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Kickstarting Your Business from the Dorm Room

by jcp

By Alex Doyle, founder & CEO of ALTR

Need a little bit of motivation to turn your entrepreneurial dreams into reality? Prepare to be inspired by Alex Doyle: The young entrepreneur who converted his ideas into a successful business from his dorm room. A survey of young people in the UK found that 43% of university students are rethinking their careers in the wake of the COVID pandemic with 78% of students fearing it has impacted their job opportunities when they graduate. The same survey found that over a quarter of students (27%) currently run or plan to run a business whilst at university.

Alex Doyle, 26-year-old founder and CEO of ALTR, was one of those students who had a lightbulb moment in his final year as a history student at the University of Warwick and turned it into a thriving online business. Now running one of the fastest growing home-grown male cosmetics brands, Alex shares his entrepreneur journey and offers some advice to other young people who aspire to build their own business empires.

The ‘lightbulb’ moment
I struggled with skin issues such as acne and eczema throughout my teenage and student years. Having tried numerous pharmaceutical and medical solutions, nothing seemed to work. Speaking to a female friend one day about how I was feeling so self-aware of the way my skin looked and how it impacted my confidence, she recommended that I try a concealer and non-irritable moisturiser. This changed my life in more ways than I expected.

I quickly realised that while there are premium cosmetic brands targeting both men and women, there are very few affordable cover-up products in the market that catered to young men like myself. This was the ‘lightbulb’ moment that set me on the journey to create a product for myself and in turn, solve the skin issues of many other young men like myself.

The journey so far
I set up ALTR at the age of 21 while attending my final year at university. The vision for the business is to help boost men’s confidence and give them the same access, as young women do, to easy-to-use, affordable skincare and cosmetic products that can help them conceal acne and other skin problems.

A lot of research and hard work later, I was able to partner with the right UK manufacturer who small batch produced my formula, and it was off to the races! We started selling the product on our own website as well as Amazon as it gave us access to a wider audience, and we leveraged the Amazon Launchpad program for start-ups to gain exposure, boost sales and accelerate growth.

Through a combination of clear product positioning, targeted social media marketing, and tapping into the resources of Amazon, we have been able to build a growing loyal customer base with our products being exported to overseas markets such as Europe and the United States!

I have been running ALTR for over four years now – the business has doubled its revenue year-on-year and we’re on track to turn over £1 million this year. I have come far since my dorm room days and I am excited for upcoming plans to collaborate with other brands in order to enhance ALTR brand visibility and extend our offerings to truly give skin-concerned young men access to a wider range of products.

Tips for budding young entrepreneurs

For many young people, they can have great ideas but the process of turning these ideas into a business can be daunting with many not knowing where to start. I know, I’ve been there. That’s why it’s great to see that recently the Amazon Small Business Accelerator ran its first online bootcamp for young entrepreneurs. Free online learning programmes such as this are crucial for young people, especially student entrepreneurs like I was, to gain access to a multitude of resources that can help them get started.

There are three key points that I would like to share from my experiences that I hope can offer some value to young people who are about to kickstart or are already on their entrepreneurial journey. If I can do it, you definitely can give it your solid effort too.

  1. Do your research – If there was one thing that I excelled at as a history major student, that was reading, and boy did I read a lot! I made sure that I didn’t rush into anything and was thoroughly researched before taking the plunge to set up the business. Likewise, I would advise you to read about how to start a business, research your target market and your competitors, and find out what workshops and training resources are available to help you set down solid foundations.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – Networking is a big part of being an entrepreneur as you never know who you might meet that may become a mentor or even a business partner. Beyond networking and mentorships, if you’re a student, it is worth looking into what support your campus offers student entrepreneurs. There are also plenty of organisations offering business mentorships and even start-up grants for young people.
  3. Don’t sell yourself short by taking a half-hearted approach – You can’t be half-hearted and expect success. Running a business is not easy and you do have to be prepared to put full mileage into it. It is granted to be a rollercoaster ride of emotions where the disappointments are aplenty, and the wins are exhilarating. Just make sure to keep your mind open and keep learning as you go.

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