As part of our Young Entrepreneurs series, Business Advice caught up 24-year old Jess Wealleans – founder of both a freelance marketing agency and a photography agency – to find out how she runs both her startups in tandem and the impact our next generation of entrepreneurs will have on the business world.
Who are you and what is your business?
I’m Jess Wealleans, 24, from East Yorkshire and I have 2 businesses which run side-by-side. The first is my main “day job”, Bramarpla – a freelance marketing service for a select few clients, half retained, half ad-hoc projects.
The second is WP Studio, which has been running in one form or another since I was 16. WP Studio is a photography company and it started with just dog photography, but it’s evolved into much more – I now operate in the canine, food, commercial and hospitality photography niches.
I have also had a company called Fraim Photography which was a photography tuition company. Due to my network being mostly international dog photographers at the time, my students were mainly in that niche. I taught business, marketing and photography techniques to regular students who travelled from all over the country to learn the how-tos of operating a profitable photography business in the current digital age. It was great fun.
What inspired you to start your own business?
My father really. He is a successful entrepreneur himself, though he wouldn’t admit it. He’s very humble and hates being in the limelight, but he started his first business, Sumo UK, two years before I was born and grew it into the most well-known and well respected agricultural machinery company in the UK (some would suggest the world, but I don’t know the facts there!). He sold the business a couple of years ago and now lives working from home doing odd jobs and developing property.
Seeing his work-ethic, day in day out, just made that seem like the natural option. My brother too has followed in his footsteps, he owns an event-tech startup in central London which is also very successful.
What are the barriers to starting your own business as a young person?
Definitely the “age = skill” misconception. People are likely to be heavily biased based on age, so it’s not something I share very often at all. It can be an income limiter for sure, but you just have to prove yourself with your work. If it stacks up to referrals or your own marketing claims, you’re on for a winner.
The fact you are your age makes no difference to your level of skill in a particular field. Experience comes with age, but my skill doing what I do would be no different if I was 16 or 60.
How did you fund your business?
For WP Studio, I worked to fund improvements in my kit and started up by having lots of part-time jobs around school. I saved and started with a soft-launch by quitting one of my jobs. Thankfully I was also successful in winning a grant for my work which allowed me to “kit-up” a lot quicker.
I quit the other job when I dropped out of university – my business took off and it became my number one priority.
What do you think the younger generation can bring to the business world?
A fresh face of tenacity. Millennials and Gen Z get a bad rep, and to be fair it’s quite easy to see why, but we also have completely different ideals.
I’d like to see us as a collective group really come together and make changes in the way businesses integrate with the community, the environment and their employees. A more integrated, people-focused approach for sure with less of a focus on profit and more of a focus on the triple bottom line.
Will you ever work a 9-5 job?
I don’t think so, but never say never. You don’t know what is around the corner and if I had to I would. In fact, I did just that recently when a disaster in my personal life left me homeless.
I moved back in with my mum and, to get a mortgage with a decent interest rate, I put my businesses on hold and went back to work. I was picked up quickly by a growing marketing agency and worked as an account manager for over half a year to get back on my feet. It was a great experience and I learned a lot, taught a lot to the team, and left feeling stronger than I did going into it!
Is a degree a necessity?
Absolutely definitely not. But it is field dependent – if you want to be a self-employed doctor, you kind of need a degree in medicine. For most other things, no. I did go “back to school” to get a CIM Level 6 Diploma which I completed via distance learning, purely to add credibility to my services. I didn’t learn anything from it, but the value it has in the industry was worth the self-funded cost and time away from the office and my family.
What tips do you have for other young people wanting to start their own business?
Don’t go it alone. Sure, start up as the sole employee, but don’t do it without support, knowledge and experience from those who have been there and done it. My network consists of some pretty incredible entrepreneurs who are my friends as well as my mentors. We bounce off each other well and we’re there for each other if we’re caught in a bind. You can’t put a price on that, at all.
Who is your celebrity icon?
Tim Ferris or Simon Sinek I think – (are they even classes as celebrities?) these two give me an extra ounce of inspiration when things are looking rough and I can always find something in their writing, speeches, books or blogs which is directly applicable to where I’m at right now, and where I’m moving next.
Which app do you use the most?
I use Instagram the most, but social media is part of my job so it’s next to impossible to detox from it. I don’t use any social media for my own businesses particularly well though – I think that just happens when you’re on it 24/7 for clients, there’s nothing left in the tank to run your own well.
It’s a bad advert for me, I know, but 99.9% of my business comes from extremely good referrals, so I’m not overly concerned right now.
Where do you see yourself at 50?
Still working. I’d be bored otherwise, but I’d be working less and focussed more on building a property portfolio, my family and my dogs.
What song should be your life anthem?
It’s My Life – Bon Jovi (what else!?)
Netflix or night out?
Netflix. 100%. I mean, have you seen Shooter yet? It’s amazing.
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