16 Year Old Entrepreneur Sold Chinese Dresses As Maternity Tops
Ollie Forsyth is not the first 16 year old entrepreneur out there. Daria did it 10 years ago. Her story is pretty … different.
Daria Taylor, now the co-founder of digital marketing agency Talented Heads, started her first business at the age of 16 and has been a serial entrepreneur since.
Below is her story, in her own words:
Not satisfied with status quo
I’ve always been a problem solver. There are so many faults in how things are and so many ways to do them better. Unfortunately, majority of people are blind to solutions, they take the lazy it’s-always-been-done-like-this route.
I started to work at the age of 16 in a restaurant in North England. I couldn’t understand how could one work for 8 hours a day and only be paid £25! This is the amount I spend in one evening. I couldn’t accept it. How would it be possible to actually live the life everyone deserves; that is, own a house, have children, travel, with this kind of cash I was making as a waitress ?!
The only logical conclusion back then was to take on more work, because more hours meant more money. Or so I thought then. So I started working in a retail clothing shop on weekends, too.
2004 was the year when regular people started selling stuff on eBay. It was a new cool way of making some good money. I loved clothes and spent all my money on them. One day I asked myself: Why are these everyday people able to sell online and I wasn’t. They are just like me.
Retail thought me that you can buy things cheaper, sell them for more and pocket the difference.
So, I started looking for websites online to buy clothes in bulk. 10 years ago Internet was in its infancy, sites like Alibaba didn’t exist, so finding ways to buy clothes online was a real challenge.
I sold Chinese dresses as maternity tops
Finally, I found a website that sold dresses. Their minimum order was 10 items, which was perfect since I didn’t want to buy too many at first.
These 10 dresses got delivered in a shoe box, haha. The quality was awful and the sizes disproportionate and weird (short in length, but with huge waist lines). I realized that these dresses were made for Asian women, who are smaller in size.
I used all my savings to buy them, so there was no way I would have given up. I had to make this happen. I had to figure out the ways to sell these awful dresses.
My first though was to modify them: put attractive belts on to hide the huge waist line and stitch something on to make them look more edgy.
But first I had to sell some proper clothes of mine to earn some credit, trust and positive feedback on eBay. I had to get rid of half of my wardrobe, but it was worth it.
I ended up selling my weird Chinese dresses as maternity tops and it took me only a week to sell them all.
It was unbelievable! I did it! I made a profit of 55% and they weren’t even the real maternity tops.
A few hours selling online, made me just as much money as a week in the shop.
Entrepreneurship spirit was born!
And then I got it. I understood that it wasn’t about the hours I put in, it was about the value I provide. If I could prove the value of my Chinese dresses being “maternity tops”, I could do everything.
It’s about thinking on your feet, being street-wise and having fun. I learnt it at pretty young age.
I was hooked.
What makes the whole story even more peculiar, is that one of the buyers wrote a very positive feedback on eBay saying, that these maternity tops were the best fitted tops she ever wore.
I quit my job at the clothes shop and soon started selling bags as well as dresses online.
I carried on for 2 years making a very comfortable living and I only kept my restaurant job to tell people about my online business.
It all went well for quite a while, but then eBay made it harder to trade.
It was also a time, when I had to decide whether to go to uni or start a bigger and better business. I went with the latter and don’t regret this choice!
My first proper business (aged 18)
My first proper business was offering Personal Assistant services for people and companies. It quickly took off as a Lifestyle Management business. We did everything for the rich and busy: cleaners, booking meetings and flights, shopping, filtering emails. However, I soon realized the business was taking over my life. I had to make lots of risks with little returns and the money I earned was just about comfortable, so it wasn’t worthwhile continuing it. I sold this business and it’s doing really well now.
After selling my business, I had to decide what to do next and I decided to try work for somebody else, again. This time doing something that is better better paid and what I really enjoyed.
The thought of being an employee seemed safe, steady and easy. I joined the fastest growing start-up at that time and had a very well paid position. I liked it, I learned a lot, but all along the way I somehow knew it wasn’t for me. I hated working for somebody else and answering/reporting to people.
I didn’t understand why I was so unhappy. I had a great job, excellent salary and a loving husband, but I wasn’t free.
Only happy to work for myself
I am very honest person, who likes to speak their mind and the thing I hated most about being an employee is that I had to think twice before saying something. The authority, hierarchy and office politics are killers. I didn’t like it and if I wanted to be happy, I knew I had to work for myself and manage my own time.
So I started to explore other opportunities.
My first idea was to set up a charity, that helped young people with employment. It was the time of financial crisis and the number of young unemployed people was record high in the UK. I felt like young people didn’t have the experience and confidence I had and I wanted to help them.
Meeting the right people at the right time
Then Natalie, my current business partner at Talented Heads, came into play. We met on Twitter. She wanted to set up a cleaners’ marketplace (think PeoplePerHour, but for cleaners) and since cleaning was a big part of my Lifestyle Management business years ago, we met up for a coffee to discuss possible business opportunities.
Funnily enough, we didn’t bond over the business plan we initially met up for. Instead, we realized how alike we are as young people – Generation Y. We had similar ways of thinking. We both understood the challenges young people are facing when it comes to work and we felt like employers don’t understand us.
We started sharing our stories on Talented Heads blog. The amount of satisfaction we got out of speaking our minds and making a positive change for our own generation, was much more satisfying than we’ve imagined, so we transformed Talented Heads into a business.
It was the best decision we could have made. We now work with exciting companies and speak at the innovative conferences all over the world.
It feels really good, because not only are we solving companies problems, but we’re also doing some justice for our own generation. We’re changing the world of business rather than just businesses. We’re part of this huge mind shift and that is unbelievably rewarding.
It’s not about the hours you put in, it’s about the value you provide. Be a product, not a labourer
Nobody is the fastest growing company from the start, they get there with small experimental steps. Be it small or risky – take it. Create your own opportunities by taking chance.
Things won’t go your way, you’ll face fall backs – do not let them break you or give up.
Majority of people are lazy and think in their boxes. Be creative, dare to break the rules and change the world.
Surround yourself with great people. Network on social media, attend events, cross pollute contacts between industries, talk to people about your passion. Success is being in the right place at the right time.
Say yes to all the challenges and work them out later. There is never a moment when you’re 100% ready, don’t wait for it.
Trust your gut, if it doesn’t feel right, change it. You deserve an awesome life!
If your time is your money, you’ll never have enough.