Interviews

From Sofa Surfing To 240 Staff: How SuperStars Became Super-Successful

James Taylor founded SuperStars with £1,000 of borrowed money. Today the business, which provides schools with specialist instructors in PE, drama, music and art, works with 80,000 children every week.

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James Taylor founded SuperStars with £1,000 of borrowed money. Today the business, which provides schools with specialist instructors in PE, drama, music and art, works with 80,000 children every week.

Interviews

From Sofa Surfing To 240 Staff: How SuperStars Became Super-Successful

James Taylor founded SuperStars with £1,000 of borrowed money. Today the business, which provides schools with specialist instructors in PE, drama, music and art, works with 80,000 children every week.

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From Sofa Surfing To 240 Staff: How SuperStars Became Super-Successful

After studying for a degree in child psychology and spending a summer coaching different sports in America and Africa, James Taylor returned to the UK and founded SuperStars.

Cashing in an I.O.U for £1,000 from his parents to buy a ticket to go travelling, James invested the money on sports equipment to get his business moving.  A month of free trials led to five initial paid contracts. During this time, James lived on friends' sofas, using the library as an office and working every night as an under-appreciated waiter.

However, SuperStars took off. Word of mouth spread, the contracts grew in number and so did the subject range.

Over the last nine years he has grown and led the business to where it is today – an award-winning child development organisation, employing 240 staff, working with 80,000 children a week.

The business is a commercial success but, as importantly, it is a success socially, helping to raise the standards of learning in over 400 schools and developing bright futures for children by giving them outstanding experiences and opportunities.

"For a few months I stayed with friends, sleeping on their sofas and using the university library as an office"

Both James and SuperStars have been recognised in a string of national awards including Shell Livewire Entrepreneur of the Year, HSBC Start-up Stars and the Daily Mail's Enterprising Young Brits.

Most recently, he was appointed to Chair the Welsh Government’s Entrepreneurship Panel for Wales and in November 2014, he was crowned the overall Director of the Year at the national IOD awards in London.

Here he shares what inspired him to set up the business and the five things he believes have got him to where he is today:

“When I left university, I was looking for a career opportunity and found there was nothing that excited me so I came to a point where I realised success would only come if I was in control of my own destiny.

“This led me to decide what that business would be and the realisation that it would have to be something I was passionate about.

“Having worked with children in several countries around the world, the one constant factor was the sense of satisfaction in seeing children develop as a result of the work I did with them.

“I saw the impact subjects like sport and drama had on a child’s self-esteem so from the outset I knew this was the area in which I wanted to work and SuperStars was born.

Superstars children

SuperStars is a commercial success, mainly because the kids love it. Source

“I wrote my business plan on a back of an envelope and for a few months I stayed with friends, sleeping on their sofas and using the university library as an office. Eventually I managed to get a group of young people together who would go around schools and explain what Superstars was all about.

“We started as a sports coaching business that went into schools to give them a free day of sports coaching that led to us gaining our first contracts when my first two schools came on board.

“Having grown the business from working with 60 children a week eight years ago to over 80,000 today, there are five main things that I believe have helped me achieve success.

“The first is passion. My advice to any budding entrepreneur is to make sure you’re doing something that you are eternally passionate about. For me and my colleagues at SuperStars our core passion, and the thing that drives us, is developing brighter futures for children across the UK.

“The second is belief. As the saying goes, ‘whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right’ and I think that’s so true. Whatever you’re doing in life, whether you’re selling or pitching in business, if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will.

"Whatever your age, dream big. Big dreams are the inspiration for winning"

“The third is positivity. There’s so much negativity in our society. When I told people I was setting up a business after university, they told me I was mad, it wouldn’t work and to go and get a proper job. There was no encouragement or optimism.

"Despite this, I was positive I could make SuperStars a success. I think as entrepreneurs, we have a duty to spread positivity amongst the business leaders of tomorrow, they are the future of our economy.

“The fourth is hard work. When I started SuperStars, I would meet with successful business leaders, which I’d be aspiring to emulate in future years, and ask them what the secret of their success was. I soon learnt there is no magic formula. It’s good, old fashioned hard work, grit and determination.

"You need to get on that treadmill and keep on running and running and running! You need to be prepared to work harder than your friends, your colleagues, in fact, everyone else around you to make something happen.

“It’s not a bed a roses, it’s tough and challenging out there, but I like to take inspiration from Rocky Balboa, who said: “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

“Finally, I think the key thing I’ve learnt is that you’ve got to dream big. We’ve got a big problem in our society that we need to get over. When you ask a child what they want to be when they are older, they’ll say an astronaut, a business man, a millionaire, a pro footballer and so on, and we pat them on the head and say ‘yes, you can do whatever you want to’.

"For some reason, as we get older and are asked the same question it’s not ok to dream big any more. You’re in school and the careers advisor is rolled out who prescribes what you should be.

“Whatever your age, dream big. Big dreams are the inspiration for winning. We have a responsibility as leaders of British businesses to keep on dreaming big. I’m dreaming big, are you?”

James Taylor is founder and CEO of SuperStars

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From Sofa Surfing To 240 Staff: How SuperStars Became Super-Successful

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