FROM THE TOP: When did you first make money?

FROM THE TOP: When did you first make money? - Following on from last month's editorial comment, here is further evidence that the spirit of enterprise shows itself at a tender age Just read the responses to this intriguing question from our latest select

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Following on from last month's editorial comment, here is further evidence that the spirit of enterprise shows itself at a tender age Just read the responses to this intriguing question from our latest selection of managers. Whether rough-and-ready Essex boy made good or the well-nourished offspring of prosperous parents, most were still in school cap or college scarf when they spotted their first chance to make some cash. And all have gone on to cut fresh swathes through mature markets or to create their own.

BOBBY HASHEMI

CO-FOUNDER, COFFEE REPUBLIC

When I was 17 and at college, I had a couple of hunches on shares. Their value started to go up, and I thought: 'Why I am busting a gut working when I can make money this way?' My dad said: 'As you are so talented, why don't you make us both rich?' and gave me dollars 10,000 to invest. In three months I lost the lot. My dad just said: 'It's worth it if it taught you a lesson.' I realised I'd been trying to make money without understanding business. So after business school, I became a merchant banker. I only did it for a couple of years, to get an understanding of how companies worked. I left before my appetite for risk declined. It was an excellent training ground - I'd have done it for a third of the money. In the short term I was poorer, but I felt richer because my sister and I had the idea for Coffee Republic. I really began to make money by having the confidence to believe in an idea. If making money is your focus, it won't work. You have to do it for the challenge. If the idea is good, the money will follow. Don't chase after it; it should chase after you.

Hashemi founded Coffee Republic with his sister Sahar in 1995. It has grown into a high street name with 80 outlets. He stood down as CEO in March but remains a non-executive director.

NICOLA HORLICK

JOINT MD, SG ASSET MANAGEMENT UK

After leaving Oxford, I worked for my father for a year. He ran a chemical merchant business and wanted to import and sell a new animal-feed binder from Canada. He had nobody to do it, so I did it. I was paid pounds 6,000, and in 13 months I went from none to pounds 1 million of sales. Despite the market being tied up by two suppliers, I persuaded the animal-feed makers that what they really wanted was a third. Even in a competitive market, you can create a way in by doing something a bit different. You have to do your research and persevere. Instead of central depots, I used little storage companies right next to them so that I got my product in faster.

Many had never dealt with a woman, never mind a 21-year-old, and were rather bemused by this 'young girl'. They brushed me off until this stuff started pouring into the UK. Then they took me terribly seriously. It's massively competitive trying to get your first job in the City. I'm sure what I did helped. It was an incredible opportunity at that tender age. For my father, it obviously involved financial risk, but he believed in me.

Nicola Horlick became joint managing director of SG Asset Management UK in 1997, after a well-publicised and acrimonious departure from Morgan Grenfell. SG now manages nearly pounds 7 billion.

KEN BATES

CHAIRMAN, CHELSEA FOOTBALL CLUB

I've been a capitalist since I was very young. My first recollection of making a profit was when I was 12, during the Blitz. There were bombs within a mile of where I lived, in Ham, West London. A friend and I used to go with little sacks to where they were clearing the site and nick wood as they threw it out. We'd jump on it, break it up, knock on people's doors and sell it for firewood. Everything was in short supply. One man's adversity is another man's opportunity. A few years later, we found you could make things with plastic-coated electric wire - bangles, rings, necklaces - and sell them in school. But when the market collapsed, it collapsed. One day they wanted them, the next, they didn't. I learned to be very careful with stock control.

I got out quick and watched others get stuck with them. Lots of people got bracelets as Christmas presents, whether they wanted them or not.

Many people complain that they're unlucky or don't get a chance, but the harder you work the luckier you become. A lot of opportunities pass over peoples' heads because they don't recognise it or don't want to have a go. Then they envy those who have a go, and succeed. It was ever thus.

Ken Bates bought Chelsea Football Club in 1982 for pounds 1. As chairman, he has transformed Stamford Bridge into Chelsea Village, which boasts two four-star hotels, four restaurants, luxury apartments and a megastore.

However, the club's season tickets are now the priciest in the UK.

CHARLES DUNSTONE

CHAIRMAN, CARPHONE WAREHOUSE

When did I first make money? I'd always wanted to run my own business and I developed an interest in making money early on. So even though I was pretty lazy at school, I had my first taste of both there. I think it was when I was about 16, selling sunglasses and cigarettes lighters.

I'd buy them in bulk through an advert in Exchange & Mart and then sell them on at 100% profit to my classmates. Really, I'm just an Essex boy made good. I suppose one of the most interesting things about my teenage sales business was that our top salesman was Johnny Vaughan, who, of course, went on to present The Big Breakfast.

Like Vaughan, Dunstone has since moved on. He founded Carphone Warehouse in 1989 and it now has 433 shops.

DAVE RICHARDS

CHAIRMAN OF PRO-DRIVE

When I was a professional rally co-driver, I was quite successful - I won the World Rally Championship alongside Ari Vatanen in 1981. Jean Todt, who now runs the Ferrari F1 team, was my big rival. Although we didn't get the kind of money then that rally stars get today, I used to do the negotiating - for the driver as well as myself - and I always made sure we were pretty well rewarded. I was a high-speed manager, if you like.

Doing all those deals was a good grounding in business and stood me in good stead for setting up Pro-Drive. But it's really a question of context. What I consider to be making money now is off the scale compared to what I made as a 14-year-old schoolboy in North Wales. I'd get up early and ride miles on my bike to pick wild mushrooms, then sell them to the local hotels for pocket money.

Dave Richards is the founder and chairman of Motorsport management business Pro-Drive. His company has won five World Rally championships and five British Touring Car championships, most recently in 2000 with Ford Team Mondeo.

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