“I literally went through the Yellow Pages, cold-calling companies and saying, ‘Do you want me to build you a website?’.” His customers were astounded when a schoolboy turned up: “My prices were very reasonable, though,” says Shah. “I charged a few hundred pounds; a pittance to them, a fortune to a teenager.”
Shah has been involved with a series of business ventures since then. His latest firm, recruitment consultancy Equitas, has seen a £200,000 turnover in its first year, while sales at Swiscot Textiles, the Manchester-based company run by Shah’s father, has quadrupled in size since Shah joined the management team. Sales hit £7m last year, £10 predicted for 2008, and staff have increased from three to 22 over two years.
So Shah’s early success wasn’t just a fluke. What’s his secret? “I think I’m a lot more impulsive than accountants would prefer me to be,” he says. “And I don’t believe in business plans. They are irrelevant. Markets move so quickly that they are invariably out of date as soon as they’re written. People produce these 60-page evangelical documents and they’re only ever disappointed when nothing goes textbook.”
“I also learnt pretty quickly that people who are solely motivated by money never make money. If you go into business motivated by business, then you make money.”
But it hasn’t all been moonlight and roses for the 27-year-old entrepreneur. In 2005, Shah took a punt on a friend’s scheme for a chain of bars and restaurants. He sunk a five-figure sum into the project only for the company to go belly up. “ You have to deal with failures and move on,” says Shah. “Business is risky. You pick yourself up and move on to the next thing.”
And what’s next for the serial entrepreneur? “I want to open a trading operations in London,” says Shah. “I think that would be fun.”
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