Adam Bradford, 19, is a National Ambassador for the Peter Jones Academy and is the Group Director for Adam Bradford Enterprise and Investments Group, of which his IT business solution company, UnITe Computing, is a principal concern. He has won multiple awards and prize money totalling £10,000 for his school and has 27 GCSEs. We caught up with Adam to find out more about his entrepreneurial experience.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for your business UnITe Computing and how is it different to other IT Support businesses?
A: After working with IT for some years and having smaller enterprises in the past, it became clear to me that IT needs to aid business achievement and in many cases can be a poor investment for businesses and smaller start-ups alike. After carrying out research to affirm my thoughts, I saw a need for businesses to be presented with IT solutions, training and consultancy that hits their targets and brings return on investment. I combined this with solutions that overcome business’ unique challenges, with training on top, and it proved a hit!
Q: What challenges did you encounter when starting up your business?
A: Setting up this business - and in fact any business - I think is a very turbulent and unpredictable experience. The main challenge I faced was gaining a reputation and building brand awareness. I held a launch event which was supported by Levi Roots which really boosted my presence in the marketplace and shared my business with a national community of directors and start-ups. Additionally, it has been hard keeping my motivation going since starting up. There are so many different nitty gritty pieces of work and issues to deal with that you simply can’t predict and these slowly but surely eat away at your patience and your time, leaving the money-making to the last thing on your to-do list. So re-prioritising and keeping focused has been another challenge I have been learning to overcome.
Q: How old were you when you first embarked on your life as an entrepreneur and what were you doing?
A: My life as an entrepreneur really started when I was aged 14, incentivised by a local business competition me and my team were given a small £25 investment to put into a business idea. We saw an opportunity to train non-techy teachers on how to use their classroom technology and this was really popular. We designed learning resources for teachers for their interactive whiteboards and gave them training on how to use them. It was a small but perfectly formed venture and planted the seed of entrepreneurship which I am growing on day by day!
Q: What role do you think young entrepreneurs will play in the recovery of our economy?
A: There’s been a lot in the press recently about how entrepreneurs are the future. That is very true I think. An economy that is flexible with businesses that don’t operate with rigid thinking patterns is very exciting and has the potential to be very prosperous. The fact that young, creative and head strong individuals are embarking on entrepreneurial ventures is yet more exciting! Bringing fresh talent into the economy early, with people doing what they love, and not simply existing in jobs I think can only be a positive step forward. Schemes and support for young entrepreneurs are instilling the business acumen which is needed to turn a passion into a profitable business, and with that... The sky is the limit for future economic success!
Q: Do you think that a person has to have certain characteristics to be an entrepreneur?
A: I am of the belief that anyone can be anything, as long as they put their mind to it. That sounds really clichéd, but I do mean it. Nowadays, there is the support and encouragement around from similarly-minded peers, support organisations and networking groups to enable any aspiring entrepreneur to make their dreams a reality. Entrepreneurship can take on many forms and doesn’t restrict itself to a ‘one size fits all’ hat. It’s all about getting that ‘knack’ for doing what you do well and making sure people connect with you. From there, the commercialisation of whatever you’re doing can simply flow. A person needs the passion for what they are doing, an ability to communicate well and sharp focus in order to keep on the right track to entrepreneurial success. All of these skills can be developed and they are all intrinsically built into us when we’re born... we can be made into better entrepreneurs.
Q: How did you fund your first business venture?
A: My first business venture was funded through the competition I entered in school. That small investment has led me into setting up more businesses and doing more enterprising things! There are lots of small grants available and in fact, lots of ways to generate money without really incurring any cost. Starting a business need not take huge investment, however in some cases that can help, so for those needing bigger investment - find a smaller venture which can subsidise your bigger ideas for the future!
Q: Why did you decide to study at the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy instead of going to university?
