Interview with Steve Bartlett Founder of Wallpark
E2E’s political editor Abi interviews Wallpark founder Steve Bartlett.
Dubbed the UK’s next creative pioneer, Steve Bartlett is the 20-year-old founder of Wallpark, Manchester’s fastest growing student website. The platform which launched in January is an online noticeboard for students to sell stuff, find a job, find accommodation and much more. Not only is he a young entrepreneur that reached the last stage of the Junior Apprentice, he also writes for the Huffington Post UK.
Steve took time out of his busy schedule to talk to our political editor Abi Awojobi about his business, what he’s learned and his advice for other young entrepreneurs.
What is your business and what inspired you to pursue the life of an entrepreneur?
My business is Wallpark.com.
For me there is no alternative, someone once said “either live your dream or someone will hire you to help them live theirs” and that is exactly how I see it. The thought of doing a 9-5 job that I hate for the rest of my life is one of my greatest fears. I feel that the biggest choice anyone makes in their life is to either live or to survive and! Obvious I feel that the biggest choice anyone makes in their life is to either live or to survive and I believe that I have chosen to live!
Obviously there are risks associated with ‘living’ and in my opinion, that is why many choose not to; it is not easy but that is what makes it the most exciting and engaging lifestyle I have ever experienced. The potential rewards completely outweigh the risks as far as I’m concerned. “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t”. Besides, I have nothing to lose at this age, I’m already at the bottom, I have no real assets, no children no wife, so I ask myself what have I got to lose and what have I got to gain? It’s a no brainer.
What are the toughest and most rewarding aspects of being a young business leader?
The most rewarding aspect of being a young entrepreneur specifically is being able to show other young people an alternative to what they thought was the only path. Inspiring other young people is so rewarding for me and at times I feel like I’m on a crusade to abolish the 9-5, safe, hate-my-job-hate-my-boss-but-need-to-pay-the-bills way of life. One of the biggest misconceptions is that people won’t take a young leader seriously because of his age/experience. Well this is totally wrong. People have given me more attention and listened more attentively to me for this very reason.
I have used my youth to my advantage. When people heard a 19-year-old was coming to meet them their expectations aren’t high at all, but when I begin to talk about my vision, our current accomplishments and demonstrate that I am very competent they are often very surprised. I now tell other young entrepreneurs that, “the minute someone underestimates you, they drop their guard, and give you the power to surprise them”. This surprise can have a great impact and I often feel that it tips the balance in my favour when it comes to getting a deal done. I guess the only negative side to being a young entrepreneur is that because of this underestimation, it is often harder to get through the door in the first place to surprise the client/investor/individual you want to meet.
What advice would you give to young people wanting to do what you’ve done?
Get a mentor and surround yourself with like-minded people. Ignore the ‘haters’ and all the individuals who will tell you your idea is bad. I think it was Einstein that once said, “you know you have a good idea when no one else understands it”. Be obsessed; if you’re not obsessed you will fail. You have to breath, eat and sleep what you do. Stay paranoid, there is always someone else somewhere trying to do what you want to do and they may well be 6 months ahead of you. Be bold; go after the bigger opportunities, the things that you don’t even really believe you can achieve because progress and growth lives just outside your comfort zone.
You need to be likeable and educate yourself on human psychology; you have to be that guy/girl people want to help succeed or else they won’t do you favours, give you contacts or have a reason to go out of their way to give you a foot up. I feel like I could go on and on but finally, as Nike say, “just do it!”
I always say to aspiring entrepreneurs “there is never going to be that perfect time to start doing the thing you have been procrastinating about for the last year” so your only option is to pick an imperfect time, how about right now? Every marathon starts with one small step and the sooner you take that step, the sooner you will reach the finishing line.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learnt as a young entrepreneur?
Such a hard question! I’ve learnt to never underestimate my struggle but also that it is important to underestimate the task at hand some times in order to feel that it is achievable. I have learnt that I can do virtually anything that I genuinely believe I can. I have learnt that hard work doesn’t count for anything and that smart work counts for everything; I often tell people, if hard work alone determined success, then there would be a lot of millionaires picking tea leaves in Africa, because those guys definitely work harder than me.
I have learnt to ignore the pessimism and to trust my instincts and personal opinion while being more open to consider the opinions of others. Finally the biggest lesson for me has been how to deal with and manage people. This is one of those things you can only ever learn by doing it, everyone is different and it’s my job to find the way to get the best out of them!
The first black prime minister?