Many of us can see business opportunities that arise from every-day frustrations. It takes a shrewd entrepreneur to exploit such gaps in the market. When you achieve this when you are just 16 years old, however, it’s little surprise that the media beat a path to your door.
Oliver Bridge, a schoolboy from Cambridgeshire, has found himself in front of the cameras of the BBC and CNN, as well as seen his face staring back at him from various newspapers, since starting up Bigger Feet earlier this year.
Despite his tender years, Bridge has not been daunted by the exposure he has gained, displaying a business brain that belies his years. He has a plan and has put it into place – and he understands that gaining good publicity is an important part of that plan.
“We’re not interested in getting a venture capitalist on board, because they would want a big part of the business, but there are other avenues (to expanding the business),” he tells Startups.co.uk, matter-of-factly. “We could get a private investor on board by saying, ‘we’ve been on the BBC and CNN and got massive coverage - do you want a piece of the pie?’”
Bigger Feet is an online shoe retailer for people who are larger than average below the ankle. The business was born from Bridge’s own frustrating experiences.
“I was sitting in a shop saying it’s annoying that I couldn’t get any shoes and that someone should sell them,” he explains. “My mum just said, ‘why don’t you just start up your own business then?’ When I thought about it, I thought, yes, that’s a possibility.
“As I know someone who has set his own business (Paul Wilkinson, who is now Bridge’s business partner and adult guarantor for banks who get jumpy dealing with under-18s they can’t retrieve money from) it was a bit more realistic, it’s not one of those millionaire things you will never be able to reach. So I thought I’d give it a go.”
After realising that several people at school also required large shoes, Bridge dug up some research and found that about a million people in the UK have large feet – men over the size of 12 and ladies upwards of size nine. He decided to go for it.
“At first I was a bit worried, I thought I wouldn’t be able to run the business and do my schoolwork at the same time and that I should put it off until I was older,” he confesses. “But I thought I should go for the opportunity, it can’t do any harm, it’s not going to cost that much money and if it gets too busy, we can always hire staff.
“There’s been a great response, there’s only been a few comments about my age. People seem to treat me as an adult and, if anything, they respect me more because I’m young and going for it.”