A: The PJEA was an exciting course which appealed to me through its practical approach to teaching business. You really can’t experience what it’s like running a business without actually doing it. That’s so true because nothing prepares you for the challenges and indeed the opportunities you are going to come across when in charge of your own destiny. The course taught valuable skills to me around enterprise and entrepreneurship, and combined these with the opportunities to put them into practice in a safe environment. It was the perfect way to break myself into business whilst learning at the same time. Whereas I feel university is quite an insular affair, being theoretical and not totally opportunistic and flexible in its approach, the Academy offered something different which was indeed a very enriching experience.
Q: What are the best and worst things about being an entrepreneur?
A: The best thing about being an entrepreneur is the freedom it brings. I’ve never liked to be put in a box. Neither have I enjoyed being restricted in the past by education and society alike. Entrepreneurship gives me the freedom to meet people, explore life, gain experience and thrive on opportunities and challenges like nothing else would. The worst part about that is definitely the stress which business and self-employment brings - there is no pay check to rely on at the end of every month, you have to bring that pay check in - and some! You do the job of the MD, Sales, Finance, HR, Marketing and Legal people all in one when starting up; but I wouldn’t call that bad, just less good!
Q: What is the most important thing you should do to be successful in business?
A: The most important thing I feel anyone should do to be successful in business is to have infinite passion! It’s a very soft point but to do something you love really is telling to others; potential clients, investors, contractors, everyone will see that you love what you do and in return this will enable them to engage with and work with you - and it will keep you motivated!
Q: You already have a lot of responsibility for someone of your age, you are a role model for other young aspiring entrepreneurs and you are the Group Director for the Adam Bradford Enterprise and Investments Group. How do you cope with the pressure?
A: Pressure is the accelerator pedal in my life! I think a life without pressure would be too good to be true... I like being under pressure, as strange as that sounds. The challenge of setting my own targets, meeting and exceeding them and dealing with the ups and downs of business day to day excites me and it’s always rewarding to know you’ve done a good job. Inspiring others is my real passion, I want to unlock the talent which simply isn’t being tapped into today. So by running my business, I can release my passion to the world. With that does indeed come responsibility, but I see that as a really positive anchor in my life. I work hard to achieve my best, and most of all I keep organised - that’s how I get through! There’s nothing magical to it!
Q: Do you ever struggle to get the right work/social life balance? What advice can you give other young entrepreneurs who may struggle with this?
A: Absolutely! Starting up a business can become your heart and soul for a while, as it has for me. However there is a very social side to business with meeting people and having lots of conversations every day. In fact new business is often started with a conversation; we are very social by our nature, but I would like more time to relax. I am working to make that become possible, but I would say to any young entrepreneur - work with what you have, do your best, but don’t over work yourself. Nobody is expecting you to work 24/7 except yourself... Make sure you target your work and continue to progress, slow down a little if you’d like more time out! There’s nothing wrong with that, you are a teenager after all. Starting a business in itself is an amazing achievement.
Q: What stops you from giving up on your business ventures when you are frustrated?
A: For me, keeping clients and mentors close to me is something very valuable. I know I have someone to go to for advice when I can’t see the light, and I know that I can put a smile on my clients’ faces. With that, I don’t like to take too much time stressing over things which stop me from doing business. Therefore my frustrations do ease and talking it over and getting advice is really useful. Plus, entrepreneurs are generally very creative, so I always like thinking around problems - hurdles are simply a chance to prove how high you can jump!
Q: Do you have any other business ventures in the pipeline?
A: I do have a few business ventures coming up, some international, which are going to be providing ground-breaking consultancy solutions in EMEA, which is very exciting. I am also hoping to take some of my entrepreneurship support solutions to the Middle East soon, as well as a couple of my portfolio companies which are starting up it is a very exciting, busy and enterprising time!
Q: If you could give future young entrepreneurs three pieces of advice what would they be?
A: My three pieces of advice for aspiring young entrepreneurs are:
- Keep a vividly sharp vision of what you’d like to achieve within arm’s reach at all times
- Do something you are really passionate about, and let that passion breathe through every part of your work - you’ll win clients, partners and support that way
- Get advice and never feel like you have to everything - that way you’ll experience freedom, have less stress and be able to deal with obstacles which you may come up against and turn those into positive experiences to make your future more successful