This interview is part of our SOLA (Spirit Of London Awards) series. Jack Negus is a finalist at SOLA & has an amazing story to tell. Below is the full interview. Be inspired.
Can you give me some background to yourself?
My name is Jack Negus, I’m 19 years old and was born with a life threatening heart condition called Hypo Plastic Left Heart Syndrome. This means my left ventricle doesn't work, and in effect I live with half a heart.
I have had three open heart operations, the first of them was when I was three weeks old. The surgeons operated on a heart that was the size of a shelled walnut.
I attend my local secondary school Crispin, and did pretty well gaining 11 GSCE’s. I never wanted to continue and attend college, much to the annoyance of my parents. Instead I always wanted to start my own business, which I did at the age of 16 years old.
Tell me more about the Little Hearts Matter charity you co-founded:
My parents co-founded Little Heart Matters in 1994. The charity now, although still small, supports 750 families throughout the UK and Europe.
As with all small charities, funding is difficult. There is a very small team that administers Little Hearts Matter, which is centrally based in Birmingham. But thanks to a small army of volunteers, there are able to provide 24/hr support along with research and development and open days.
You also opened a shop called The Slipper Box, can you tell me more about that?
For the age of 14 I had previously provided a service to my local care homes by supplying a range of local made quality sheepskin slippers. This gave me an appreciation of the difficulties older people have and gave me a great deal of satisfaction to be able to support not only local care homes but also local businesses. All of this created a opportunity to fund Little Hearts Matter.
On leaving school, it was a natural progression to take on a store near the famous Clarks Village which attracts four and a half million tourists a year.
The store was open by the Glastonbury Festival founder Michael Eavis, on the day the street was literally closed because of the volume of people. After two years I had out grown store and took the opportunity of moving the lease on at the early part of 2012. This gave me a opportunity to look for a second larger store, which I am currently still looking for.
Meanwhile this has enabled me to focus in on my online business www.theslipperbox.com which currently is showing enormous growth, despatching slippers all around the world.
What difficulties have you faced with opening up a physical shop rather than just an online one?
The major difficulties I have found are the physical side of running a store. Because of my condition I get tired quickly which means I need lots of breaks during the day. However, the positives have significantly outweighed this. It has given me knowledge in:
Stock management, display and promotion, customer service, accountancy etc.
How was it funded?
I used my limited saving to start the business and was also helped by my parents and initially by the brands I stock, who I negotiated with, in some cases deferred payment or a sale or return agreement.
How different is it running a charity compared to a business which is selling a product?
I run a business which supports the charity. It is not a charity shop. It provides fantastic sheepskin slippers firstly, in the main are made locally and at the enabled me to support Little Hearts Matter. Whilst focusing on my online business this year, it has enabled me to set up another business called JM Media www.jacknegus.com which specialises in Website Design PR & Marketing and Event Management.
What has been key in helping you get to where you are today?
The phrase Little Heart Matter use is “Half a heart not half a life.” I firmly believe with determination and the support of loving family and friends everything is achievable.
Charity (LHM) website www.lhm.org.uk