Interview with an Entrepreneur – Founder of Extreme Fliers, Vernon Kerswell
Welcome to ‘Interview With An Entrepreneur’, a new series where we interview successful business people and captains of industry and delve into their business mind looking for those triggers that started them on the path to innovation and entrepreneurship.
On this occasion we interview Vernon Kerswell who started Extreme Fliers whilst still a teenager. Having appeared on television he has gone on to build his business on the back of an innovative toy design.
Extreme Fliers Toys is a company which was founded by Managing Director Vernon Kerswell.
Three years ago when Mr. Kerswell was 21, he appeared on British reality TV show Dragon’s Den, but unfortunately he didn’t receive an investment at the time. At that stage he had created 3 main products with several more in the planning stage. Despite not receiving financial support, his company is now ‘flying’, with production outsourced to China he is now making a significant profit.
What advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Focus on the money first – work out how much money you can make before going too deep into your product or idea. Use your own savings when starting your first business, as it will probably fail but you will learn a lot from it, then start again. Be confident and think outside the box. Work hard and keep working hard and don’t give up.
Set sales targets and stick to them.
What business achievement are you most proud of?
Making lots of money with something I enjoy. Meeting and working with lots of amazing and talented people.
What motivates you?
Money. Lots of money. These days money has become a dirty word, well, the difference is I really appreciate. I was asked once “…well would you prefer love or money”, my answer? Both! They’re totally different things and since when did people have to make a choice between these two incredible things. I want lots and lots of cash, and have no shame in saying it – so much money that I could do anything I wanted. I also want to be a nice happy person who enjoys life with others.
Seeing a product go from a drawing to a real product on a shop shelf gives a lot of satisfaction – that motivates me as well. But having a wallet stuffed with £50 notes feels amazing.
Were you exposed to entrepreneurial activities as a child?
I was born the entrepreneur in the family. Growing up as 1 of 8, I always had to think of ways to make it on my own. At school I sold sweets and second-hand cars, at college I sold DVDs on eBay, at university I did a crash course in mandarin and jetted off to China to seek business opportunities. My parents weren’t entrepreneurial, in fact it was their negative and pessimistic approach to business which gave me a burning desire to succeed.
What is an average workday?
Everyday is different working in a dynamic environment, yesterday… 6pm went to our Manchester office, 4am finished loading up the van and set off to London, 6am stopped at a service station to sleep for 2 hours, 12 noon arrived in London and unloaded van, 4pm drove to one of our central London shops for staff training and sales, 9pm slept for an hour, 10pm drove to Heathrow airport to collect cargo which had just arrived in from China, 11pm unloaded van at warehouse, 12 midnight delivered stock to the shop for next day sales, 1am drove back to Manchester, arrived 7am.
Do you believe business has any obligation to make the World a better place?
I couldn’t possibly answer without causing a debate on what makes the world a better place… on one hand businesses such as mine lifts millions from poverty such as employing people in China who would otherwise only be able to survive on farming, on the other hand it causes environmental damage by using natural resources and shipping all the way across the world. As a business I think you need to have a moral compass and do things for the best, for example I use as little packaging as possible made from recyclable material, people who flout this end up paying for it in other ways for example clothing companies receiving bad pr for slave labour scandals.
What have been the most effective strategies Extreme Fliers have used to market their products?
Telling people about our products is the hardest thing and that’s what we need to do in order for people to know about them – because they are really awesome and a LOT of fun. Sending samples to the media helps – if the researchers like it and it is unique and fun they might do a feature on it. Our products have been featured on gadget shows all over the world and this has helped millions of people learn about our products. I discovered you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get it into the masses.
What’s next for you and your business?
We will be launching a range of new remote-controlled helicopters for Christmas 2010, I am planning to open more shopping centre locations and grow the direct sales part of the business. We’re also looking for international distributors to sell our products in other countries having established a successful market in UK. Being innovative in every way ensures your products have the wow factor, concentrating on the money ensures your dreams come true.