My money journey – Sabirul Islam, from MyBnk loan to teen-trepreneur fame!

Written by , July 11, 2011

Entrepreneur and public speaker, Sabirul Islam (20), recently popped in to the MyBnk office. He...

Entrepreneur and public speaker, Sabirul Islam (20), recently popped in to the MyBnk office. He first met founder Lily four years ago, when he turned a tenner into £200 in her enterprise challenge. Now, he’s travelling the world, inspiring thousands of young people to reach their own potential. Scroll down for his top tips for budding entrepreneurs!

What was your first encounter with money?

When I was 11 my dad gave me a £50 note. I was so happy – I’d never seen so much money in my life! He told me not to tell my mum, so I hid it under the carpet…but my excitement got the better of me and I took it downstairs.

I bumped into my mum and just couldn’t resist showing it off. Bad timing: at that point my dad walked past and asked me to hand back the note. “If someone asks you to keep something safe, you keep it safe – don’t show everyone,” he said. I was upset but it taught me a lesson!

Were you a saver or a spender?

A saver! When my mum started giving me £5 pocket money, I tucked it away every week in a cashbox. And because I didn’t spend all of the £2.50 I got for school travel and lunch every day, I also saved some of that.At 13, I opened my first bank account and by the time I finished school, I’d managed to save £18,000 – more than my parents were saving! I bought things for the house, like a new TV and sofa, but never anything for myself.

What was your first taste of enterprise?

My older cousin set up a business, designing and selling calendars to teachers. It was incredible to see a 14-year-old with such courage and success in a deprived borough like Tower Hamlets.

He was making £60 a year and to my 13-year-old self, that felt like a million pounds! I asked if I could work for him and he gave me the job there and then – only to fire me two weeks later! I hadn’t lifted a finger, expecting the money just to fall into my pocket…

Were you tempted to give up at that point?

No way – that bad experience gave me the determination to set up my own business: with a group of friends, I started designing websites. We approached big corporations for contracts and amazingly made over £2,000 profit!

I met Lily from MyBnk just before my 16th birthday and she was really encouraging. I took part in her enterprise loans challenge, investing £10 into various items to sell on at a profit – and ended up making a couple of hundred pounds.

She put me in the hotseat and interviewed me about being a young entrepreneur. I cringe watching that video back today..! I’ve learnt so much since then.

What did you do next?

I decided my focus should be to inspire other young people to become entrepreneurs. First of all, I wrote a book called “The World at Your Feet”. It sold 42.5 thousand copies in 9 months! Then I started speaking at public events across the UK and even as far away as Nigeria.

Sabirul gets us building businesses to beat the competition in Teen-Trepreneur board game

With the help of a group of 11-15-year-olds, I designed a board game: Teen-Trepreneur. It’s a fun way to learn about enterprise: you have to make decisions about income and expenditure, marketing, investment and building your business. It’s now part of many BTEC Business Studies courses.

Tell us about your latest venture…

It’s a round-the-world tour called “Inspire 1 Million”. I’m aiming to go to 20 countries in 12 months to inspire and empower young people to reach their potential! So far, it’s taken me from the Maldives to Botswana, from the United States to India… I’ve met so many interesting people and I’m really excited about it!

First stop in Inspire 1 Million tour: the Maldives!

How would you sum up your experiences as a young entrepreneur?

It’s been an incredible journey so far and that’s down to the help and support of lots of people along the way.

Building and maintaining good contacts is so important. Thanks to the good relationship I’ve developed with Lily and MyBnk over the last five years, for example, I’ve had lots of opportunities and met some amazing people.

Also, I’ve realised that everything that happens in life opens new doors. If I hadn’t been fired when I was 13, I might never have taken this route!

With inspiration, knowledge and opportunities, you can really do anything and the world is at your feet!

Finally, what are your top tips for budding entrepreneurs?