Dragons' Den: Investors shocked by entrepreneurs' valuation
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The uncanny entrepreneurial duo connected over Instagram and created a dropshipping business together in April 2021. Since then the pair have hit six-figure profits and are aiming for the million mark, all while Mr Epie continues his medical degree at Lancaster University.
Mr Mlamali has had previous success in trading – turning £200 into £200,000 at the age of 19.
At the time Mr Epie had just finished his GCSEs and was working at McDonalds, a job he said he “didn’t want to stay in”.
Having read a newspaper feature about Mr Mlamali’s success, Mr Epie reached out to him on Instagram. “I was trying to learn new skills to make money. I honestly just reached out asking for advice on marketing and we just clicked from there.
Mr Mlamali explained that after his feature he was inundated with “hundreds if not thousands of messages” but Mr Epie’s knowledge “in areas that I was completely clueless” compelled them to create an unlikely partnership.
The pair immediately set to work seeking ways to increase their income and diversify their income streams, with Mr Mlamali now disheartened with the investing world.
He shared: “The market just wasn’t what it was when I started my investing journey. At the same time it’s easy to lose purpose in these kinds of careers. Trading doesn’t benefit society in any way, shape or form apparent from filling a pocket. Which is why I took to social media and sharing advice.”
The pair decided on creating a dropshipping business, a sector that become incredibly populated by entrepreneurs and side hustler during the pandemic. Mr Mlamali commented: “Although it was a saturated market because everyone was doing it, there was also a ton of opportunity.”
Mr Epie added that making a legitimate dropshipping business in the eyes of the general public “has got a lot harder” to establish it as “an actual brand instead of a cheap knock-off”.
The business didn’t take off from day one, but during the summer the founders had fine-tuned their marketing strategy to a T, earning them over £21,000 in a single week.
Since then the pair have breached the elusive six figure profit market planning to “scale that up and reach the million milestone eventually” according to Mr Epie.
He shared his initial reaction when they reached £100,000: “I was quite overwhelmed really. That’s when it actually hit us that this is actually working. I didn’t expect it.”
Mr Mlamali added: “The opportunities that opened up to us now just from having the six figure income has been ridiculous. Things we never hoped for to happen or expected to happen. We’re a part of something bigger than we ever really thought to be fair, it’s really impressive. It started as, ‘What can we make out of this?’ and very quickly we scaled it up to six, hopefully soon to be seven, figures.
“It’s a crazy experience.”
It has not been all sunshine and rainbows for the pair, as they noted having a thriving business at such a young age has taken a toll.
Mr Epie shared it was “quite hard to balance” his schooling alongside the business, saying: “Even now, in first year I missed a lot of social events and I’m constantly trying to work. It has definitely made my life hectic, but it’s something I always enjoy doing even when the days are hard or stressful.”
Mr Mlamali had his first brush with entrepreneurship when he skipped university to take on an apprenticeship and then left that midway to focus on his trading.
He shared: “I really wanted to go to university just to have that experience and also have a fall back plan. I have neglected friends and family along the journey. Last year when I left my apprenticeship I’d gotten my own office, and it was a big celebration moment like, ‘I’ve got my own office for the first time’ but at the same time I was there almost every day from morning until the late hours of the night or even the next morning, it was really intense.
However, he added: “Now it’s more worth it and now I’m starting to see what I’ve missed out on. Business is going really well.”
Business is doing so well that Mr Epie “was looking to get a Tesla” and Mr Mlamali has been able to buy his own home in Birmingham, saying: “At least once a month I try to take a holiday”.
Despite all of the highs and lows of their incredible story, the pair have never actually met in real life.
Mr Mlamali shared: “I never thought it would get to this point ever, especially with someone I’ve just met online.”
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