Sabirul Islam grew up in a crime-ridden borough of London, England.
His eyes were opened to entrepreneurship by his cousin, who offered Sabirul a job at the age of 13. But when Sabirul was fired a few weeks later, he decided to take matters into his own hands. At 14, he gathered six of his friends and started Veyron Technology, a website design company. Sabirul made his first $1000 within the first two weeks.
In January of 2008, at age 17, Sabirul self-published his first book. The World at Your Feet offers young people guidance and encouragement to turn their entrepreneurial vision into reality. It’s safe to say that Sabirul is an expert on the subject: not only has the book sold 60,000 copies, Sabirul has also launched a board game (‘Teen-Trepreneur’), become a globe-trotting public speaker (over 600 speaking engagements), and started his own publishing company for aspiring teen authors.
Now 19, Sabirul keeps busy by developing an interactive website for young entrepreneurs, writing three additional books, and otherwise setting out to conquer the world.
The following is a short excerpt from 50 Interviews: Young Entrepreneurs (Volume 1).
Q: What drove you above and beyond, towards entrepreneurship?
A: When I was 13, I always looked up to my cousin, who was a year older than me.
When he was 14, he had the audacity to start his first business. He was the managing director of his company and that blew me away. So, I just went up to him and said, “Cousin, can I work for you?” He gave me the job on the spot. I kind of took it for granted because he was my cousin and I thought that the money would just roll into my back pocket. Well, two weeks later he sent me an official letter through my post, with his company logo and signed by him. All it said was, “Dear Sabirul Islam, you’re fired.”
I was hired and fired at the age of 13 by my own flesh and blood. That was the toughest thing to take. It opened my eyes to entrepreneurship. I said, “I don’t ever want to work for somebody else for the rest of my life.” You can get bossed around by them and you just have to do what they say.
So I decided to start a company that made more money than my cousin’s and to be the CEO, not just the managing director. That became the plan. The negative atmosphere around you can be the motivation to make you succeed. That failure, getting fired at the age of 13, was the big punch I needed to get out there and get my business started.
Now, I encourage and I promote entrepreneurship wherever I go. It’s just a fantastic learning process when you’re young. When you do something successful as a teenager, you’ve become an inspiration. Sometimes older people look up to you, instead of looking down on you.
Around the world we have had this recession. People are getting more master’s degrees and PhDs, but they’re still ending up without a job. It’s not that you’ll never get a job, but entrepreneurship gives you a Plan B. You create your own route in life.
Q: How have people around you reacted to your success?
A: I’ve received hundreds of wedding proposals from girls around the world. I don’t know how many I should show my parents [laughs]. I’m still only 19, so I don’t think I’m ready to get married now. It’s quite an insane thing. I’ve had notes from parents as well, putting their young daughters forward. I’ll have to pick and study them very well, before I take an offer [laughs].
My cousin is a bit jealous of the fact that I have done more in my life to succeed as an entrepreneur than he has. Now I am the inspiration for him. In that sense, it’s quite a blessing. He is taking the education route and is studying psychology at university now. So he’s doing pretty well for himself.
Every time I see him, I just want to shake his hand and say, “Thank you for giving me this opportunity.” The biggest moment in my life was not when I got fired, but when he gave me the opportunity in the first place. If he hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have started my first business and I wouldn’t have written The World at Your Feet. I would probably be working at McDonald’s right now.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: My inspiration is to educate entrepreneurs and help create a platform where they are able to grow in stature and develop their own brands. There may be a few people out there who follow a similar line of vision, but a few is never enough. It’s my mission to inspire and create success for both today’s and tomorrow’s generations.
This is an abridged version from Sabirul’s interview in our latest project, 50 Interviews: Young Entrepreneurs. Sabirul is one of the most fascinating people I have ever talked to. He’s very well versed and he has an incredible message to share with young people. These three answers hardly scratch the surface.
Sabirul Islam’s Top Quotes
“I think what teenagers lack is the belief that they can be unique and extraordinary in life. Make the most of your age because you’re not going to be a teenager forever!”
“I don’t want to look too far ahead. The journey is what’s happening right now, not what’s on the finishing line.”
Want even more inspiration?
Find out how a child prodigy published a book at 7 and spoke at TED at 12:
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