Everyone remembers their first part-time job, and nothing teaches you the value of money like getting up in the small hours of a cold Saturday morning to deliver newspapers around the local estate. But to Callum Ross this sounded like too much hard work for little reward, so he decided to try earning his extra pocket money a different way.
By becoming a salesman.
Callum is currently in his final year of study at Highfield High School, Leeds, but thanks to his unique eye for business he almost didn’t make it this far. Two years ago, aged just 14, Callum began selling sweets, fizzy drinks and crisps to his mates. His father, Alan, had access to a trade supplier via his work and often brought back huge boxes of chocolate and crisps for Callum and his brothers.
Never one to miss a trick, Callum pilfered these snacks and sold them on for pure profit to his friends at school. When Alan found out he wasn’t angry, but he did force his son to purchase his products from him if he was going to continue making money from them:
“I wasn’t even angry to be honest. My lad’s got a savvy head on his shoulders like his old man. I thought if he can make a few bob out of this, it’ll save me shelling out for pocket money!”
Callum bought up every Mars bar, bag of Quavers and can of Pepsi his dad could lay his hands on. And when news began to spread that these treats were going cheap, Callum’s customer base spread from his small circle of friends to the entire school. At one point, he was even distributing snacks to resellers in other schools, with this one-man tuckshop having now expanded into a multi-franchise business. On some days Callum would make as much as £200 from his exploits, and his dad often struggled to keep up with Callum’s demands for new stock.
“The lads at work saw my car stacked full of wotsits one morning and they thought I was either trying to put on weight or I’d gone absolutely bonkers!”
Callum made a lot of money out of this venture, but he readily admits he saved almost nothing of the estimated $82,000 he earned over the two years he traded. The headmaster at Highfield High, Ian Montgomerie, eventually cottoned on to Callum’s exploits and banned the young entrepreneur from further trading within school premises, with the threat of expulsion hanging over him if he failed to comply.
In response, Callum began operating outside the school gates, only for the head to summon the council, who put a permanent stop to the business due to lack of proper documentation.
But Callum suspects there was another agenda at play.
“Mr Montgomerie is married to some woman who’s sister’s on the Council. I reckon he got them to stop me because I was taking business off the school tuck shop. He blamed some healthy eating rules what he made up, but I know the truth.”
Callum was understandably downhearted at this turn of events, but while the council and a lack of cash put a temporary halt to his business, he refused to abandon his dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. For the next twelve months, Callum spent his evenings studying profit margins and business tactics while his mates played XBox and went drinking on the park. The idea was that Callum would get a job as soon as he left school, save up enough money to buy his own shop, and start trading once more.
As it happens, his Dad had a different plan for young Callum.
In early 2017, Alan Ross inherited some money. He considered putting it in stocks or a high-interest account, but something told him he could earn much more if he invested in his own flesh and blood.
“I’ve never known anyone with such a head for numbers as Callum. He’s definitely got the gift of the gab too, he can knock down prices like they’re made of paper. Sticking my money in stocks is a risk. Putting faith in my boy is a sure thing.”
Alan Ross purchased a small convenience store two minutes down the road from his son’s school, and while he takes on the bulk of the work, key business decisions have been handed over to Callum. Callum helps stock and price the shop’s goods according to what he thinks his schoolmates are looking for, and so far his advice has been a roaring success. Most newsagents of this size struggle to make much of a profit, but thanks to Callum’s business nous, Alan predicts he’ll make his money back and then some within a few years.
Callum has been afforded a share of the profits as reward for his hard work, and while his earnings aren’t as much as they were back in year nine, he’s still taking home a five-figure income much to the envy of his schoolmates. What’s more is that Callum has learnt from his mistakes and has saved most of the money he’s earnt, with the eventual aim of completing a University business course completely free of student debt.
And as for what his old headmaster thinks of this, unfortunately, Mr Montgomerie was unavailable for comment. Although one suspects his silence may have something to do with the Ross’ choice of name for their family-run convenience store.