I grew up in the Borough of Tower Hamlets in London: the City and Canary Wharf were just a 10-minute walk from where I live. Despite being so close to these huge financial industries, there was a lot of inequality around the area in which I was raised. So, at a young age, I learned that you need to have confidence and belief to be able break the barriers of being the 'everyday youth'- especially in a borough that sees crime and violence as a way forward. I decided to try something unique and different to make myself stand out from those around me.
At the age of 13, I was given the opportunity to work for my cousin. He was only 14 years old at the time. His business idea involved designing calendars for teachers in school; I felt this was a very simple task. Two weeks later, I received a letter through the post. It simply stated: "Dear Sabirul Islam… You're Fired!" It was the most daunting thing I've experienced to date. But I feel that it was that moment of failure that opened my eyes to entrepreneurship.
To prove my cousin wrong for firing me, I started my own website design business called 'Veyron Technology' at the age of 14. This won an award for "Best Inner East London Company". My aim was to make more money than my cousin: he made £60 profit in a year of running his business (but that was a lot of money to me at the time!). By designing websites for corporate businesses, I became a thousandaire in less than two weeks! My client list included big names like Merrill Lynch, ABN Amro and Morgan Stanley!
At the age of 16, I was given the opportunity by Merrill Lynch to fly to New York and learn the basics about investment and trading. The two-week programme inspired me to take risks and put what I learnt in New York to action, and three months later I became a part time trader for a period of nine months.
With a wealth of knowledge and experience as a young entrepreneur and investor, I was continuously approached by young people to talk to them about how I achieved such success at a young age. This gave me the vision and desire to inspire young people across the nation and led to me writing my first book, The World at Your Feet, aged just 17. The launch of my first book presented the opportunity to become a motivational speaker, sharing my message and selling over 42,500 copies of the book in nine months.
As a young entrepreneur, I did not only want to inspire young people, but to educate them about the world of entrepreneurship and taking risks. This led me into launching my own business board game called Teen-Trepreneur at the age of 18. The vision behind the game is to teach young people the basics of running a real business and all the daily costs and risks involved. The game is currently being piloted in schools across London, as it introduces 15 of 25 units taught for BTEC Level 2 Diploma in Business.
Launched alongside the board game was my second book, The World at Your Feet: Three strikes to a Successful Entrepreneurial Life.
The journey which I've experienced has enabled me to meet many famous faces and receive many prestigious awards such as the Mosaic Entrepreneur of the Year, which I was awarded by HRH Prince of Wales and HRH Princess of Jordon in 2008. Other awards include the Growing Up CEO Award which I was awarded at Harvard Business School and it was recently announced that I am an honouree of the JCI World Top 10 Outstanding Young Person's Award, which I'll receive in Osaka, Japan this November.
Now aged 20, my vision to inspire young people has expanded to a global scale. I have reached out to millions of people across the UK, USA, Nigeria and South Africa with a world tour following this November. From November 2010, I will also launch my own Teen-Trepreneur Speakers Bureau, which will include young speakers from the UK and around the World. It's been a very strong passion of mine to give young people the belief that ordinary individuals who do something unique make them extraordinary.