How I took the reins and grew a successful business at just 15 years old!
My name is Anthony O’Gorman and I am a proud Student Enterprise Programme alumni!
I’d like to share with you my own business journey and what I’ve learned on my journey to being a teen entrepreneur.
My enterprise journey started in 2019 when I had a unique Christmas business idea – to hand-craft wooden reindeers.
I started by selling to my family and friends initially. Then I brought a sample into my school (Tullamore College) and I guess it just took off from there! I worked on the reindeers in my father’s workshop using his tools. Every evening I came home with 10 or 12 orders and ended up selling over 200 reindeers that first Christmas!.
My business teacher Ms. Griffin suggested that I enter the Student Enterprise Awards. I was delighted that I took her advice and I won the Offaly intermediate title and then went on to represent my county at the national final.
The competition was very strong at the National Final and even though I did not win, getting there was the greatest achievement of my life so far. I received a trophy and €350 which I reinvested into expanding my business.
Top 3 Lessons I Learned:
From taking part in the Student Enterprise Programme, I learned a lot about business and about how I could improve my business model. I was able to identify the key changes I needed to make going forward such as:
- I was charging too little per product
- I needed to hire people to help me, as I had too many orders to manage in a short space of time
- I needed to start planning earlier
These three lessons would prove to be invaluable to me in 2020.
2020: Turning Covid-19 into an opportunity
Covid 19 took hold in March 2020 and I ended up with a lot of spare time, as the Junior Certificate was now cancelled. It was the perfect opportunity to grow my business. I realised that families were at home spending more time in their gardens and I decided to tap into this a bit more by creating handmade wooden garden accessories such as trains, wheelbarrows and planters.
2020 was a game changer for my business in so many ways:
-I developed a sales platform from my Facebook page Anthony’s Wooden Crafts
-I identified easier, less labour intensive ways to work . I invested in new tools and equipment – (no more hand sawing)
-I started planning much earlier in the year (September, as opposed to November the previous year)
I set myself a target of 1,000 reindeers and I began producing in October. When I went back to school after the Summer I worked in the evenings and weekends to build up stock. A local photographer took some photos for my Facebook page. My mother had come across the Shop in Ireland Facebook page and uploaded the famous picture. Little did I know where this would lead.
From there, RTE’s Philip Bromwell contacted me. My business was featured on the Six O’Clock News and the Late Late Toy Show – this is what dreams are made of! It was a crazy few weeks between radio interviews and my photo being across all social media sites and local newspapers.
It’s All About Your Support Network
My family was so supportive. Without their encouragement, it probably would never have grown. My dad was always there to pick up my materials, do deliveries and give advice. My mam is very handy with a paint brush and sowing flowers!
As I became overwhelmed with orders, family members came to help; as well as the mammies of my hurling team. My school teachers and school tutor were there at all times for support too. For that I am so grateful.
I ended up producing double my target. It was hard work and very challenging at times, but the positives far outweigh that. One final special moment in this journey was donating 100 teddies to Temple Street Hospital; one for every child in hospital at Christmas. I wanted to give a little back and it made me realise how lucky I was to get this opportunity.
What’s next for Anthony’s Wooden Crafts?
I have my website almost completed now. So it will be more professional and easier for people to order my wooden crafts. School is also important and although right now I am doing my best with home schooling, I would prefer to be in the classroom.
The experience of being an entrepreneur at such as young age has really improved my financial and communication skills. The biggest lesson I learned overall though is that if you really put your mind to it anything is possible, and you will succeed and don’t be afraid to ask for help!