The young entrepreneur with big plans but 'still has to do homework'

Henry Patterson Image copyright Phil Weedon
Image caption Henry Patterson talking at a recent business event

Most 12-year-olds are worrying about their maths homework and trying to fit in with other kids their age, but Henry Patterson does this as well as running a successful online business.

Henry, from Bedford, started his business, Not Before Tea, when he was nine. He began by selling sweets, but soon turned to homeware products based on the characters from a book he wrote called The Adventures of Sherb and Pip.

His entrepreneurial streak comes from his mum Rebecca. "I had a dog-walking business at eight years old and was forever setting up ventures," she says.

Her early business drive has clearly rubbed off on her son. "At the age of five we were in a garden centre and he saw manure for sale. Our neighbour wanted to get rid of their horse manure and Henry asked if he could bag it up and sell it, just like the garden centre did," Rebecca recalls.

"I always remember him saying, 'We will sell two bags for the price of their one bag.' His attention to detail at five was impressive!"

Child tearaway

But if you think his success so young is because of pushy parenting, his mum would be quick to correct you. She believes his business ventures actually helped save his childhood.

Image copyright Not Before Tea
Image caption Henry has his sights set on international expansion

"Henry spent his entire early years in trouble at school as he didn't conform, he was frustrated because he saw things differently and was rarely invited to parties or play dates," she says.

"I spent my life being called in to school and asked how they could get through to Henry. The stammer then arrived and we pulled him out of his school for a term and home-educated him."

Henry says that his stammer was the result of "worrying too much about school work and rugby lessons", and it still comes back when he gets nervous.

But his periodic speech impediment certainly hasn't held him back. In fact, he sees public speaking as his forte and was brave enough to talk in front of the likes of top brands such as Facebook, Google and Ted Baker at the O2 Retail Week conference recently.

"I went on with no notes and spoke for 10 minutes. I had so many amazing comments afterwards and it was a brilliant feeling," he says.

Although, like most 12-year-olds, it's still the little things that excite him. "I stayed in a very smart hotel too, so it really was a trip to remember," he adds.

Image copyright Not Before Tea
Image caption Henry's company sells products based on animal characters

Henry's success is plain to see. In the past year he has been given business advice by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, spoken at the Retail Business awards and also revealed a turnover of £65,000. A tremendous feat for most business owners, and more so for Henry, who hasn't even reached his teens yet.

When asked about how the business is going it's hard to remember he is only 12. "We're doing well in the new baby sector so I think this will be our main focus for 2016," he says.

His online business sells around 80 products, which are also available to buy at various other retailers, and he's even expanding into Italy.

Keeping it real

Despite all of Henry's triumphs, his mum does her best to keep him grounded and schoolwork is a priority.

"We work closely with his school, who are very supportive. He will take his work with him to events and he'll do it on the train or after a presentation. The deal is that he can only keep moving forward with the business if he's up-to-date with his schoolwork," Rebecca says.

But surely so much success so young could be hard on a 12-year-old? Thankfully Rebecca believes that Henry has taken it well. "He's very modest. He'll never mention the business unless asked and people are always shocked at how humble he is."

Image copyright Not Before Tea
Image caption Henry has received business advice from entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson

But there's one thing that his mum can't protect him from and that's the online trolls. "He has had it all thrown at him from his weight to his hair. I try to protect him from this as much as possible and, most of the time, I'm the one who gets upset."

Henry applies the same pragmatism to the online unpleasantness he has experienced as he does to his business success. "People can be so hurtful and they don't even know me. But I've learnt to deal with it and it doesn't bother me any more."

So what does the future hold for this 12-year-old entrepreneur?

Ideally he would love to see his book developed into an animation, but he also has his sights set on bigger things. "I would love to fly the British flag in the US," he says. "I think they would love to read about a little mouse from England."

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