I turned 18, in 2015, Orbit was formed.

A Social Enterprise isn't a charity. It is a limited company that exists to achieve a social aim, whilst operating with the legal responsibilities that all companies face.

Orbit was formed to encourage other teenagers (regardless of their background) that entrepreneurship, or at least thinking more ambitiously, can be a viable avenue to take. Our programmes, which see the entrepreneurship community engage with schools, aim to break down any barriers to ambition and promise to make an improvement to the life of anyone whom comes on board.

Commercial acumen is vital. We can't operate if we don't balance our books, and being able to monetise and contribute solving social problems and issues is the core role of a Social Enterprise.

We invoice schools & councils for our programme, and are now offering businesses to become local area partners, which offers a chance for businesses in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester the chance to give back to their cities.

Going forward, we're always trying new things, and pioneering different concepts. The next 6 months are looking very exciting, and we have a lot of content being produced. A new partnership with the amazing people at the Princes Trust, along with ScotEDGE funding, media opportunities, and a growing team pose new challenges and opportunities.

I was quiet amongst turbulent environments for most of high school, and if you were to meet me in 4th year, you would have met someone totally different from who I am now.

The biggest thing that I've learned, is that being willing to act on your own initiative, make your own judgements, take your own risks, solve your own problems and create your own path is merited in life much more than exam grades.

Bite off more than you can chew, and then find a way to chew it. It keeps life fast paced and interesting…