What building and exiting a multi-million pound business taught me about entrepreneurship (and life)

I’ve always been a hustler. I was an ambitious teenager full of dreams and initiative, and I always knew I was destined for more than just school, an office job, a promotion, a mortgage and two holidays a year.

I got up to a fair share of mischief as a young boy growing up in Essex, but nothing that warranted the outright disapproval and dismissal I received. I was told I’d be “most likely to end up working as a builder,” as if that was supposed to be an insult, and all it did was fuel my ambition further.

I didn’t go to university, but I did take it upon myself to find other ways to further my education ––namely, devouring every business and self-development book I could get my hands on. I dove head first into stockbroking and forex trading, and discovered I love working hard but hate working for other people. So I got the hell out, and instead, I started a luxury watch company.

I was young, hungry, and ready to prove myself, and I knew deep down in my heart that it would all pay off. I thought of it all like a game, and I was just desperate to win. The process of treating your life as if it were a game is called “lifestyle gamification,” and it works because the more you play, the better you get. You’re down a couple of points, it’s all good, there’s another round coming. You stop? Simple: you lose.

All I focused on was to just keep going. I know that sounds like a cliché, and in many ways it is, but it’s also thanks to this one rule that I managed to take my small watch business from 0 to 8 figures within only 3 years, and then exited at an £11 million valuation at age 22.

I learned that sometimes, clichés are the key to changing everything about your life: no matter how many doors closed right in my face, how many people laughed at my dreams, or how many times I’ve told myself, “this is it, this is where it all ends,” I somehow found the strength to keep going. Believe me when I tell you that the single, most profound advice I can give you is to just never give up.

The second piece of advice I have is to never leave a stone unturned. I know, it’s another cliché, but it’s also true: when I started reaching out to investors for my first business, I did more cold calls every day than I thought I’d do in a lifetime; I tried every VC door; I researched how to get to the richest people in the world ––ok, fine, in my network–– and got rejected at every turn.

So, how did I get my first investment? I ended up speaking to a friend who worked as a warehouse operative, and he got me my first 150k. Boom.

No window is too small. No opportunity is too far-fetched. No one knows better than you do in your heart, and if people want to think you’re ridiculous for even trying to make a difference, fine.

Who’s laughing now?

The truth is, people will always have something to say, so you have to have people around you who keep you sane and make sure you’ve got enough steam to keep going, or you’ll burn out along the way.

For me, that’s my dad. When I’m having a hard day or a hard month, he loves to tell me “you just need a biscuit,” which just means, you need something to focus on and carry you through. Think of a small child who cries every time the parent leaves the room: if you give them a biscuit, they’ll forget all about their pain and fear of abandonment, and they’ll enjoy their sweet, sweet biscuit.

As you’re building your empire and coming up against all sorts of roadblocks, give yourself that same grace. Give yourself some crumbs ––whether literal sugary treats, a walk in the park, or whatever self care ritual gets your heart rate back to normal when you’re stressed–– to ensure you can keep following your dreams and fulfilling your potential.

You’ve also got to really, truly believe in a higher goal than just making money. Money is great, don’t get me wrong, but you need a reason to scale and to keep aiming for a higher purpose. “I want a Lamborghini” is a worthy goal, but what happens when you get it? You’ll want two. Then you’ll want a Bentley. It just keeps going and going.

Instead, if your ultimate goal is something less materialistic, like I want to be able to make a positive impact on the world with the limited time I have in my life, it will constantly keep motivating you, and it will always be selfless.

Lastly, I want to warn you about thinking with your heart when it comes to selling off your business or going down with it. For me, walking away from the very project that made me who I am was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make ––but it was also the best decision I could have made. When the moment comes, you need to think logically. You need to be rational about your needs, your wants, and not let yourself get carried away by either delusion nor greed.

Stay true to yourself. Invest in yourself. Always look ahead to the next opportunity. Figure out what matters to you, really zero in on it, and don’t let anything or anyone stop you. Take it from me: you won’t regret it.