A teenage entrepreneur is helping fellow pupils get a foot on the career ladder through the launch of a recruitment drive for part-time workers at his growing business.
Harry Tomkinson, 14, launched VIP Sneakers — an online trainers shop — in December 2021 in the hope of kick-starting his own journey to success.
Now he has set his sights on helping other young people to take their first steps into the world of work.
He is offering roles for pupils aged between 15 and 17, and is keen to offer opportunities to people with special needs.
Harry's business has made five-figure profits since he began - though he declined to say exactly how much.
“I was so lucky that I was given the opportunity [to start a business] and discipline myself as I'm so young,” said Harry, who is originally from the UK.
“As soon as I heard about the government talking about part-time work, I thought of how we could give other 15 to 17-year-olds the opportunity to get work experience.
“Being able to work in business is amazing for me as it can help my business and GCSE studies.
“For the part-time employees, some of the jobs that they can be involved in is social media, they can come up with ideas for videos, and even film the videos or be in them if they want.”
The pupils, who will be paid for their work, will help write blogs, create social media posts, conduct research on products, be a part of marketing events and work in supply chain operations.
Harry said he has already had interest from about 100 hopefuls, with as many as 10 pupils to be selected to start work in January.
Success ignited business dream
The Year 10 pupil at Brighton College Dubai set up his first business at the age of 12, selling sweets to friends during the pandemic.
Initially, Harry used his pocket money for his business, but within a month, he had made profits of about Dh1,000. When his father realised his entrepreneurial abilities, he decided to help him start a trainers business.
“It started with me buying a few sneakers from the local store so I bought four sneakers and sold them all then it became 14, and is now past 500,” said Harry.
He said that limited edition or exclusive shoes sold out worldwide within a short amount of time.
Under an overhaul of visa regulations in September last year, teenagers aged 15 to 18 can apply for a part-time work permit, but they still need to continue with their education.
The Kick Start initiative is aimed at pupils studying a relevant subject in their GCSEs or BTEC in business and/or media studies.
Pupils who have an interest in e-commerce, social media, business and trainers are encouraged to apply.
Father offers helping hand
Stephen Haw, Harry’s father as well as an investor and adviser in his business, said he decided to help his son launch the business because he saw that he really enjoyed the process of business transactions.
“I thought, why not put some investment of my own into this, not necessarily for me to earn money, but actually to give Harry real-life experience of what it is to actually build a business,” said Mr Haw.
“This business was actually established to provide an opportunity for Harry, and now subsequently opportunity for others.
“We are reinvesting that money into our initiatives and the first we're running is the Kick Start initiative.”
VIP Sneakers is working with Gems Metropole School and Brighton College, and on Saturday, they sent more than 100 pupils studying business and media studies who are keen to sign up.
“Now, we're now going to be going through a kind of shortlist and have an informal interview to identify the first cohort of pupils that will start working with us in the from the start of the January school term,” said Mr Haw.
The cohort will run for a full term, with a new set of pupils joining the team every term.
Mr Haw said they have already received interest from other schools.
“We're still a small business, but our ambition is that we want to give as many people as possible this opportunity,” said Mr Haw.
“We don't just want to give this to the top high-flyers at school but we want people who have special educational needs. We want to give them as much power, as much as possible.
“Based on the level of demand and reaction from the schools and the students, we are going to approach the relevant government authorities to see how they can support us in actually rolling this out to a much greater community and much greater volume.”
He said they have received huge support from private businesses.
In the future, Mr Haw said they may work towards creating an ecosystem of different small businesses that also provide part-time paid work opportunities.