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From Door2Door to entrepreneur

14 August 2020

Young man in forest surroundings

The entrepreneurial journey of a BSc Business Management student from Cardiff University has been laid out in a feature on a Dorset business news site.

Olli Smith, who will enter his final year in September 2020, was recently interviewed about his experience of launching a leaflet and newspaper delivery service as a teenager and what the future holds for his latest venture, Solus Supply.

Aged just 13, the young entrepreneur had hand-delivered business cards advertising his planned leaflet distribution company, Door2Door to a few local businesses.

Billed as ‘cheap, trustworthy and fast’, Olli described himself as Managing Director. And then he forgot about the cards until he received a call out of the blue from a local estate agent asking him to come in.

Olli Smith's first business card

“There I was, just 13 years old, sitting across the table from a man in a suit in their meeting room. It seemed like he was towering over me. I don’t think he could quite believe how young I was.”

Olli Smith BSc Business Management

Not for the first time in his life – and he’s now only 22 – Olli pulled off the deal. Delivering 1,500 fliers for £85.

It was to lead to more work for Olli who hit on the idea of charging extra for delivering just one leaflet at a time to addresses, instead of the usual sheaf.

The renamed Solus Distribution soon expanded from the original Lower Parkstone area to other parts of Poole, Bournemouth and as far afield as New Milton, eventually covering the majority of his postcode for over 25 small and large businesses.

At its height, Olli employed three other people. All the while he was at Bournemouth Collegiate School studying for his GCSEs and then A-levels. He was and still is an avid reader of business books.

He said: “I was really inspired by Alan (now Lord) Sugar’s book ‘What You See Is What You Get.’ It really fired up my entrepreneurial spirit. I then moved onto other business-related books, like Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson & Screw It, Just Do It by Richard Branson.”

Solus Distribution came to an end in 2017. Olli decided the challenges of running the company while doing a business management degree at Cardiff University would prove too much. But a clothing brand and resale store, Solus Supply, started by Olli in 2013 was a different matter.

He said: “I’ve always liked to buy clothes for myself. I saw there was a growing demand for stand-out, exclusive, authentic and high-quality streetwear and vintage. I opened up initially on Facebook, Instagram and eBay but we now mainly drive traffic through the website.”

Solus Supply features items including t-shirts, fleeces, bomber jackets and sweaters. Brands include Marino Morwood, Nike and Solus Supply’s own branded clothing.

“About 40 per cent of orders come from the UK and the rest from abroad including about 20 per cent from Asia and Hong Kong. It’s quite bizarre and also a juggling act as I’ve been on a year-long placement as part of my degree so my Dad has been handling shipments...”

“We use recycled cotton products and try to use sustainable packaging and practices wherever possible, to ensure we minimise our carbon footprint. My long-term ambition is to be self-employed and make a positive impact on the world. I want to improve lives and not just make money.”

Olli Smith BSc Business Management

Looking ahead, Olli recently applied for funding from Cardiff University’s Enterprise and Start-up Team. The ‘First Steps Fund’, which he and a number of other students secured, was spent on promoting Solus Supply’s website on Facebook, Google and Instagram.

Wherever you are in your entrepreneurial journey, Cardiff University’s Enterprise and Start-up Team can support you as you develop skills for business start-up, self-employment and innovation.

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