■ Alex Lovén, 30, started selling sports kit as a teenager. His business Net World Sports has since become a global success
What was your first job?
It was in a builder’s merchants when I was 17, but I’d sold sports equipment as a hobby since I was 13. The builder’s merchants was my first proper job — I was really shy when I started and would run away from the phone if it rang, but I was there for two years and it gave me a good foundation because I had to get on with it and deal with everyone: DIYers, builders, tradesmen. I did everything from sweeping the yard in the rain to doing sales worth thousands of pounds. I got paid £4.50 an hour.
How did you start your business?
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.
Have you always been entrepreneurial?
Definitely. 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.
What’s been your best investment?
I used my wages from the builder’s merchants to invest in the business when I decided to do it properly. I’d saved up £13,000 and spent it on a container full of sporting goods stock to sell. When the container arrived I didn’t realise I had to pay VAT on it, so it was kept at the port. I went to Barclays to get an overdraft; they made me do a business plan and said they couldn’t help me. So my mum got a £2,000 loan out to cover it. The bank didn’t take me seriously because of my age. My best investment was that container — it changed my life.
What’s been your biggest financial regret?
Not buying a Ferrari 458 Speciale when I had the chance. When I was 25, I bought the Ferrari 458 and the next year the dealer asked me if I wanted to buy a Ferrari 458 Speciale and I said no. But they went up in value by £100,000 just because it was a limited edition. I sold the 458; I had it for a couple of years but I got it in the wrong colour. I bought it in red and should have got it in blue, as it’s a bit more understated and you don’t look like such a show-off.
What luxury wouldn’t you give up?
My Range Rover, because it’s just so comfy. I got it four years ago. I like off-roading in it.
Do you have a rainy- day fund?
Yes, but the bigger you get, the more you have to put away as the potential problems get bigger, too. I’ve built a pool of assets that I’d be able to use in case things go wrong.
Cash or card?
I just use my phone — I tend to lose stuff. If I pay with my phone I only have to worry about where one thing is, rather than multiple things.
■ Net World Sports was a finalist in the recent Retail Week Awards in the Best International Growth Retailer category, networldsports.com