Pioneering for greater awareness and education in entrepreneurialism and business, Tom Cridland has started The Entrepreneur's Shirt a campaign supported by the charities DEKI and Young Enterprise in support of young entrepreneurs in Africa and Britain, respectively.
We talk to Tom Cridland about his personal startup story, how he feels the education system is lacking in practical lessons in business and how The Entrepreneurs Shirt and the charities involved can implement change.
Tom, please introduce yourself, your company and your new campaign The Entrepreneur’s Shirt?
Two years ago, when I was 23, I had a business idea to create a brand that would be an “antidote” to fast fashion, so I applied for a £6,000 start-up loan.
Since then we’ve managed to establish Tom Cridland as an emerging sustainable fashion brand. Thanks to a “30 Year” concept, where we guarantee wardrobe staples to last for 30 Years (repair or replace any damaged item free of charge) in a bid to convince consumers they can “buy less and buy better”.
Instead of following the unsustainable trend of 'disposable' fashion, we’ve decided to dedicate London Fashion Week to the launch of The Entrepreneur’s Shirt instead.
It’s our first ever buttoned shirt and we back it with the same 30 Year guarantee. Every time someone orders it, we donate 10% of the sale price to the charities DEKI, which help impoverished entrepreneurs in Africa, and Young Enterprise, who provide support for young aspiring British entrepreneurs.
I believe, particularly in the wake of Brexit, Justine Greening should do more to increase entrepreneurial focus in our education system, and I have written to her asking to meet.
You started your business Tom Cridland, aged 23 in 2014. Can you tell us some more of your startup story and the highs and lows you have faced?
During my journey as an entrepreneur my experiences have included; Jeremy Corbyn spilling coffee on my trousers during a one on one breakfast before a BBC Radio 4 interview, being backstage at Elton John concerts. And making clothing for the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Stiller, Rod Stewart, Hugh Grant, Stephen Fry, Jeremy Piven, Nigel Olsson, Brandon Flowers, Robbie Williams, Nile Rodgers, Stephan Merchant, Frankie Valli, Daniel Craig, Neil Young, Danny McBride, Clint Eastwood and Kendrick Lamar.
They’ve also included my bank balance hitting £0 several times in the early days, manufacturing problems and working till the early hours of the morning all week!
It is a labour of love, however, and I think people would benefit from greater exposure to entrepreneurship from an early age. Even if they don’t want to start businesses of their own, it is important to think outside the box, a trait which will enable young people to make more informed career decisions in general.
How has your personal experience inspired you to set up The Entrepreneur’s Shirt and if you could have known anything at the time of starting out what would it have been?
My experiences as an entrepreneur have been life transforming, but I've also recognised how insufficient the support is for aspiring young entrepreneurs in Britain and worldwide. Particularly in countries in Africa, such as the areas in which DEKI carries out its invaluable work. If we’re going to spend hours learning history or geography, playing sports or trying to make wooden pen holders in DT, we must surely be able to spare an hour or two a week from primary school all the way to University level, in learning the basics of business and entrepreneurship. From primary school games exploring simple business ideas and teamwork. And at University, learning the basics of VAT and the bureaucratic side of business, so that it is second nature to us by the time we’re working - whether that be for someone else or ourselves.
Making beautiful clothing for the Tom Cridland brand is a labour of love, and I would not change a thing. There are many talented people out there who have been less fortunate than me and with more support and knowledge of the mechanics of business, people would be less daunted by the idea, and they would be more resilient and persistent in pursuing their entrepreneurial ideas.
What do you think are the biggest obstacles faced by young entrepreneurs today? And how does your campaign aim to resolve these issues?
The biggest obstacles are a lack of available funding to those with limited or no experience, and limited or no business training or focus on entrepreneurship in our education systems.
The Entrepreneur’s Shirt is a joint project between my brand, Tom Cridland, and the charities Young Enterprise and DEKI: a sustainable Oxford shirt that benefits entrepreneurs, in Britain and the developing world. More than that, however, it is a passionate campaign that I am launching to encourage teaching of an entrepreneurial nature, from primary school level to University and beyond. It does not matter whether you run a bootstrapped start-up or are climbing the ladder at a corporate institution; people thinking with initiative like an entrepreneur and knowing how businesses work as a result of their education will lead to higher levels of confidence and productivity.
How are DEKI and Young Enterprise supporting your campaign?
DEKI and Young Enterprise are both excellent charities who wrote to me earlier this year asking for support. They’re promoting The Entrepreneur’s Shirt through their networks, and it is an absolute honour to be collaborating with them.
How can people get involved?
The Entrepreneur’s Shirt is available here: