People

Published: August 2, 2020 | Updated: August 2, 2020

High-achiever Olli gets the entrepreneurial bug at 13 and now juggles uni with clothing brand

Olli Smith, Managing Director, Solus Supply.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Olli Smith will never forget his first business pitch.

He was 13.

The young entrepreneur had hand-delivered business cards advertising his planned leaflet distribution company, Door2Door.

Billed as ‘cheap, trustworthy and fast’, Olli described himself as Managing Director.

And then he forgot about the cards, pictured above.

Until he received a call out of the blue from estate agent Arlington & Hall asking him to come in.

Olli said: “There I was, just 13 years old, sitting across the table from a man in a suit in their meeting room.

“It seemed like he was towering over me.

“I don’t think he could quite believe how young I was.”

Not for the first time in his life – and he’s now only 22 – Olli pulled off the deal.

Delivering 1,500 fliers for £85.

It was to lead to more work for Olli who hit on the idea of charging extra for delivering just one leaflet at a time to addresses, instead of the usual sheaf.

The renamed Solus Distribution soon expanded from the original Lower Parkstone area to other parts of Poole, Bournemouth and as far afield as New Milton.

At its height Olli employed three other people, some in their 40’s.

All the while he was at Bournemouth Collegiate School studying for his GCSE’s and then A-levels.

And avidly reading business books.

Olli said: “I was really inspired by Alan (now Lord) Sugar’s book ‘What You See Is What You Get.’

“It really fired up my entrepreneurial spirit.”

Solus Distribution came to an end in 2017.

Olli decided the challenges of running the company while doing a business management degree at Cardiff University would prove too much.

But a clothing brand, Solus Supply, started by Olli in 2013 was a different matter.

He said: “I’ve always liked to buy clothes for myself.

“I felt there was a market for stand-out, exclusive, authentic and high-quality streetwear and vintage.

“I opened up initially on Facebook, Instagram and eBay but we now drive traffic through the website.

“Orders are coming through all the time from all over the world. It’s quite bizarre.

“It’s a juggling act as I’ve been on a year-long placement as part of my degree so my Dad, Robin Smith, has been handling shipments from Westbourne.

“About 40 per cent of orders come from the UK and the rest from abroad including about 20 per cent from Asia and Hong Kong.

“We supply recycled cotton products and try to use sustainable packaging, minimising our carbon footprint.”

The Solus Supply website features 89 items including tee-shirts, fleeces, bomber jackets and sweaters.

Brands include Marino Morwood, Nike and Solus Supply’s own branded clothing.

Olli comes from a family of high-achievers.

His Mum, Jane Jones, who lives in Lyme Regis, is Owner and MD of Jane Jones PR

One of his sisters, Jessica Comolly-Jones, is Director, Specialist Sectors Division, for the Poole-based Rubicon Recruitment Group.

The other, Harriet Forrester, juggles two children and has just started a make up and beauty business called ‘Beauty by Harriet Emma.’

So does it feel somewhat surreal studying for a business management degree while actually doing the business all day, every day in the real world?

Olli said: “I haven’t really spoken to the university much about my ventures so it may come as something of a surprise.

“My long-term ambition is to be self-employed and make a positive impact on the world.

“I want to improve lives and not just make money.”