Andrew is currently studying for his Masters at Manchester University, in addition to running a Student Urban Fashion Brand - PieBoy clothing - He is also the Vice-President of Manchester Entrepreneurs - an organisation he hopes inspires and supports up and coming entrepreneurs in Manchester.
Andrew was recently accepted to the Entrepreneur First program, a national graduate scheme for aspiring entrepreneurs.
I caught up with Andrew as we spoke about his background, entrepreneurship, studying for a Masters, PieBoy Clothing, being the VP of Manchester Entrepreneurs and EF
Hi Andrew, great to have you on YHP, how are you doing today?
Pretty awesome thanks! The sun is shining and there lots of exciting things on the agenda for the next couple of weeks!
Before we move on, could you quickly give us some background information about yourself so that the YHP audience can get to know you better?
Sure, I’m a born and bread Manx man (from the Isle of man) who went to school in Yorkshire and the States before starting my undergraduate at Lancaster in business. Since then I’ve worked on a graduate programme and started my first enterprise in the automotive industry before coming to Manchester University to do a Masters of Enterprise. As well as my Masters, my big focus while being here has been PieBoy clothing. A Student Urban Fashion Brand focused on making Uni merchandise cool again!
Let’s take a step backwards a little, tell me how you got into entrepreneurship originally, what was your motivation?
I guess its some thing I’ve always grown up with, my grandparents, parents and siblings all starting and owning successful business’s. I guess it wasn’t so much a question of if but when. Away from being influenced by my family, the freedom to decide your own destiny has been another big motivator.
So what was your first real shot at starting a business?
I’ve had lots of little side things going on at various times. While doing my Undergrad at Lancaster a good friend of mine and my self used to go down to the pound shop and find stuff we thought was decent and put it on eBay. If we could make more than a 100% markup on something we’d go down and buy a heap more stuff and sell it. We didn’t make much but we certainly had a darn good beer kitty!
After that, did you get involved in anything else?
After graduating I worked for 18months at an offshore bank on a grad scheme until another good friend convinced me to start one of the many business opportunities we had been researching. Quickhubs.com (now called quickvehicleparts.com). We had some success and after my business partner left I established a living wage from it. However it became apparent the business was operating in a very price sensitive market and we really needed to innovate, this is when I started looking at other opportunities.
You’re currently studying for a Masters at University of Manchester? Right? Why study for a masters, I mean you seem very entrepreneurial, why not start a business straight after finishing your degree?
Good question. I don’t think there is necessarily a right or wrong way to get into enterprise. Some people start out when they are 10 years old selling sweets. Some people start when they are 50 after a big corporate career. I think for me at the time I’d had some practical enterprise experience and some corporate experience and I felt getting plugged into the enterprise scene in a big city while enhancing my enterprise skills through a Masters was the right way to go and looking back it was definitely the right decision.
You’re also the Vice -President of Manchester Entrepreneurs, how did that come about and how are you coping doing that in addition to studying for a Masters?
Ahhh Manchester Entrepreneurs. What an Organisation! I met current President Stan Reinholds last year and we’d working on a couple of thing prior. He knew I was studying a masters of enterprise and had some prior practical enterprise experience and then last summer out of the blue he asked me to be Vice President. We spoke about the big plans for the year and what we wanted to achieve. I mulled it over for a week and then said yes. It’s been a lot of extra work but has definitely been worth it. I think we’ve helped inspire and support up and coming entrepreneurs in Manchester as well as put our own skills to the test with organizing big events and lobbying to give enterprise a bigger agenda in Manchester
What would you say are some of the key things that you’re learning from the whole experience?
So much. From a skills perspective you have to do so many varied things in a start up so I really have put my sales, marketing, accounting, web build, project management etc skills to the test so I feel very competent in a lot of areas. From a developmental and growth perspective it has made me much more creative, accepting of uncertain situations, passionate and content. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work hard and do the very best you can it just means that make sure what ever you do, you do it with a smile and don’t get stressed out.
About Pie Clothing - how did the idea come about?
PieBoy didn’t start out as a big ambition to change Uni merchandising in the UK. It started out from a friend and my self identifying a gap in the market. At the time when we launched PieBoy, bobble hats were becoming the trendy winter fashion accessory. University’s weren’t selling these so we had a few samples made, gained good feedback and then sold 250 on a pop up stall in about a week. Everything grew from there really including vision for what we wanted to turn PieBoy into.
What has been toughest part of starting the business and how have you overcome that?
There are a lot of hurdles to over come at various times. I think at the very beginning it’s about finding what your customers value and really delivering on that. Undertaking market research is all very well and good and it’s easy for people to say they will use or buy your product. But when people actually have to put their money where there mouth is you could find your market research going out the window. Luckily for us when we started out our intuition and basic market research was sound and people were willing to put their money where their mouth was and buy our product. Often you don’t know if it’s a goer until you get to that point, so I would say experiment and try selling your products early on to get consumer feedback and find out what works.
You’ve just recently been accepted into the Entrepreneur First program? How did that come about?
Last November I found my self going to a talk by Entrepreneur first as we needed a couple of the Manchester Entrepreneur committee members there to help set up and I was keen to find out more about the programme. As I was listening to what they were talking about I found my self thinking, “Wow, this is really for me”. Soon after, I applied and got through all the various rounds of the interview process and was offered a position earlier this year! I was obviously over the moon to be accepted, as it is an amazing opportunity!
What are some of the key things that you learnt from the whole application process?
That there is a hell of a lot of talented, young and hungry entrepreneurs in the UK, which only bodes well for the UK as a whole. There was a lot of people who applied and when we went for the interview and assessment day the calibre of every one was exceptional. Exciting things to come I feel.
Is this something that you would recommend to other aspiring entrepreneurs? What’s the value in it?
I haven’t officially started the programme yet as it starts in August so it’s unfair of me to make accurately comment on this at the moment. However I have met all of the cohort, the founders and some of the some sponsors a number of times and every thing is really gearing towards the start of something very special! The talent they have involved speaks for its self and I’m excited! But in short if a young entrepreneur is aspiring to start a high tech, high impact start up then I would defiantly recommend applying for Entrepreneur First
What would you say has been some of your most memorable moment so far?
In terms of my enterprise career. Winning or being shortlisted for awards is obviously very flattering and there have been a couple of those like Shell Live Wire or Lloyds TSB awards. In terms of having fun some of the viral video stuff like Manchester’s Gorgeous Girl was amazing. In terms of passion and exciting, when I started my first start up with a friend and we took over one of the bedrooms in his parents house it was 3 months of sheer excitement as every thing was so new. And in general terms just meeting with and working with so many great people has been amazing!
What advices would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?
If it’s your first business, just get out there and give it a go on a very small budget. You can learn so much by just doing so do some research identify your opportunity (solving peoples problems is always a great starting place for that) and just go out and do it. Make sure you get passionate, start very lean with very little capital outlay and just get on and do it. Like I said you will learn so much you can take to your next venture and if your making money it’s a bonus! If your going for some thing in a more serious capacity that you want to grow into an empire with some more capital investment really make sure you understand how you are delivering the value to your customers. Make sure you know their problems, make sure you know the opportunity clearly that you are pursuing and work your darn hardest to make it a reality.
So now - What should we be expecting from you in 2012?
So the rest of 2012 hey… I have to finish my masters, which is a pressing priority now. More people are going to be involved in helping run PieBoy and we have some exciting initiatives in the pipes which will be pushed out later this year. Ill be starting entrepreneur first come August which will result in the creation of a team and business in the high tech sector! Very exciting times ahead!