A YOUNG Exeter-based entrepreneur and petrolhead whose knowledge of cars inspired his business is hoping to drive off with a £20,000 investment.
George Howell founded Ideal First Car to help youngsters with limited knowledge about motoring on how to buy, maintain, insure and sell their car, all for the best price.
The 20-year-old was inspired to create the business after helping a friend in college buy his first car, and his fledging company has now reached the final of the Baldwins Young Entrepreneur KickStart Awards, which was set up by business advisory firm Baldwins to give financial support, mentoring and business advice to 18-to-25-year-olds looking to start a business.
Howell said: ‘I’ve loved cars since I was a child – my grandfather was a mechanic and I’d often buy used cars with my dad and do them up with him.
‘I did work experience with various dealerships in and around Exeter, which gave me knowledge of how the industry works and what represents a good deal.
‘Later, while I was at college as a 17-year-old, my friend asked me for advice on buying a used VW Golf. Once I’d pointed out there were issues with it that he hadn’t spotted, he asked me to come along to see the car in person and help with the negotiations.
‘I saved him a lot of money and he gave me £20 as a thank-you. So I thought – if he’s willing to pay me £20, maybe lots of other people would be willing to pay for help too.’
He started out in his bedroom with little more than a laptop and wi-fi signal, building a client base and creating a skeleton website to cope with initial demand.
He will pitch his business to a panel in front of an audience at a gala dinner this coming Thursday at Edgbaston Stadium.
If he wins the £20,000, Howell said he would be able to finish creating his app for Ideal First Car, expand his team and improve his website.
‘Winning the money would be ground-breaking for us – it’s a great chunk of money for us at this stage.
‘I’ve made it this far already, so I’m hoping I can go one step further and convince the audience to award me the £20,000 prize fund.’
The award for each year’s winner will be a £10,000 grant plus £10,000-worth of mentoring and accountancy advice, while two runners-up will be presented with £5,000-worth of mentoring and accountancy advice.