SW Clothing is a true Greater Manchester success story, a classic tale of how an idea nurtured at home has been transformed into a thriving online business.
The company, which sells a range of contemporary clothing, was started by Eric Bishyiki in his bedroom when he was just 13, his original ideas brought to life with money earned from a paper round.
Unafraid of asking for support, Eric approached the Business Growth Hub for help developing the commercial side of his business, including practical advice on financial matters and best practice.
The Hub helped him put together a successful application for a £6000 grant from the Oldham Enterprise Fund, a partnership between the Hub and Oldham Business Leadership Group, which he used to buy a new laptop and upgrade his website in order to attract more orders online.
Eric made a lasting impression on the Hub’s advisors, and as well as giving him support around the practicalities of business, they also offered him the opportunity to join the Hub’s mentoring programme.
The scheme matches up experienced business people from a whole range of industries with other entrepreneurs who could benefit from their expertise. The programme is aimed at developing the individual, and giving them the skills and the insight to help their business grow.
Eric was matched up with NatWest mentor John Paulson, who became an important sounding board for new ideas and future plans, as well as helping Eric work on other aspects of business, such as cash flow forecasting and business planning.
John explains: “Acting as a new business mentor has allowed me to draw on some of the skills and knowledge gained over the years in business - which we sometimes can take for granted - and apply these into a fresh environment.
“It has been a real delight to have the opportunity to act as a mentor for Eric; assisting him with his business priorities, goals and helping him to be successful in achieving grant funding. The mentor/mentee relationship for me has not just been a "one-way experience"; it's been great to be able to help a truly self-motivated individual with a "can do" attitude to business and life.”
Eric, who’s now 17, first launched his company from a table stall at the Oasis Academy in Oldham where he was a pupil, and has since moved to a shop in Manchester’s Affleck's Palace, while also supplying two other local retailers.
His designs range from t-shirts and hoodies, through to socks and hats, and all feature extravagant patterns and animal skin prints.
With true entrepreneurial spirit, Eric also harnessed the power of social media to boost sales and he has since had orders from all over the UK, boosting his turnover to £25,000 and allowing him to take on three members of staff.
He now studies at the business-orientated Peter Jones Academy at Oldham College, and is in the process of applying for further funding to expand again, as well as continuing to attend Hub events.
“As a young entrepreneur, I like to take advantage of every type of support available. The support from the team at the Business Growth Hub and from John at NatWest has been brilliant and my business is going from strength-to-strength as a result.
“I’d love to have a really successful clothing brand, and my real long term goal is to set up a charity to help young people in poorer countries to help them set up their own business.”