Business is a tricky thing for everyone – we don’t know how the market will react to our product or service, we’re unsure whether the bank will lend to us or not, we can’t guarantee that we are going to get the right people to work in our team – it makes no difference being 21.
People often ask me is it not difficult being young and in business? Just this afternoon a lady asked me whilst I was serving her ‘are you not scared having to run two stores at 21?’. My response generally to this is no. I have spent the last couple of years explaining to young people that they should start young, I mean what have they got to lose? I’m in my early 20s, I have no children, no mortgage, few direct debits and most importantly, little experience prior to working for myself. I’m creating my own experiences, learning as I go. If I’m not trying to figure this thing out called ‘business’, I’m talking to someone that is either doing the same as me or has done it. Learning from other peoples’ experiences and knowledge is fantastic.
When I was 13 I wasn’t happy with the typical teenager job. I spent a few months of my life delivering dairy products door-to-door, and I made around £10 per week. Slave labour or what? It was my mother’s suggestion that I should fix computers for people in our local area since I was already doing this for our family. So, on the 18th March 2004 I paid for our very first shop window advert and the first customer came along.
Eight years on and we support in excess of 500 users through our two repair outlets, remote help desk and onsite teams. None of this at any time has been scary. Over the past nine months I have been a business advisor for Young Enterprise Scotland. I have been back at my old high school assisting students to take their product to the market. From this experience I have managed to observe the learning experience that we go through when starting a business – we try things, we get them wrong and then we learn from them. A mistake is definitely only a mistake if you do the same thing twice!
I also have to contend with the usual statement from people my same age: ‘you own your own business so you must be loaded!’ Ermm, no. Starting any business is tough and we all know we are the last to get paid. This has been a huge benefit for me starting young. I have managed to provide myself with a decent lifestyle, whilst living at home and growing the company.
It has been nearly three years since the limited company was formed and we’re nearly ready for me to take a salary. Starting young has also meant I have lots of energy and usually plenty of motivation to keep the team going.
Lots of memories come to mind, the main one being the refurbishment of our second repair centre, Glasgow City. We signed the lease in August and had a four-week deadline to open in time for Strathclyde University’s Freshers’ week. We also had no budget for labour and an 800 sq ft store to refurb and kit out – Sarah Beeny eat your heart out! Most of the team assisted on this project with our Operations Managers’ building experience leading the way. We would work 9am until 6pm as IT technicians, then spend 6pm until around 2am knocking down walls, building walls, plastering, running electrics, plumbing and painting. When the opening finally came along we were exhausted.
When speaking publicly, I am often asked ‘do you regret not staying at university?’ I’ll always reply “yes, but I’ll go back when the business doesn’t need me as much”. Young people have the idea that the only way to get anywhere in life is to finish school, spend more time in education and then move into the world of work. How about switching that about? School, business and then university? It’s part of my plan anyway!
Nick Cohen is the 21 year old founder and managing director of award-winning IT company PCR Business. In the eight years since he started the business, the company has won acclaim in awards; Young Scottish Entrepreneur of the Year 2012 (Scottish Business Awards) – Short-listed, Princes’ Scottish Youth Business Trust Regional Award Winners 2011, Princes’ Scottish Youth Business Trust National Award Nominee 2011, Young Scot Awards 2010 – Award for Enterprise – Finalist, Most Promising New Business 2009 – Renfrewshire Chamber of Commerce – Finalist.
His membership of the Exchange came as part of his prize from the PSYBT award last year.