What was your first job?
Working part-time in a pet shop in Bangor in Northern Ireland when I was 16. That’s the only job I’ve had working for someone else. It paid £3.33 an hour and I saved up and put it towards my first business. I bought 2,000 music books from a bankrupt music shop in London and started my first online business. We started selling sheet-music books, then started selling accessories and eventually manufactured our own musical instruments in China.
How quickly did you expand that business?
At the time, most music shops weren’t selling sheet music online because most were independently owned. Then we started selling accessories, but the reps weren’t keen to sell us stuff at first as we didn’t have a shop. So I started buying directly from the factories. A few years later I got a loan, went to China and started selling coloured violins and our own saxophones and clarinets.
What’s been your best investment?
The money I used to start my current business Send My Bag. I used to go to Oxford to help my girlfriend bring her stuff back to Belfast when she had to clear out her dorm room. We were two kilos over on hold baggage for a flight and they charged us £50. I knew I could send saxophones to America for less than these guys were charging for two kilos. So I spent £100 setting up the Send My Bag website. The first year we had 200 customers – mainly students going to England – and this year we’ve had orders from 165 countries.
What’s the set up?
Essentially it’s a courier business – we deal with couriers looking for new freight business. They generally don’t like dealing with individuals and personal effects because of the different customs rates. We handle that side, bring the customer to them and deal with all the customer enquiries. And the customer gets a better service than they would if they were dealing directly with a courier. Airlines have started charging more for bags over the past seven years and our business has really increased.
Any luxuries you won’t give up?
A sports massage once a week. I used to run regularly but I tore a muscle in my calf and didn’t do anything for a year. I’m getting back into it now – I have a running trainer and also have a massage once a week.
What’s been your biggest financial regret?
I lost some money last year. Sterling went up quite rapidly to the dollar and I was sitting with quite a lot of dollars at the time. That caught me out.
Are you a spender or a saver?
A bit of both. I never had any savings until two years ago because I put all my money back into my businesses. Although, I did make sure I bought a flat in my early twenties so that I had somewhere to live.
Do you consider yourself savvy with personal finances?
Yes, I really enjoy my yearly haggle with Sky. I had Sky TV for three years in a row for £5 a month. No matter what it is – home insurance, broadband or Sky TV – I will then make a note in my diary of when the contract is due to expire and I then phone them up a month before. I say I want to cancel it because I want to get the best deal on the market and then they just give me a better deal. There are so many online resources to help you find the best deals. It’s a disgrace how some big companies treat the elderly. I handle this stuff for my granny just to make sure that she isn’t being ripped off. I phoned the phone company on her behalf and found they had a free package for free weekend calls – but they don’t add it on automatically if you don’t actually ask for it. A lot of the better deals are only available online, which is unfair for people who don’t have internet access or don’t know how to use it.
What was your last impulse purchase?
I bought an Aston Martin V12 Vantage in the summer. It’s a really cool car.
Cash or card?
I use my Apple watch a lot of the time. Although I’ve had problems using it on the Tube, which is a bit embarrassing when you’ve got 300 people queuing behind you.
■ Adam Ewart is founder and CEO of sendmybag.com