In The City is Birmingham City University’s online student magazine, which is distributed monthly around the university campus.
Going Against the Grain
Unsure of what to expect I was nervous, nervous at the fact that I was about to interview someone who at the same age, had achieved more than I probably will in a lifetime.
Peering through the glass windows of the exclusive offices and couture boutiques, it was clear I was no longer on New Street. Located In the heart of Digbeth’s’ cultural quarter, the Custard Factory is an area well-known for its exclusive office spacing, providing for Birmingham’s most upmarket cliental. It was here where I was to meet Birmingham’s most successful young entrepreneur, Jamie Dunn.
With a list of successful business ventures enough to intimidate any employer, my expectations of Mr Dunn casted an image of custom made Italian suits, personal assistances and an office fit for a king. But how wrong could I have been? Tucked away in the corner, his office is as large as a master suite where the personal assistant is nowhere to be seen and the bespoke Italian is replaced with a jumper and jeans, “You’re not going to take any photos are you, I’m in my scruffs”. His friendly and playful behaviour catches me off guard leaving all nervousness at the door.
At 21 Mr Dunn has co-founded companies such as; Made by Young People, a printing company which now produces a six figure turn over and youth entrepreneurial support programme The A Fund, helping the young people of Birmingham to start their own business. Mr Dunn not only founders businesses but he is also an international speaker, a newspaper columnist for the Birmingham Mail and is recently an acclaimed author.
Much of Dunn’s success lies in his ambition to succeed with his fearless approach to business and life, meaning that standing out and taking chances is something Dunn is familiar with. As the youngest of four, childhood was not the easiest for Dunn whose unemployed mother and council worker father struggled to financially provide for him and his siblings, “mum and dad couldn’t afford for me to go on school trips or pay for school trainers or anything like that.” In a school blazer two sizes too big, standing out from his peers was something Dunn was used to, a quality which earned him a place on the Peter Jones Path Finder course.
On the day of his assessment for the course, it was clear Dunn was different to his wealthier competitors, not only in age but in appearance, “We rocked up in an old rusty clapped out ford focus that my old man drove whilst everyone else had nice cars.” However, with a determination to embrace who he is and utilise his underprivileged background, it was Dunn’s fearless choice in outfit which caught the attention of Peter Jones. Wearing a pink shirt and grey cardigan, Dunn was praised by Peter Jones for taking the chance and being different to the other candidates who flaunted expensive attire.
With a determination to make some money of his own, school text books were often replaced by hit records from the 90s a in a bid to flog his parents old CDs to his peers. However, school soon taught this modern day dell boy the cruel realities of stepping out of the norm. “I got in trouble from the schools who said I was not learning and I got into trouble from my parents.”
At 12, when most boys his age were fixated in playing on their PlayStation, Dunn was more interested in selling them, “I just love that sales buzz of selling stuff and exchanging money.” Getting up at the crack of dawn, Saturday mornings were spent working on local car boots and markets, which earned him around £500 a week, averaging to be the similar amount to his father’s salary. It was this fearless approach to being different, which is what has enabled Jamie Dunn to be the man he is today something he feels was, “instilled from an early age” and something which hasn’t stopped there.
As an international speaker, Dunn gives talks to a diverse audience. From governmental ministers to business students, he offers advice and guidance on entrepreneurial ideas. Having flew all over the world, Dunn highlights that being booked directly by the president of Malaysia was the “most surreal experience” of them all. Having streets cornered off for his arrival and heightened security around his hotel Dunns explains, “It was quite scary I did not know how to handle it, I mean why me I am from Erdington man, I can handle myself.” It seems the days of standing in an oversized school blazer are well behind him as never accepting less than £800 for a half an hour talk has shown how going that extra mile can mean the difference in lifestyle.
With an exhaustive list of current ventures, it’s his hardworking approach that makes it clear why he was recently shortlisted as one of the top 20 young people in the world by junior chamber international. On asking how he felt being nominated for an award, previously won by the likes of Elvis Presley and John F Kennedy, this regular kid from Erdington replied, “I just thought it was a joke.” As the 2011 winner of the Youth For Excellence Award and weekly columnist for the Birmingham Mail, Dunn’s hectic lifestyle often leaves little opportunity for breaks; “If you work hard you should play hard because otherwise what is the point if you don’t enjoy your success.”
With an upbringing that has helped shaped who he is today knowing where and what he wants to do, on asking Dunn where he sees himself in five years’ time he turns to his phone and replies, “Hold on I have got it planned out on here.” Reading out his set plans of what he wants to accomplish in life I come to realise that half of his dreams and targets are already met. Although at such a young age Dunn’s plans don’t stop there as he now looks towards equity investments into companies. With the newly release of his new book going on sale in 5 different countries offering 8 business ideas up for anyone willing to take on the challenge, “Crack On”, is more than a book but an expression Dunn uses for life, “I am just like crack on with it then.” Dunn’ success story shows that chasing your dreams is possible through hard work and determination and that taking chances and being different can only have their advantages, “It is scary to go against the grain, it’s human nature to follow the crowd but sometimes you just have too.”