Skip to main content

The Top 5 Young Entrepreneurs Who Didn’t Go To University

This week thousands of students will receive their A-level results. For most of those students, plans will already be underway for starting university life in September.

Despite the increase in tuition fees over the last decade, university remains the most popular destination for young Britons after finishing their A-levels. According to the Department for Education, nearly three in five (59%) of A-Level students went on to university after completing their schooling in 2015.

As we did last year by looking at the UK billionaires who made the big time without a degree, we wanted to make the case that young people can be hugely successful even if they don’t go to university. “We compiled this list of successful entrepreneurs in hopes of reducing some of the stress being experienced by teenagers all over the UK, who are anxiously waiting for their GCSE or A-Level results,” says Informi Product Manager, Steven Drew. “It just goes to show how financial success is not dependent on having a degree. If you have a passion and hit upon the right business idea, you can succeed as these entrepreneurs have.”


Zoe Sugg

Zoe Sugg, 28

A YouTube mega-star, Zoella has dipped into several entrepreneurial ventures. She has written books, created a beauty and lifestyle range and has a wax figure of herself at Madame Tussauds London. Zoe (or Zoella) has shot to stardom through her YouTube presence, posting various lifestyle, beauty or vlogging videos. She has amassed over 12 million subscribers and has a strong network of super-fans. Her products have been widely successful: her book Girl Online being a ‘number one bestselling debut novel’ and her products being stocked in Superdrug stores nationwide. All of this born from ‘haul’ and ‘favourites’ videos.

On… sponsorship

“There isn’t any amount of money that could tempt me to promote something I didn’t believe in.”

On… being yourself

“It doesn’t matter what others are doing, it matters what you are doing.”

On… conquering fears

“So what if it scares you? Think about how you’ll feel when you accomplish it, think about the opportunities it could bring you. Think how happy it could make you!”


Jamal Edwards

Jamal Edwards, 27

Jamal Edwards started building what would become media empire, SBTV, when he was given a camera for his 15th birthday. Edwards began by making amateur music videos for his friends, but his talent means that he has now grown to work with the likes of Drake and Nicki Minaj. SBTV now has over 1 million subscribers on YouTube, Edwards has been made MBE and been a member on the Sunday Times Rich List. The author and entrepreneur even counts Sir Richard Branson amongst his friends. He believes that a business should start with a passion, rather than a desire for money.

On… burnout

“I think this is one of the most important things for any entrepreneur to remember – that you can’t go 100% all of the time. I have crashed and burned about three times over the years because I was just working, working, working. Now I’m more planned, more organised.”

On… creativity

“Recently, I visited Kenya with Save The Children, for Action 2015, and met a kid called Victor who used YouTube to find dance moves from across the world and teach them to his friends in the slums of Kibera. He inspired me, because he reminded me you can still be very creative with very limited resources. It’s not always about budget. First and foremost, creativity is about passion and ideas.”

“Creativity has evolved in the new era of entrepreneurs and it has never been stronger. People are going out there and doing it for themselves.”

On… what drives him

“My ambition is to be an inspiration. Kids say to me they want to look up to someone like Richard Branson, but it’s hard as he is not within their reach. I tell them that I’m friends with Richard Branson. He is within my reach, and I am in their reach. He inspires me, and I hope I inspire others likewise.”


Akshay Ruparelia

Akshay Ruparelia, 19

In just over a year Ruparelia’s firm has already been valued at £12 million and he has sold £100 million worth of homes. The 19-year-old is now one of Britain’s youngest millionaires (on paper). began when Ruparelia, a young carer, was introduced to the real estate world where commission fees felt unfair. Hence, after being inspired by Ryanair’s founder, he set up his own real estate agency which cuts commission and charges just £99 for its services. Despite his success, Ruparelia only pays himself £1,000 a month because he’s ‘in it for the long-run’.

On… his inspiration Michael O’Leary

“Mr O’ Leary [RyanAir founder] began by selling flights for just £4.99 and his point was that if you deliver what you say you will, you hook people in and your business will work, so I took that same logic and applied it to estate agency. Research showed online estate agencies were still charging homeowners between £800 and £1,000. I knew I could do it for a fraction of that.”

“Read books, lots of books. The biography of Ryanair founder Michael O’Leary I read has changed my life.”

On… estate agents

“It’s just an industry ripe for disruption, working in an old-fashioned way with high street offices and high commission, so I had a mission. I wanted to be the cheapest estate agents in the UK but also number one.”

On… finding success

“You need a work ethic, and you need to love what you’re doing.”

“Being a young carer along with my sister gave me more responsibility at a younger age, which meant I developed resilience and maturity. It helped with my personal development and I learned to take risks.”

University is useful for a number of reasons and for many thousands of people. However, university is not the be all and end all for young people – success can be found in a manner of different routes as these young entrepreneurs show. 

Steven Drew Informi Product Manager

Jack Cator

Jack Cator, 29

Cator’s business idea began when he was 16, frustrated with his school’s computer network blocking gaming and music sites. So, he decided to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) website to access his favourite sites. Cator felt that the current VPN services weren’t of the best quality, so he decided to create his own – Hide My Ass was born. He sold his company (Privax Ltd, parent company of Hide My Ass) for £40 million 10 years later and now continues as Chief Executive

On… fame

“I was so surprised that it went viral so quickly. I never wrote a business plan or anything. I just launched the whole site in one afternoon. [But] if people think it’s a good cause, they will share it.”

On… getting investment

“Don’t waste time designing presentations for investors – go out and make something yourself for the experience, and absorb the whole process. Find your natural skill.”


Alex Loven

Alex Lovén, 30

Alex Lovén set up his sports retail company, Net World Sports, in 2009. Lovén owns 99% of the Net World Sports, and the company made profits of £5 million on nearly £20 million of sales in 2016-17. The company sells over 100,000 football goals a year and has won multiple business awards.

On… starting out

“It started when I bought a cricket bat on eBay. I paid £60. It said ‘Made in India’ on it, so I emailed the company that made it and asked how much it cost to make and they replied saying it was £6. So I bought ten direct from them and sold them to people at school for £60 each. We then became a limited company in 2009.”

On… growing the business

“I’m not about wasting time doing business plans, I’m about getting on and making money – that’s what business is about. It started as a hobby with cricket bats, but eventually, I went into business properly with my dad and my mum started doing the accounts. When we started as a business it was just me and my dad and we’d be up for two days filling orders – then we took on a couple of staff. We sell sports equipment products; we probably sell more football goals worldwide than anyone else and we sell football, cricket, baseball and tennis goods.”

On… the future

“This is the reward for hard work from everyone in the company, these things don’t just happen. We are not stopping here, it is very much pedal down because we want to keep growing and improving.”


Feeling inspired? For a comprehensive guide to getting your business up and running, download our how to start a business in 20 days eBook.

Share this content

Leave a Reply

Register with Informi today:

  • Join over 30,000 like-minded business professionals.
  • Create your own personalised account with curated reading lists and checklists.
  • Access exclusive resources including business plans, templates, and tax calculators.
  • Receive the latest business advice and insights from Informi.
  • Join in the discussion through the comments section.