Pupil Interview: Entrepreneur Henry Patterson

Henry Patterson set up his first business aged just nine-years-old. He has since launched several more business ventures, written a book and regularly gives talks at major events and conferences. We asked him about his business career and experiences at InterHigh.

Why did you join InterHigh and how does it compare to your previous educational experiences?

I’m in the middle of a world tour and if I was still at a mainstream school (which I was up until the end of year 8) it just wouldn’t be practical. When I was at a physical school, I was off more than I was there so we were basically paying for me not to be there!!! That’s why InterHigh’s so great, I can do it anywhere.

You hit the headlines for setting up the children’s brand ‘Not Before Tea’. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Not Before Tea was launched in 2013 when I was 9 years old. Like most children, I was told those ‘when I was young’ or ‘back in the day’ stories by my parents. My mother shared the most magical memories of going down on her bike to her sweets and toy shop when she was younger. It just seemed like the best thing ever! I went up to my bedroom and designed six jars of sweets and started selling them to family and friends. It started to grow and grow until one day, the story got picked up by the Daily Mail. Then it exploded! The world went mad for this story. Eventually, we stopped the sweets and I wrote a storybook called ‘The Adventures Of Sherb and Pip’. We designed products based around it and that was how Not Before Tea was created!

Why did you want to enter the world of business at such a young age?

9 years old and running a business isn’t young enough for me. I constantly wonder why I wasn’t doing anything for the first 8! I don’t know why society has this idea that life starts when you’re 18. It simply isn’t true. We spend the first 17 years of our life counting down the days until we finish school, but for what? Nothing changes overnight when you turn 18. You don’t suddenly become capable of doing anything you want. The earlier you start, the earlier you succeed.

Like all entrepreneurs, you have launched several businesses. Can you tell us about some of them?

No business comes around in an instant and for the people who think it’s a natural born talent, think again. As they say, practice makes perfect and well...I’m still practising! When I was 4, I launched my first business, ‘Henry’s Rotted Myor’. I know what you're thinking. I’m sorry, but what 4 year old do you know that can correctly spell the word ‘manure’?! To translate that into a more processable brand name, ‘Henry’s Rotten Manure’ came around when I really wanted a new toy. I’d spent my weekly allowance and NEEDED this toy with a great matter of urgency. We have horses and I went into the field and basically spent my evening shovelling poo into a bag. Whatever floats your boat I guess. I made a sign and put the bags outside of our front gates. By the morning they’d been sold and £1.50 was left in the postbox. I was thrilled! My next venture was when I was 7. There were these incredibly popular toys at school and I noticed some of my friends had varieties that others didn’t. I did what any 7 year old would do when spotting a gap in the market...set up trade meetings with my friends! I had some serious clients in the playground. As I’ll tell you in a moment, things didn’t exactly (as they don’t always) go to plan. Not Before Tea was my first serious business and led to so many amazing things. Now I’m in the middle of a world tour speaking, have released my new book and business ‘Young and Mighty’ (youngmighty.com) helping young people spend their future doing what they love. There also might be something coming later on in the year! Shhhhhhh

Have they all been successful?

Absolutely not! ‘Henry’s Rotten Manure’ came crashing down when I realised that standing in a field when it’s -2 degrees is not fun. My trading empire was shut down when the head teacher of my school called me in and told me how money was banned from school. One of my friends had stolen from their mother's purses to afford one of the toys. You heard that right, there was a scandal! There have been gazillions of hiccups along the way with Not Before Tea and Young&Mighty too.

What’s been your biggest challenge in business so far?

I couldn’t possibly name just one! Criticism is hard to take, in business or just life in general. And I’m not going to glamorise it, you do have to make sacrifices and go that extra mile sometimes. It pays off though, I promise! (As you can tell, I’m also addicted to exclamation marks - resist Henry, resist.)

Who are your role models and heroes? Have you met any of them and if so, what was the experience like?

