The entrepreneurial spirit seems to be capturing an ever younger generation. 12 year old Millie Rose Notarantonio has already been running a startup for almost 18 months. It stands her in good stead for the future, running a business is a huge learning experience and starting so young while having a fall back provides a great opportunity. I caught up with Millie to find out more about starting her business and what she's learnt along the way.
Can you give me a bit of background to yourself?
I am 12 years old and go to St Mary College and I am in Year 7. In my spare time I play football for Pinefleet Wolfreton Girls and train on a Thursday night and play in a league on a Saturday morning.
I have two older sisters, Megan who is 18 and works in a hospital and Becca who is 21 and will be starting as Primary School teacher in September. I also have two dogs, one is a Lhasa Apso called Theo and the other is an American Bulldog called Harley.
What is your business?
I sell personalised merchandise where a customer gives me the information they would like to see put onto a range of products. This initially started out just on mugs and t-shirts but now I do lots of other products too, such as: phone cases, tablet and Ipad cases, ceramic ornaments, coasters, door hangers, jute bags, hoodies, teddies, glass chopping boards, compact mirrors and sweet jars.
What was the inspiration behind it?
My dad has a large workshop at home where he produces signs and graphics, I used to quite often help him and he would let me earn some money as well as use the computers a little bit. I then had a chance to make my own mugs to begin with.
How did you fund it when you first started?
When my Dad went to buy some more machinery for his workshop he was also offered a mug press & sublimation printer, so he bought me this so I get started with making mugs. Dad said I could pay him back when I had enough money but he did let me off with this J . I now pay for everything to do with the business including materials, inks, blank products and paper.
What has been the biggest challenge in starting your business?
One of the biggest challenges has been making people aware of the types of things I can do and I also needed to make my products different to anyone else’s. By making more people aware I am sure I could sell more products.
I had a simple website called www.mugsandtees.co.uk but it was recently hacked so it is only a holding page at the moment, this was a setback.
How are you overcoming these challenges?
I was able to get a grant from the John Cracknell Youth Enterprise Bank that allowed me to buy a great heat press that lets me do lots more products than before.
To make my products different from others I have designed my own range of characters which is called the’ Millie-Rose range’. This is where the customer can choose from varied female characters and can choose the body, hair colour and eye colour too. These have been very popular.
I have also tried to make more people aware by creating a Facebook page (which my Dad monitors for me) a lot of my orders come through Facebook too. I also made a Twitter account where I post all my recent orders and often get orders from customers on this.
I have asked a company called ApplePear to make me a new website which will allow customers to buy online and see how their designs look it will be called www.millierose.co
How do you manage school work with your business?
I usually get lots of homework and I often have quite a few designs to do for customers so I have to make sure I get them both done on time and don’t leave them until last minute. When I get homework I usually get it done before the weekend so then I can get my business work done on a Saturday or a Sunday. I haven’t yet had a detention for not doing my homework which is good. Since I started to do more products I sometimes do get quite busy with my orders but I am able to manage the two well so far.
What do your friends and family think of you starting a business so young?
My family have been really supportive and have helped to let people know about the things I do, they have also bought products off me too. A lot of my close friends know about it and think it’s good but I think they are more impressed that I can buy myself nice things with the money I earn.
What have been your biggest achievements since you launched your business?
Being able to get a grant was a big milestone as it helped me be able to offer a wider range of products.
I am really pleased with my new Millie-Rose range as it seems to be quite popular with my customers and is completely unique to me, it will be really good when this becomes part of my website.
I also have my own current account where I can manage my payments and always have my own little bit of money where I can treat myself to something nice or go out places with my friends. It was good at Christmas too as I was able to buy my family and friends presents that I wouldn’t be able to afford before.
What advice would you give any entrepreneurs just starting out?
If you have an idea don’t be afraid to try it because it could actually get you somewhere and if things get tough you can’t give up and just push your ideas aside. You have to make sure everything is done to a really good quality and is all done on time, otherwise you could get unhappy customers who will not buy from you again.
Thanks for your time Millie, some great advice and best of luck in the future!