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How Harry Swales Started a Digital Marketing Business Before Graduating High School

What’s your backstory? 

I grew up in Houston, Texas for most of my childhood. I was a pretty normal kid, always doing well in school and playing sports like everyone else, but I was constantly working on unique projects, usually small businesses. My mom is a marriage and family counselor and when I was 5 or 6, I asked what she did as a job. She told me that she helped people solve their issues, so an hour later a sign was hanging on my bedroom door that read “issue solver”. I invited my parents and siblings into my bedroom, then I would proceed to ask them questions and help solve their issues for the small fee of 10 cents. 

The next week I dug up clay from our backyard and started selling handmade clay pots. Then I made and sold blackberry jam, custom fishing lures, handmade slingshots, and flipping items on eBay. When I was 16, I became interested in flipping collectible sneakers online. I used automated bots that would enter my payment info faster than any human could, so I was able to purchase sneakers for retail prices online before they sold out. I would then sell them online to collectors at a higher price and keep the profit. I thought it was cool, but I was always thinking bigger. I got tired of making $50 at a time after a little while. 

As I got into the sneaker reselling game a little more, I discovered sneaker events. A group would rent out an event center, then charge vendors to set up tables and sell tickets to attendees. I figured this could not be too hard, so I spent the second semester of my junior year in high school starting Threads and Laces Events. With the help of my best friend and a teacher, I was able to put together a profitable event with over 30 vendors and 300 attendees at a local community center. We did everything from door to door sales to sell vendor table reservations to selling tickets by running Facebook ads. We did not make as much money as we expected but this experience launched me into the digital marketing industry while I was still in high school. 

We spent about $50 on Facebook ads, but even with that small of a budget I quickly saw the potential that digital advertising had. After our first event, we started planning a second, but I spent most of my free time learning more about digital advertising. I started my own eCommerce stores and ran ads on Facebook and Instagram. Once I really learned how to make money on my own stores, I offered this service to local businesses and started my own small digital advertising business. After graduating from high school, I had multiple clients, I was working as a digital marketing intern at an oilfield service company, and I started connecting with other entrepreneurs in the industry.

That summer before college was when I connected with my two business partners, Samuel Thompson, and Jay Bing. I connected with them via Instagram, then we spent a little time working together on a few eCommerce projects and the rest is history. We are currently working on building several eCommerce brands, expanding our digital advertising agency, and teaching young entrepreneurs how they can utilize the internet to start and grow their own business, centered around their passion. 

What made you decide to choose this career path? 

I decided to choose digital marketing and advertising as a career path because of the freedom it provides me. I can literally work from anywhere in the world as long as I have an internet connection. I am able to travel and dictate my own schedule. I’ve always had an interest in business and creative activities like photography and videography, and I feel like advertising has allowed me to continue pursuing both of these interests. 

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I launched my first eCommerce store, I was under 18, so I technically was not allowed to have a PayPal account in my own name. For some reason when I was younger, I made an account with my parents that had my name, but some of my parent’s legal information. It was fine until I started to do several hundred dollars in transactions every day out of nowhere and PayPal flagged my account to be inspected. They saw the discrepancies and immediately shut down the account.

This taught me that you have to play by the rules when dealing with the financial side of any business and I ended up waiting until my 18th birthday to create my own account and launch a new eCommerce store, the right way. 

What do you think makes your company/personal brand stand out? 

I think one of the things that make me and my business partners stand out is that we are all young, but we have a lot of experience in the space. I’ve been running digital ads for over three years now and I’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads. Samuel has been working in this industry for over 8 years and has worked with brands like McDonald’s and Boosted. Jay started his own eCommerce business over three years ago. In total, we’ve supported over 120 businesses and reached over 300 million target customers. 

What’s a quote that you live by? 

I try to live by the quote, “What is success? To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch Or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can follow Harry Swales On Instagram @Harry.Swales

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