At the age of 11, Ben Towers took on a gig to design a website for a family friend for £50. Finding that he liked the work as well as the pay, he registered on an online freelancing platform and began producing websites on a regular basis. Within two years, he had hired his own full-time freelancers to support him, putting him on the enterprise road.
By the age of 16, Towers made use of a legal loophole to leave school in order to run his business. Then, in 2017, at the age of 19, he merged his agency with another digital marketing business for an undisclosed amount, described as “multiple million pounds”, before exiting the business. Today, he’s one of the UK’s most celebrated young entrepreneurs, admired for his entrepreneurial vigour and innovative spirit, and watched closely in anticipation of his next big idea. Currently, he’s a public speaker leveraging his celebrity to advocate for the potential of young entrepreneurs, and working to lower bureaucratic barriers that stand in their way through his interactions with government officials.
Innovation in youth entrepreneurship
When it came to formally start his own business as a young teenager, Towers faced a number of additional bureaucratic hurdles that traditional entrepreneurs are never forced to consider. Because of his age, Towers couldn’t legally pay employees, or devote the necessary time to run a growing business. After all, minors in the UK are legally required to remain in the education system at least part-time until the age of 18.
In spirit, these laws are designed to protect children from exploitation, not to prevent them from pursuing entrepreneurship. Towers, however, had no intention of putting his ambitions on hold for half a decade. In order to hire and pay workers, he simply contracted them as full-time freelancers rather than traditional employees. As the business grew, however, he ran into another major issue – school.
In order to run his business, Towers needed a way to break out of the UK education system, which monopolised too much of his time. At the age of 16, he managed to do so by hiring himself as an apprentice at his own business. What ultimately led to him to his current position as a public advocate for young business people, however, was a mundane banking issue.
Becoming an advocate
Towers received a call from his bank one day inquiring about the number of transactions on his bank account. His response that he was running a business nearly brought down his entrepreneurial ambitions. A child account can’t be used for business purposes, after all, and children can’t legally open a business account. With his assets frozen, Towers was unable to pay his freelancers or to access his hard earned money for himself.
To resolve the issue, he contacted the main branch of the bank, who had never dealt with such an issue before. Lacking any precedent, they created an exception allowing him to use his child account for business purposes. Later on, Towers would become the first underage person in the UK to ever open a business account.
In 2015, Towers was invited to participate in a discussion with top British MPs to discuss the needs of entrepreneurs in the 21st century. Most of the UK’s leaders, and political leaders around the world, are entirely unaware of the extent to which young people are involved in the modern economy, and how drastically education has changed compared to their own youth. Using technology, young people with an entrepreneurial mindset have access to educational and business resources that were practically unimaginable half a century ago.
Not only can young people learn professional skills, they can also build professional connections, find customers, and manage finances entirely online. By ensuring that political leaders know that these resources not only exist, but that young people are using them, Towers is ensuring that others who share his entrepreneurial attitude will operate legally in an environment that’s prepared for them.
What we can learn
Ben Towers didn’t disrupt any industry or develop any new products or ways of doing business. He also didn’t scale up to develop a massive business. Instead, he built a small but respectable digital marketing agency valued at a few million pounds. Despite that, he’s a groundbreaking innovator who has helped to redefine entrepreneurship in the UK. His actions as a teenager, rather than representing the crowning achievement of his life, stand as a proof of concept for his business acumen, personal drive, and entrepreneurial potential.
In Towers’ own words, entrepreneurship isn’t about endless preparation and planning, but rather “just giving it a go”. It certainly has worked for him with politicians as well as prominent investors like Richard Branson keeping a close eye on what he’ll decide to do next.