Georgie O’Callaghan is not your average teenager. At the age of 13, she started thinking about getting a job but decided she would learn more by setting up her own business. Thanks to a loan from her dad (that she paid back in the first few weeks of trading), the now 17 year old from Bury St Edmunds created Georgie’s Hand Made Chocolates. In the last 12 months she has doubled her profits. This is her story:
“My dad and other members of my family are very business minded so this inspired me growing up and it made me want to set up my own company. I knew from a young age that I wanted my own independence and I wanted the flexibility of being in control and working when I wanted to work so that I could fit in around other things in my life, like school, work and exams.
“Initially I wasn’t sure what kind of business I would create. So I researched various markets and during that research, I went to ‘The Chocolate Show London’ and things started to come together. At the show, I spoke to some producers and a supplier and started to formulate a plan.
“I decided to try and make chocolates for a younger market. A lot of the bespoke chocolate products are for adults. I thought there was a gap in the market for a good quality healthy product for young people and children that could be themed around certain times of the year like Halloween and Christmas. So, I decided to target (October to December) so that my school work wouldn’t get badly affected and then I started to try and create the product from scratch.
“I would buy the chocolate in, melt it down, put it in moulds and then package it. At the start, it didn’t always go well and I had to constantly refine what I was doing. But now, I’ve got a good system. It’s hard work. During the production time I will work from six hours an evening and then silly hours at the weekend – sometimes from seven in the morning to midnight. But then I can earn as much in a month as my friends can earn in a year. I guess my friends don’t understand the work I put in. They think it’s great that I earn all this money and only have to work about a month every year. Maybe they will understand when they read this?
“In the beginning, we had to actively search for places to sell my product. But now we get people approaching me from all corners of the UK. We attend various markets and the business is progressing nicely. On the downside, it can be incredibly stressful mixing the pressure of A-levels with a full on business.
“In terms of my education, I’m studying accountancy, economics and maths. We are getting external support and advice from the Institute of Directors (IoD) so this is useful.
“After One, I’ve decided that I don’t want to go to university. I would like to get an apprenticeship with an accountancy firm - but that might change. Either way, the business will look good on my CV no matter what.
“By doing all of this, I’ve achieved my aim of learning about the business world and I’ve certainly got more respect for people who work. Handling pressure and stress and just generally being tired can be tough - but you just have to get on with it. Ultimately though, I don’t think that it will hit me as hard as others when I do start working full time. I will know what to expect in terms of workloads and juggling lots of different things at the same time.
“If I was to do it all again I might do things slightly differently. Because I create my own product and sort out packaging, its very time consuming. Buying in your own product would be easier. However, all my products are hand-made so people get the personal touch and because we make everything ourselves we can keep the price down.
“All of this is aimed at helping me get to where I want to go in the quickest way possible and I don’t regret a thing. What motivates me is not the money. It’s making my family proud and gaining experience. (Money is obviously a bonus).
“I’d say to other young people that they should get involved in business as early as possible. Research where there is a gap in the market and go for it. I think young people should be given more of a chance in business more often. And if no-one will give you a chance – then set something up yourself. Gaining experience is what sets you apart from everyone else. Especially if you have learnt all the lessons yourself. It will also help you appreciate business, your parents, your friends and life a lot more.”