Norwich young entrepreneur’s success is something to SHhout about
From street art to a fashion and entertainment business that is taking Norwich by storm, EMMA HARROWING catches up with Sam Harron who is bucking the trend with his entrepreneurial skills
Bad situations can usually spawn positive changes. With the doom and gloom of another rise in youth unemployment, the future of our young people looks as though it is hanging in the balance. However, economic conditions have led to an increasing number of young people aged between 16 and 24 setting up their own businesses.
Educational establishments such as City College Norwich know the importance of encouraging young people to gain the experience to set up their own business. The college's Start Up Lounge, launched last year, was set up to give students the facility to put their business ideas into action so that they could become the next generation of entrepreneurs. The initiative has already spawned businesses such as fashion label Cocoon a student run shop which sells recycled stationery made by the students.
Setting up your own business is not an easy route to a fruitful career. Many have great ideas but no skills or lack the courage to go it alone.
There are, however, those young people that do put in the hard work and succeed in establishing their own businesses. Over the next two weeks Life Matters talks to some of the young entrepreneurs you should look out for.
Sam was just 17 when he set up his fashion brand SHhhh in his home town of Great Yarmouth. A student at Great Yarmouth College, Sam admits that he took an unorthodox approach when it came to marketing his new business venture.
'I was into street art at the time and would leave stickers of a speech bubble around town,' says Sam. 'Obviously I didn't want people to know that it was me and so I came up with the name SHhhh which is my initials and plays on the fact that my identity remains a secret.'
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By the time Sam was 18 his SHhhh brand was causing quite a buzz among his friends. Sam had a Saturday job at a photographic and graphic design company, giving him the opportunity to dabble in a bit of graphic design.
'I started to print my own T-shirts with the SHhhh logo on them,' says Sam. 'At first I just created one for myself but gradually my friends started to want one too. My skater friends and I became the SHhhh Boys as we all wore my T-shirts!'
When Sam was in his final year of his studies, Yarmouth College set up the Alchemy Centre, a business support centre that helps budding entrepreneurs in East Norfolk set up and run their own businesses. It was here that Sam got the support he needed to take his brand to the next stage.
Sam says: 'The centre gave me the office space, help with developing a business plan and the money to make SHhhh into a fully fledged business. I also got to do a Dragons' Den style pitch to secure a grant from the Princes Trust and NWES to kick start my business.
'Nothing prepares you for what direction your business will take. Although I had written business plans, the real lessons came when I actually took my business out into the big wide world.
'When I set up SHhhh I was just a teenager and I was developing and changing my views and opinions. It was when I moved out of Yarmouth after a trip to Finland to meet artists out there that I began to really see how I could develop my business in the long term.'
Sam's SHhhh clothing is now stocked in independent menswear shop Dogfish in Norwich and Cambridge – a dream come true for the 22-year-old.
'I worked part-time in Dogfish and got the opportunity to take owners Nick and Rob to my studio,' says Sam. 'They were impressed by what they saw and agreed to stock my T-shirts in their shops. Now I'm in talks with them about investing further in SHhhh so that my designs are stocked in more stores throughout the UK.'
The young designer has also approached London hat maker Locke & Co, asking if they could manufacture his SHhhh hat designs. The gamble paid off and Sam is currently working on samples.
'I try to make as much of my clothing from ethically sourced materials such as organic cotton and making sure that my designs are manufactured in the UK goes hand in hand with this,' says Sam. 'It's great that a British company such as Locke & Co would like to manufacture some of my designs and it would be great to form collaborations with other British manufacturers.
'It's important that we all support the skills we have here in the UK.'
In conjunction with his SHhhh brand, Sam supports other emerging young designers and artists in the 11 artists project he set up last year and he has set up an entertainment arm to his business, SHhhh Presents, which aims to bring underground music artists and DJs to Norwich.
The young entrepreneur is brimming with of ideas on how to promote his designs and up and coming talent from Norwich and worldwide.
'I guess my inspiration comes from my parents,' says Sam. 'Both mum and dad are creative people but when they were young they didn't have the opportunity to channel their passion. This is why grasping the opportunities that are available for young people who want to set up their own business is so important. There are so many more avenues that I want to pursue.
'For example, it would be great to have my own shop where I can really combine all the elements of my business. It will be like a creative concept store with fashion, art and entertainment from up and coming artists under one roof.'
For more information about SHhhh visit shhhh.co.uk
Don't miss next week's Life Matters when we will be talking to Norwich fashion designer Tom Hayden about his business Iron and Pin.