Teenage Boy Built Up Online Toy Empire And Turns Over £15,000 A Year
Meet the 14-year-old eBay entrepreneur who has built an online toy shop from his family's milking parlour - and now turns over more than £15,000 ($19,500) a year.
Schoolboy Tommy Howard runs his own online toy shop, stocking 1,000 products which he then ships all over the world when he leaves the classroom behind for the day.
He got the idea when his little brother put a £35 ($45) Nerf gun on his birthday list two years ago, and Tommy realised you could buy a whole bundle second hand for less.
Savvy Tommy sold eggs from the family farm to buy his first batch of products, and then reinvested the money to buy new stock.
After selling more than 1,000 of the foam guns, he officially launched shop Dog In A Box on eBay last year - named after his pet pooch Oreo - and branched out to other toys.
The pint-sized businessman does all the work himself - phoning manufacturers, liaising with wholesalers, and even cycling on his bike after school every day to meet the postie. Dedication at its best, this is.
He never takes a day off - even working over the school holidays to fulfil around 70 orders a week.
Last year he tucked away an impressive £6,000 ($7,800) profit, helped by a festive surge and paddling pools he flogged during the heatwave. Supply and demand - we like it.
Tommy, from Hawkchurch, Devon, said: "People may question my age but to that I would say 'Why not?' I'm passionate and capable and that's what you need in business. I'm probably more capable than some adults.
"I used to find people didn't take me seriously when I first started out. I actually did an experiment with my dad on Gumtree. I called this seller asking if he would post the Nerf Gun and he just said 'no collection only'.
"Then my dad phoned on a separate number and he delivered it the next day! People shouldn't think because I'm young I can be taken advantage of. I know my stuff!"
The year 10 student was able to launch the business with money earned from selling his chicken eggs across his village. The young teen bought a batch of Nerf guns for £19, scrubbed them up and listed each one individually on eBay for £20-£30.
He sold out within a week and in true entrepreneurial spirit Tommy decided to use the £10 profit to buy ten more of the toy from Gumtree.
He said: "I did a bit of research online and found brand new were so expensive and you could buy big second hand Nerf bundles for the amount you could buy one new gun! I was buzzing to make my first sale.
"They had a couple of scratches on so I gave them a clean up before I took pictures and listed them online. The price was a pound or two cheaper than what they were retailing at all the big stores so I could still have the edge.
"I bought another bundle with my profit and my pocket money and they sold out within days to. I loved the whole process of deciding which products to go for, seeing how customers react.
"Demand was growing and I found myself selling quite a few Nerf Guns to Portugal which I had to use a courier for. I found if I started misspelling keywords I'd find a tonne of cheap Nerf Guns. I did this until I rinsed Gumtree and eBay of all their cheap guns."
He registered as a business on eBay in March 2018 and ordered in 200 different kinds of products from wholesalers.
He got his engineer dad Charlie, 43, to put up shelves in one of their converted milking parlours at their farm to store his products, and toys started flying off the shelves.
He now stocks more than 1,000 products, selling an average 10-a-day and shipping to over 70 countries.
Every day the savvy teenager gets home from school at 4pm with only 35 minutes packaging and labelling time before meeting local postman Leo at the village postbox half a mile away.
Tommy has managed to make thousands of pounds while his peers begin their GCSEs, making his dad and 43-year-old mum, Claire, a nanny, proud.
He has his own sales manager at a suppliers in Cambridgeshire who he said 'took me under his wing'. Tommy added: "When we phoned up it really started to feel like I was becoming a proper business. I was helped around by a guy called Jimmy Singh who was the nicest sales manager ever.
"He took me under his wing and would help me find things that had good margins and were selling. Unfortunately Nerf Guns just didn't have margins that could make me any money. So, with that I decided I would sell toys as a whole and my sales manager helped me do just that.
"He gave me a heads up on this new product Glove-A-Bubbles. They were just releasing TV campaigns going out with it which was going to boost the sales."
Tommy placed his first wholesale order with 72 units of Glove-A-Bubbles as well as some other arts and crafts toys.
He said: "It was my first taste of what it was like to be a big seller on eBay. I had already bought a £70 second-hand industrial label maker which really helped with the growing orders. I noticed my sales go up almost instantly.
"In the first couple of weeks I sold eight units of Glove-A-Bubbles. Then one day I turned my phone after school and I couldn't believe my eyes. It read 'paid post now 34 items'. I showed my dad and we thought it was a glitch. I got home and instantly ordered another 122 units."
But after a three-month high as Dog In A Box's best-selling product, Tommy saw his orders plummet to zero when manufacturer Zing ceased advertising.
Tommy said: "My sales were going up and up and up and then all of a sudden I had nothing. I had no idea what happened. I phoned up Jimmy and he said that the company pulled the TV advertisement. He didn't know why but my sales were flat after that.
"I've still got 60 units of them as I've only managed to sell 20 in the past year. But it taught me a hard lesson about dead stock. There's no guarantee in business."
Keeping an eye on customer trends, Tommy made a splash of money selling paddling pools during last year's summer heatwave. He said: "I thought there must have been demand for swimming pools and it complimented all my other products.
"To test the water I bought four, listed them in the morning and by the end of the day they were gone. I was shocked but that confirmed to me they were a winner. I'd buy them for as low as £1.50 and sell them for around £8. I think I sold about 300 in total.
"I was really happy with that. I've got the best postman ever who collects from the post-box at the top of our lane and every day at 4:45pm. I either walk, cycle or if the weather is really nasty or the sacks are too heavy I get my dad to drive me up."
You keep doing your thing, Tommy. We applaud you young man.
Featured Image Credit: SWNS