Until last summer, designing websites was a side hustle for 16-year-old Flynn Blackie. "In June 2019, I made one of the biggest decisions I’ve had to make: do I leave school and go full-time and or do I keep doing this on the side?" He chose to leave the classroom behind. Instead, he’s learning about the world of business first-hand: marketing, design, cashflow, time management, portfolios, email follow ups - the list goes on.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus, he’s created a specific resource for small businesses in need of fast support. "I’m building websites for businesses and turning them around in as little as seven days so that they can stay connected to their customers. I’m adding member-only chat rooms and forums to the websites and online class platforms so that businesses can continue to communicate with customers and offer their services online," he explains. "Everywhere you look someone’s business is affected, like myself. I want to use this period to help prepare businesses for the inevitable comeback and motivate people to keep positive, be resilient and come back stronger."

Flynn’s company is called MOD digital. With his new resource, he’s been updating the websites of existing clients and taking on work from new businesses looking to increase or establish their digital presence. Clients include a gym, hairdresser, chauffeur business, an alarm provider and a yacht charter business.

Flynn Blackie, founder of marketing and website design company MOD Digital with one of his website clients, Barbaros

Setting up a limited company under the age of 18

His biggest challenge? "It can be hard to be taken seriously," he says. He’s lost potential business on account of his age. “There was a footballer who was starting up his own clothing company and was dead keen on going ahead but he hadn’t realised I was 15. He said he couldn’t put his faith in me," Flynn remembers. “It was a knockback, but you have to turn it into motivation to do better and show them what they’re missing out on."

Another hurdle was finding a bank that accepted limited companies with directors under 18. Without a business bank account in his name, he was unable to process payments without the consent of an adult. This also played into why some clients couldn’t work with him.

If you’re 16 or over, you can apply for a business account with Starling

Flynn was turned away from several banks before he came across Starling. After reading our Terms and Conditions, he sent a message to Customer Services to check that he really could apply for a business account. The answer came back positive. "When I read it, I jumped with joy," he says. He now uses Starling’s app-based business account to manage the finances for MOD Digital.

Spending the summer as an entrepreneur

While his friends spent their summers homework-free, Flynn put his head down to deliver projects and find new clients. He began to offer both design and marketing. "I’ve gone all out on the marketing," he says. "I run clients’ websites, social media, Facebook ads and Google ads and I create things within the website such as blog articles. It’s quite overwhelming at times but I love the challenge."

Initially, Flynn kept it quiet that he’d decided not to go back to school. He’d discussed it with his parents and a handful of friends but beyond that, he’d said nothing. "That way, I always had the option to go back to school," he explains. "I didn’t want to tell people ’I’m leaving school to run my own business’ and then be back a week later and everyone say ’Ah, you’ve failed.’"

But, of course, acknowledging the lows as well as the highs and knowing that ’failures’ will teach you the greatest lessons is part and parcel of being an entrepreneur. "Good entrepreneurs are hardworking and smart with money," he says. "I’ve watched people around me who were initially making more than me blowing it while I was reinvesting it. Business is also about confidence - if you don’t ask you’re never going to know."

Learning on the job

Flynn’s interest in web design was encouraged by work experience at a company based in Bruntsfield in Edinburgh. Broughton High School, where he was a student, had a compulsory programme of work experience but when Flynn looked down the list, none of the industries sparked his interest. "The school gave me a form to give to an employer and said I could source my own work experience."

Flynn generates leads through Facebook Ads and website funnels for Elysium Gym in Edinburgh

He started to fire off emails while he was on holiday with his father. "I sat in the hotel emailing various web design companies. The David & George business replied and said come in for a chat." They asked him to come in for a week’s work experience.

"The main things I took away were that I liked web design but the platform they used wasn’t for me." When he approached a friend to design a website for his barber shop, he chose to use Wix, another website building platform. In September 2019, Flynn was chosen to be an official Wix partner and invited to an event in Paris.

Funding and finance

Not many 16-year-olds would have the money to set up a business. But how much you need depends on the type of business. "There aren’t many outgoings for a web designer. I charged clients a deposit which would pay for the web hosting fee and then I built up an income over time," he explains. "I’ve never taken a loss."

Flynn occasionally works in collaboration with freelancers, connecting with people all over the world. "My Starling account allows me to track payments internationally which means I have a wider variety of freelancers to choose from and can handpick the perfect freelancer for me - I never hire a freelancer unless absolutely necessary and I only hire to collaborate."

Flynn’s business bank account with Starling gives him complete control over his own business finances. "I like the wheel to track payments and I like being able to attach notes and pictures to transactions."

To set money aside for growing his business, he’s created a number of savings Goals. "There’s one for having an office - I want to see how much I can put away each month and see if it would be possible with my current revenue."

His advice for other budding entrepreneurs? "Believe in yourself. If you’ve got an idea behind you and enough belief in it, you’ll make it work."

Subscribeto blog updatesarrow-rightGrow your businessHelpful free business guidesarrow-right

Related stories

Latest posts