Setting up in the family home with a small office space to store the shoes, Bigger Feet could be held up by internet providers as a demonstration of the low-cost flexibility of the web.
“So far, we’ve only put £4,000 into the business from our savings, which is a really tight budget,” Bridge says. “A website allows you to put something across very professionally at a very low cost. Our website probably rivals a medium sized business, when in fact we’re working from a tiny office.
“It’s so flexible. Because it’s all internet-based, we are going on holiday to Barcelona in a couple of weeks and we are going to be running the company from Spain.”
When you hear about the deal Bridge cut with a wholesaler to supply him with shoes, it’s again hard to believe he can’t yet legally vote or drink. After going to various trade shows in the UK and Europe, he agreed with UK Distributors to sell him shoes as and when he needs them. He therefore rarely has more than 30 or 40 pairs of shoes in his possession, cutting down on overspend.
“Because we weren’t ordering massive quantities in advance, they said that would be OK, we are not a credit risk to them,” Bridge explains. “We are only placing relatively few orders so if it all goes belly up, they are only going to lose a bit of money.
“We get them in as we need them, so we cut down on liability. If we get no orders for a month, all it costs us is out phone bill – we won’t go out of business, we’ll be stagnant for a month.”
A significant headache for Bridge has been the reluctance of Nike and Reebok to supply him with trainers. Despite approaching them directly, he got short shrift.
“They didn’t want to hear it at all,” he says. “We went up to a representative of Reebok at a trade show and he gave us a business card and basically told us to get lost.
“We wrote a few letters to Nike, and they just shoved us from department to department. The big brands aren’t interested in small business because they think it tarnishes their image.
“It’s silly really, they should be selling to everyone they find, because ultimately people are going to get hold of Nikes directly or indirectly. They would surely make a better profit if they sold directly to us.”
The media interest (and Google advertising) has understandably boosted sales – the 10 previous to this interview generated £2,500 of business, compared to the 15 sales in the first 10 days of trading. Bridge insists Bigger Feet is a “friendly, personal company” and has certainly benefited from the niche market and cheap prices he is able to generate, although he insists on quality – “We don’t import stuff from China that’s rubbish.”
With his family happy to step into the breach when his workload increases with A-levels and an array of impressed school friends, Bridge would be forgiven for thinking he has a career made. But he plans to go to university before making any decisions.
“The business may be able to pay off my tuition fees, which would be great,” he says. “I don’t think that it will grow into a multi-million pound business empire, although you never know – there aren’t many big shoe retailers out there.”