The list is endless. So many people inspire me. I may have to turn this into one of those Forbes list articles. (In no particular order) - Sir Richard Branson and I share a similar story. Like me, he never fitted in at school and it was his hunger to succeed that got him where he is today. I was fortunate enough to meet him on The One Show and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. - My family and friends are the people I see every day and inspire more than anything else. I owe them everything. - Lin-Manuel Miranda has heavily influenced me. He wrote Broadway hit, Hamilton which has played such a massive part in my life! I’ve been fortunate enough to interview Hamilton cast members, attend opening night, stand on the stage and have even received numerous letters from Lin in the past. - When discovering Hamilton, I discovered the man it was based on - Alexander Hamilton. Although he lived in the 18th century, his story motivates me so so much. His instant persistence and drive is what we all should aspire to be like.

What has been your biggest challenge as a business owner?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been featured in publications such as BBC, ITV, The Sunday Times, Forbes etc. With that comes a lot of attention from people, for better or for worse. I’d be lying if I said I’ve faced zero criticisms. Some people are horrible and all I can say is to try and make the best of bad situations always makes me feel better!

Any advice for your fellow InterHigh pupils? What should they be doing in order to learn more about entrepreneurship?

Research, research, research. Learn from other people's mistakes and successes. Learning in business isn’t copying, it’s listening, processing and then recycling however you want.

You’re also an author and keynote speaker and appear in the media regularly. Fitting in your studies around your schedule must be challenging?

It can be tough and I can’t say I’ve not handed in the odd late homework from time to time! I always plan my year in August when I get my timetable, to try and make sure the two worlds don’t collide. When a media enquiry gets sent to my agent (who has a copy of my timetable), we try our best to make it work.

Why did you join InterHigh and how does it compare to your previous educational experiences?

As I mentioned earlier I’m in the middle of a world tour and if I was still at a mainstream school (which I was up until the end of year 8) it just wouldn’t be practical. When I was at a physical school, I was off more than I was there so we were basically paying for me not to be there!!! That’s why InterHigh’s so great, I can do it anywhere.

You have a large fanbase on social media, what’s your favourite social media platform and why?

I love Instagram. It’s so useful and an easy way for my followers to engage.

Any top tips on social media audience building and social media profile building in general?

Be yourself. I know a lot of genuinely nice people who don’t come across well on social media because they put on an act. Also, please (and I can’t stress this enough) don’t care about followers. At the end of every speaking session, I have a live Q&A and the question I must get asked the most is ‘how do I get loads of Instagram followers’. I couldn’t actually care less if I’m to be honest. It is literally A NUMBER. Get over it!

Can you tell us about your education experiences before joining InterHigh: Where did you go to school, what was it like and how did your business responsibilities affect your school life and education?

School was never easy for me. I was always asking questions and going in depth about a topic from a young age. I was always different and my mind never turned off. I was constantly told (by the students and the teachers) that I was useless and would never get anywhere in life which was really hard at such a young age. This led to me developing a stutter. Unfortunately, my school was completely against my business. Obviously, in their eyes, it would have been awful if someone under the age of 587 actually did something with their life instead of standing around playing polo.

How does studying at InterHigh differ? Is it better and if so how?

InterHigh is amazing. The atmosphere in the classrooms is amazing, the teaching is brilliant and the flexibility is something every other school tries but fails to achieve. InterHigh is victorious with it!

You can study at InterHigh wherever there’s an internet connection, what are the most unusual places you’ve had a live lesson?

There have been a few weird places. In year 9 I did a geography lesson in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, backstage at massive arenas, premieres, so many places! I was fortunate enough to fly business class in the Singapore Airlines A380 a few months ago and I did some of my school using the inflight WiFi 36,000 feet above Asia!

Would you recommend InterHigh to your peers and if so why?

Absolutely, I think it’s such an incredible idea and I have no idea why the whole world isn’t using it yet.

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