Labakery, Kensington High Street

What three words would you use to describe what troubled you during your adolescence?

Academics, uncertainty, finance.

What do you mean by uncertainty?

Fear of the future and not being able to control it. It would've been easier for me if I could see where I am now and just know everything works out. Even though I was on track to being successful, my fear of being unsuccessful was something I was thinking about constantly and got me into trouble.

And by successful do you mean career wise or in terms of happiness?

There's a big overlap in those for me. That's the biggest takeaway you're going to get from me today. Money used to be everything I was thinking about, especially as a teenager. I used to believe that I wouldn't ever be satisfied in life without masses of money. It was a lot of pressure that I put on myself, and yeah, I wish I hadn't but I couldn't switch off that way of thinking. 

So there wasn't any pressure from your family to be successful? 

Yeah. I suppose a small amount of unspoken pressure. What does that mean though? We weren't well off, but we weren't poor. Doesn't every family have some sort of unspoken pressure? Rich families want to stay rich and poor families want to become rich. I don't mean that in an fixated way. But if parents had a choice they'd all choose for their children to have money. So an unspoken pressure is natural, is it not?

I suppose yeah. But generally you'd say the pressure came from yourself? Conversations about your future and money weren't frequent in your household?

I think the pressure came from culture. "Wolf of Wall Street" came out at a time when I was mature enough to know that it was meant to paint that world in a bad light, but I was immature enough to be transfixed. I was ready to devote myself to money after watching it.

Were you one of those people who started a little side-hustle business in school?

Yeah I sold shisha pens.

(Chuckles) A secondary school kingpin.

It felt like a drug empire. In my head I was Jordan Belfort, not caring about clientele's wellbeing and making money off of their unruly addictions. In reality it was a bunch of 14 year old boys who never touched a cigarette before.

Did you feel guilty at the time?

I felt on top of the world! I was making what seemed like six-figures and I had a reputation of being popular and mysterious. That's the dream at 14. When I was discovered and punished by the school I was talk of the town for a few days, which just boosted my ego even more. 

Do you think that small taste of success drove you to work more?

Oh yeah entirely. It's a stupid pocket money career - I wouldn't even call it a career - but I think if you were to talk to most businessmen they'd say that their earliest business endeavours were the most influential in their real careers. It's what gets you into that mentality of moneymaking. And most of them did break the rules in worse ways than I did. Once you have an obsession with money, or anything, there's no one you would let get in your way. Especially with the emotional immaturity of a young person, and some people never grow out of that.

But it sounds like you support the idea of young and risky side-hustles.

It's a make or break time. I wish schools educated more on money and finances. Of course there's a lack of teaching about business and taxes etc, but they're also hellbent on shutting down students' businesses unless they're intensely vetted. Secondary schools foster an unhealthy mindset behind business. The lads selling weed get more money and less attention from the school than the children selling sweets. Who are you going to idolise as a 14 year old entrepreneur who wants to make money no matter what? 

So schools should be more lax when it comes to their students' side-hustles?

Exactly. Let them be. If it's not hurting anyone then they have no right to get involved. Business is about learning what works by making those mistakes. And learning to be secretive about entirely legal businesses is a horrific way to start business practices. 

Do you think you'd be more successful if your school had let you be?

(Chuckles) If my school let me be, I don't think I'd be paying so many fines nowadays.

Finally, what would be the soundtrack to your childhood?

Can't Stop - Red Hot Chilli Peppers

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