At the age of just 13, Dominic McVey exploded into the public’s consciousness when he started importing collapsible scooters from the USA, making him a reported £5 million. Now 19, McVey has sought to find other lucrative niches in the market, with varying success. Here the outspoken entrepreneur talks exclusively to Startups.co.uk about his astonishing rise, his views on UK business and his plans for the future.
I had been looking round the internet and was looking for the credit card website Visa, but I spelt it wrong – Viza, and I came across this website which was manufacturing scooters and I really wanted one. But I couldn’t afford one, and neither could my parents, so I emailed them and said “I think you should send me a scooter, I would sell loads over here.”
They said no, but if you buy five, we’ll give you one free. So as I really wanted one for free, I saved up to buy five, which I did by organising under-18s discos, buying stocks and shares and selling mini disc players in Japan.
So I got five over, and got one for free, which I was really happy with, but then I thought I should sell the other five, which I did within a week, to family and friends. The next week I sold 10, and it just went on from there.
I never really saw the potential until the product landed on my doorstep, and I guess I had to move on it. A lot of people say it was luck, but if you look at football teams they can score a goal one week, but they are not going to score goals every week if they’re bottom of the Premier League.
I looked at in a very childish and naïve way, which is probably the best way to do so at the time because you weren’t bombarded with stress and issues and problems.
I was very, very competitive. I guess I was very mouthy about other products out there, but all the others out there were crap and expensive. The press really liked me and everyone liked the product, so that really helped.
You’re quoted as saying you weren’t very keen on the scooters, but you saw the business potential in selling them, which must be quite unusual for someone quite young?
After a week, I guess I was bored of the product. What really shone to me was that I could see everyone in London going to work on one, everyone needs one in the boot of the car if they got stuck in traffic, I really drove that message home.
I used to go up to Liverpool Street station and get chased around by the security for handing out flyers, I’d shoot of on my scooter in my lunch break from school. I sold to a lot of city executives as toys, but people began to commute on them, which caused a bit of a fuss with road safety people.
I blagged it a lot – a lot of the business I did was over the phone or on the internet. I was very good with computers at the time and had friends who were great with IT, so I had great presentations.
Whenever I did meet companies, even if I thought I couldn’t get any business out of them, I asked them a million and one questions about how they did business. They loved telling me because they felt like the other brother telling the kid what to do.
The added advantage is that the money you make is in a sense all yours, because you don’t have a mortgage or bills, all I was paying for was the internet and my mobile phone.
Yes, everything was done from my bed!
It’s all wrong. The only reason that the government are pressuring people to go to university is because of the banks. Banks make more money from student loans and overdraft than anything else.
The banks tell the government they will not employ anyone without a degree, the banks being the biggest employers in the UK, the government reacts to this.
A lot more people should be encouraged to take their own steps in life and encouraged to go into apprenticeships and traded skills. There is a huge skills shortage, especially women.
I think there’s a huge lack of support. What I’ve noticed about young people trying to get into business is that they aren’t really my cup of tea.
There are very few young people who are trying to start up a business and there doesn’t seem to be enough of the right sort of people. Back in the 40s, 50s, 60s, they would’ve been working on market stalls, that to me is the tight kind of entrepreneur, ducking and diving, trying to make his money to get into the bigger picture.
But a lot of the new breed of young entrepreneurs they don’t have to seem to have this streak in them, they seem very middle to upper class, parent may have a lot of money and not much to do with it.
There’s far too much red tape, there’s nowhere for people to go. I went down Walthamstow High Road the other day and I went into a local frame store, which is opposite Waltham Forest Town Hall.
I said to him, “you’ve only been here six months, how’s it going? Are the council helping a lot?” He said, “What? I only hear from the council when they want their fees paid.”
I said, “is there no forums, no networking groups, no grants, helping you out?” He said he wouldn’t even know where to call and they probably don’t know he exists. It’s the same for everything in this whole street, which is a nice street and is beginning to buzz a bit.