Sabirul Islam, an ordinary East London Youth who is still only 21, is rapidly developing an empire that inspires, educates and provides the opportunity for an ordinary individual to become an “extraordinary entrepreneur.” This globally recognised young entrepreneur is currently on a journey to Inspire1Million people, having delivered Inspirational tours in 13 countries worldwide. Author of the best selling book ‘The World at Your Feet’ , and now founder of the Teen-Trepreneur Board Game and Teen-Speakers, TheEmployable were delighted when Sabirul took some time out from his extremely busy schedule to tell us all about his own achievements, entrepreneurship amongst our young people and of course what lies ahead for this extraordinary Teen-Trepreneur.
So Sabirul, I understand that you were only 14 years old when you first set up your business. Amazing! What inspired you though to do this at such an incredibly young age?
I’ve always seen my cousin who is a year older as an inspiration…someone who I want to be like, follow and do everything he does! Ever since a very young age! I was never the type of person who would sit down, look at celebrity on TV and say wow, I want to be like them because you need to set goals on a step by step basis not look too far ahead too soon.
So, when my cousin decided to set up his first business at 14, I thought that was awesome! Never would I have thought that a 14 year old can have the title of ‘managing director’ beside their name!
He ran a calendar design business for the academic year…I went up to him and asked for a job! And at this point I was 13 years old. He gave me the role as the ‘production director.’ And being the typical teenager that I was back then, I just sat back, relaxed thinking the money he makes I would earn! I got fired after 2 weeks!!!
I really believe it was that moment that sparked my entrepreneurial journey…initially just to prove my cousin wrong for firing me! So having turned 14, I set up my own business, employed 6 friends and ran a web design business. Which was highly successful!
One of your most feted successes of course has been your first book “ The World at Your Feet. “ Firstly, why did you decide to write the book and more importantly in such a competitive market, how did you manage to sell so many copies in such a relatively short space of time – I understand over 40,000 copies in the first 9 months alone!
To be honest, college life for me didn’t live up to expectations..It was far too dull and nothing new and exciting happened. So during my second year, I had many 3 hour breaks during each lesson…and I am a person who doesn’t like to waste time.
Having had so many young people ask me, how I managed to set up a business at 14, then go on to become a junior trader at 16…it got to a point where I thought I need to give them something that will inspire them and also reach out to a mass number of youths rather than having to repeat myself to individuals. This led to the idea about writing a book, to inspire, empower and encourage youth to seek entrepreneurship as a career path. The book titled ‘The World at Your Feet’ took 3 months to produce…having self published it after being rejected by 40 publishers. This opened the door for me to become a motivational speaker, speaking at 379 events in 9 months, reaching out to youths in schools across the country and selling 42,500 copies of the book.
And the writing bug has not left you – can you tell us about your next book – again I believe about entrepreneurship?
The self published book got professionally published having turned 18. The book is now titled: The World at Your Feet: Three Strikes to a Successful Entrepreneurial Life.
I also have a new book titled: ‘Young Entrepreneur World’ coming out in February 2012, which interviews 25 of the most influential young entrepreneurs, youth activists and changemakers from around the world, who I have on the Teen-Speakers platform.
The idea behind the book is for the voice of youth to be heard on a global scale and for youth to challenge global leaders into providing more opportunities and support for today’s youth, as they are who will drive the world in years come!
Apart from books of course, some of your most inspirational work comes from your motivational speaking – from Teen-Speakers through to the TEDx Youth events. How important do you feel it is for our young people to learn about enterprise in schools and to hear from people like you ?
It’s vitally important…Enterprise learning should be implemented in every subject possible. It develops youth in a whole new way that they are able to think differently, do things differently, on a much more creative level and achieve great success from it.
I personally love speaking, and not just to youth but people of all ages. Knowing that I’ve spoken at many events in the UK, I decided to take my speaking gigs abroad. Which ultimately did lead to setting up the Inspire1Million campaign back in May 2011. The idea behind the campaign is to visit 20 countries in 12 months and inspire 1 million people to seek entrepreneurship as a career path.
So far to date since May 2011, I have spoken in 13 countries some of which include the Maldives, South Africa and Botswana. With tours to follow in Saudi Arabia, Swaziland, UAE and many more.
I especially feel that peer to peer inspiration is far more valuable than anything else. For a young person to stand on stage, share their success amongst youths similar to their age…it has a profound impact that is far more then when the same story is said by a 40 year old stand on stage speaking to youths. Because only then do youths feel like they are connecting with someone, who is similar to them in terms age, background etc. Therefore it is much easier for them to relate!
And of course, this must be one of the most rewarding elements to your work. Do you have any stories of young people who have gone down the entrepreneurship route after hearing you speak?
There have been many young people across the world that have gone on to set up their own businesses, write their own books purely from hearing me speak on stage. And to know that you are able to change a person’s perception and view of life from something really negative to something extremely positive is priceless.
Whether their ideas are something big or even as small as selling sweet to other students in school. It shows an act of enterprise which is what the purpose is about…to raise their spirits and to show them the path that to achieve something big in life, you must start small!
With youth unemployment figures increasing all the time and a particularly challenging jobs market, creating your own opportunity and business can seem to be the most viable thing to do, no matter what age you are. What key advice would you give someone who at this moment may be considering doing just that?
To be successful in anything requires what I call the 3 P’s:
You must always be positive no matter how low you may feel or how impossible the route ahead maybe…Just simply saying to yourself ‘I can do it’ is enough spirit to take those first steps.
Secondly, always be passionate! Do something you love and feel happy to do! Don’t just do it for the sake of making millions! That is where people make their mistakes! Do it because you enjoy it!
Thirdly, it’s all about perseverance! Hard, Hard, Hard Work! No success happens overnight! Its takes time and a lot of effort! But the more hard you try, the more likely something positive will happen!
In more business terms…If you have an idea, make sure you have the ‘big plan’ but always start small! Build yourself a network of people who can support you, guide you and mentor you! Finally, make ‘seeking funding’ the last thing you need when setting up a business. Far too many people feel they need huge money to set up businesses! Well in fact…you don’t need a penny! The more innovative you are the less money you need!