Profit - It's a Youth Thing for Singh

Article excerpt

REUBEN Singh was the world's youngest self-made millionaire so he knows a lot about reverse ageism. But it has not held him back.

He started his first shop, Miss Attitude, before taking his A-levels and quickly built it into a fashion chain of 100 shops, then sold it when he was 21 for a reported sum of pound sterling22m.

Now only 25, Singh has seen his portrait hung in the National Gallery, been chosen as one of New Labour's darlings and is currently worth roughly pound sterling150m (he claims to be too busy to count it).

He wrote his first business plan at 17 and has grown a number of successful companies. He wanted to take Miss Attitude public in order to expand but found that the market would not accept a 21- year-old chief executive.

The sale involved signing a clause that prohibited him from staying in the fashion retail market, so he expanded his horizons to IT, internet and service providing.

When he sold his fashion retail outlets, Singh noticed that in some cases the properties were more valuable than the turnover of the shops. So he split the company and sold off some leases separately, thereby discovering the property market, in which he is still involved.

Under the banner of today's Reuben Singh Group are 12 companies covering everything from currency trading to venture capital.

Asked what was his main motivation for starting a business at such a young age, his reply is simple: "People told me I couldn't, so I did."

His father ran a textile company and thought that his son should concentrate on his education and go into business later in life. Singh saw things differently. "I was in the perfect position," he says. "I was a teenager, all my friends were teenagers and that was my target market. In effect, I had masses of free market research, as well as free advertising through word of mouth. I started my first shop with only a couple of thousand pounds."

Singh still sees youth as a necessary force within any company, which is hardly surprising for a boss aged 25. "Many companies are run by very talented, experienced businessmen," he says. "They are good at running the day-to-day business but are not enthusiastic and ideas-based.

"You need a mix. I see it as the young being the accelerator and the older people being the brakes. A company can't work without both. I believe that a board should have a wide age range, with the average working out as late 30s. …