In March 2012, at 18 years of age and not long out of school, I found myself starting my first company, Exhibtr Limited.
The idea of starting a company had been floating around in my mind for some time. As a keen writer I had yet to find a place online where I could share my work, and, most importantly, receive critical feedback. I was aware that such sites existed for photographers and artists, so why had writers been largely overlooked until now? My father gave me the push I needed to do something about this. With his help and encouragement I expanded the idea to help give artists, photographers and writers a platform from which they could exhibit their work to an ever-growing, attentive audience. Soon after, Exhibtr Limited was born.
Exhibtr.com grew out of a subject I was passionate about. Before we started I thought it would be easy, but in reality the start was much less glamorous, and much harder work than I ever expected. Paperwork seemed endless, the banks seemed difficult and the end product was still nowhere in sight. Yet none of this mattered. I was enthusiastic about the growth of the company, it was my idea and I took great pride in everything we achieved, no matter how small. I still do.
When we started exhibtr I was given some advice; "if you want your company to succeed, you must surround yourself with people who add value to your business. Not just financially, but in everything you do." It's become somewhat of a cliché, but it's advice championed by figures as diverse and successful as Ronald Reagan and Oprah Winfrey. With this in mind we searched for web designers that could help us achieve our goal. FraserJilani Ltd shared our mindset and the two companies worked together closely over the next 6 months to build a state of the art, fully functioning social network.
The website was growing daily, and real progress was being made, when, last September, I left home and started my studies at Cardiff University. Poetry has always been my passion, so studying English Literature allowed me to learn from the best, and hopefully improve my own writing.
It was when I started university that the advice really helped. By creating a team of people I trusted to get on with the work, I could enjoy freshers week and beyond. Not that there wasn't still work to be done of course. The first term was key for me in trying to establish a balance between university life, and being a Managing Director. So now, as we go into the New Year, exhibtr is ready for its public release and I'm certain the workload in both aspects of my life will increase significantly.
What have I learnt from everything so far? My advice to anybody reading that thinks they've got a business in them is to just go out, bite the bullet, and go for it. If you're truly passionate about something, you'll make it happen. The idea you dismissed for being too difficult a few weeks ago could reap huge rewards. With current tuition fees soaring there's no time like the present to start building your business. Invest in good business books, read up on what you're about to undertake and ask other people for advice and help. No amount of passion will fill in those lengthy legal documents, so be prepared to work to get it done. But after all, the sky's the limit, your hours are your own and it's work you can feel truly proud of.
Exhibtr.com is currently in beta testing with the launch date set for February 2013.
Follow Harry Hanlon on Twitter: www.twitter.com/harry_hanlon