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Young entrepreneur Simon Crowther on how he created a multi-million pound business before turning 23

Young entrepreneur Simon Crowther on how he created a multi-million pound business before turning 23

Young Entrepreneur

Young entrepreneur Simon Crowther on how he created a multi-million pound business before turning 23

After setting up his first company – FPS Ltd – in his student days, Simon Crowther now oversees a multi-million pound operation with two businesses under his belt and he’s only just turned 23. The Young Entrepreneur of the Year chats to DAN ROBINSON about how he’s come so far in such a short space of time and where he sees his future

Simon Crowther has two companies, one of which has a near £2m turnover and the other just starting to build momentum.

He employs four staff and at a time when many people his age are either living with their parents or barely managing to get by renting a room in a house share, has his own office.

The list of clients are serious organisations, from Thames Water and the Environment Agency to companies in heavy industry.

But Simon doesn’t call himself a businessman because he identifies a key difference.

“My idea of a businessman is that you’re in business to make as much money as possible,” says the 23-year-old, who shows maturity far beyond his years.

“As an entrepreneur, your aim is to make a difference and if you make a business out of it, that’s a bonus.

“You’re generally a problem-solver. My degree was in civil engineering and that’s intrinsically linked with entrepreneurship because they’re both about solving problems.”

There is no obvious reason why Simon should have such an enterprising mind, with no history of entrepreneurship in the family and no particular standout moments from when he was a child in which he demonstrated such a flair for the skill.

Instead, his roots in business trace back to a traumatic experience of watching his Woodborough home being flooded in 2007, when he was 13.

It suffered extensive damage and his family was out the house for nine months while it was repaired.

The family imported a Water-Gate barrier shortly after but it wasn’t until the village was hit again by flooding in 2012 that it was put to use.

“Everyone said it was fantastic and asked us where we got it from,” he recalls. “It was a Canadian product and available in 30 countries but not in the UK.”

At the time, Simon was studying civil engineering at the University of Nottingham but he decided to balance his studies by setting up a business, Floor Protection Solutions (FPS), using £5,000 of his student loan in October 2012.

He met the Canadian manufacturer in Paris and his company became the sole UK importer of the Water-Gate barrier.

The product creates a temporary dam-like system and is unique in the way that once rolled out, it self-deploys using the weight of the water to hold the water back.

Its effectiveness in controlling flood waters has helped to secure contracts from clients such as Thames Water, Yorkshire Water and the Environment Agency, and Simon’s company now sells more than 400 barriers a year.

Simon, who now lives in Arnold, says: “Water companies love it because it’s a temporary barrier, so it enables to respond to incidents really quickly.

“If there’s a burst water main they would have to get contractors and sandbags but by then it could be too late, whereas with the Water-Gate they can roll it out in 60 seconds and divert water.”

It was from running FPS that Simon got the idea for his next enterprise, Skyrocket Solutions, which he launched in April this year.

He calls it a “social media marketing agency with a twist” as the business focuses on engineering, manufacturing and technical firms with more traditional operations.

Its eight clients to date are split evenly between locally and nationally-based, including C&R Enterprises, Scorpion Exhausts, Powerflex Bushes, A S Hardware and Nottingham Boat Company.

“Because I’ve been doing so much social media with FPS, I had a lot of practical experience,” says Simon, who names James Dyson – inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner – as his entrepreneur hero.

“I did a course in social media as well, and my colleagues have degrees and experience in marketing.

“In the more traditional industries they’ve heard about social media and thought they should be doing it but either don’t understand it or don’t think it’s for them.

“All our clients seem really happy and we’re getting good results for them.

“I’d like it to grow and become the go-to place for traditional businesses that need help with their marketing.”

Across the two companies, Simon employs four staff, all based in a fairly cramped office at the Colwick Industrial Estate.

He expects to upgrade the base in the near future.

FPS has grown exponentially, recording an £80,000 turnover in its first year and expected to be at least £1.8m in the financial year to November 2016.

Skyrocket could follow a similar pathway, with a £50,000 in its first year but also showing signs of fast growth.

The success of the two companies led to Simon being crowned young entrepreneur of the year at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2016, beating strong competition in a shortlist that included former winners of hit TV show The Apprentice.

Not that Simon’s attention is too fixated on the numbers or honours.

“It’s nice to know we’re making a difference to people,” he says. “We get testimonials from clients for FPS saying it’s saved their home.

“In Devon recently, one of our barriers saved 12 homes. That’s not just 12 houses, but 22 families and livelihoods.

“We just want to keep going with what we’re doing and become well-known for our advice and expertise in the industry.”

With two businesses already up and running having just turned 23, are there any plans for more?

“Not at the moment but who knows,” says Simon, who regularly speaks at events, such as Enterprise Nation.

“It all leads back to how being an entrepreneur is about problem-solving and making a difference.

“Both businesses have come from either having a problem or coming up with a solution or from having used something and knowing how it works, but knowing other people weren’t using it.”

Simon’s top five tips to other budding entrepreneurs

1. To start with, it’s important to be focused on a sector because if you spread yourself too thinly you aren’t really targeting anyone.

2. If you find a problem and there’s not really a solution to it, then why not do something about it?

3. Green businesses are a massively growing sector at the moment so there will be a lot of opportunities there. Now it’s almost fashionable to be environmentally-friendly.

3. Green businesses are a massively growing sector at the moment so there will be a lot of opportunities there. Now it’s almost fashionable to be environmentally-friendly.

4. Research first and make a good plan. But a lot of the time, go with your gut instinct. You need a balance of research along with knowing and believing in your idea.

5. Believe in yourself. Many people experience imposter syndrome, where you think everyone else is better but you need to back yourself because if you don’t believe in yourself, then no one else will.

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