Business development · 8 June 2018

Britain’s youngest entrepreneur? How 11-year old Harlie Haycox is following in her father’s footsteps

youngest entrepreneur
Harlie Haycox and her father, Matt Haycox

The title of Britain’s youngest entrepreneur may just have a new owner – 11-year old Harlie Haycox, founder of all-American-style restaurant Harlie’s Diner. So what’s stopping her peers from launching their own startup?

The restaurant has just opened in Leeds and serves up an array of dishes inspired by classic American diner culture, from beef patties and hot wings to shakes and waffles.

Inspired by four years spent living in Las Vegas, Nevada, Haycox takes credit for the diner’s menu, branding and even soundtrack in a celebration of her experiences in the Silver State.

The young entrepreneur looked to her school friends to sample the menu, with loaded chilli cheese fries and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup milkshakes making the cut.

“When we were in Las Vegas, we would import English chocolate bars because they were much harder to find and everyone loved them,” she said.

“My favourite flavour of milkshake is Dime bar, but I also really like Oreo-flavoured desserts.”

And in the age of high-end takeaways driven by Deliveroo and UberEats, home deliveries are also catered for – a number of fuchsia pink Chopper bikes sit outside the restaurant, again hand-picked by the enterprising 11-year old.

Harlie’s Diner has just launched in Leeds

So far, so impressive. But how does a schoolchild get on the business ladder at such a young age – contacts, cash, or maybe both?

The young entrepreneur’s father, serial investor Matt Haycox, is the primary investor in Harlie’s Diner and also registered as its co-founder.

Haycox Snr’s investments already include Nevada-based dessert franchise Sticks & Shakes and Yorkshire burger chain Kerbedge, with his latest venture seeing his expertise brought closer to home.

However, in leading the diner’s decoration, the young entrepreneur appears to have brought more to the table than you might expect for an 11-year old.

“I’ve become a bit of an Amazon and eBay expert, finding all sorts of fun, neon signs to put up on the walls of the diner,” she said, before revealing aspects of her social media strategy.

“I’ve used this and Instagram to help bring the diner to life, encouraging customers to snap pictures and use hashtags.

“I’m really pleased with my most recent purchase of two angel wings, that you can stand in between and take pictures of yourself in front of them.

“My dad has taught me a lot about using social media to grow a business, so I’m really getting the hang of it.”

Harlie’s Diner was inspired by traditional American diners

Meanwhile, Haycox Snr said he was “thrilled to see her take the reins and spearhead the business”.

“It seems entrepreneurialism is in the family DNA,” he added.

“I didn’t start my first business until I was 15, so Harlie’s streets ahead of me, and has that instinct for what people will like that any good entrepreneur needs.

“I’ll always be on hand to offer my advice, but it’s nice to see her come into her own.”

Haycox Jr might have lucked out in founding her restaurant with a well-connected investor, but the digital native has demonstrated enough business nous to use her financial backing for a project reflecting her own vision.

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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