I first met Lewis Swire in 2022 when I attended the prestigious Summit of Minds event in Chamonix, France. Thierry Malleret, the founder, managing partner, event organizer and one of my former clients, introduced us and spoke highly of Lewis’ impressive skills and innovative ideas.
From the moment I met Lewis, I could see why he was impressed. With his sharp mind and creative thinking, Lewis, who is only 16 years old, exudes an infectious energy that inspires everyone around him. He is the kind of person you want to have by your side, not only for his expertise, but also for his warmth and kindness as a human being.
Lewis Swire is a 16-year-old social entrepreneur from Scotland, whose entrepreneurial journey started at the age of 10 when he founded Aurora Bath Bombs.
In this article, I’d like to introduce you to him, as I believe he is a rising star in the business world and a true inspiration in both his work and personal life. Be inspired by his insights on leadership, entrepreneurship and living a purposeful life.
1. Lewis, what inspired you to become an entrepreneur at such a young age?
It is the people around me that inspire me the most. From as early as I can remember, I was always passionate about bringing people together for a united cause, whether that be for community or business. I’ve always been ambitious and self-driven to create meaningful, lasting positive impact on the world. Perhaps my first real experience of contributing to this mission was founding The Curious Times, an international online magazine ‘By Young People, For Young People’, dedicated to providing young people with a voice on a global stage. I was inspired to create the CT after identifying the need for a platform to connect young people at the height of the coronavirus lockdown and amplify their voices to highlight the issues facing my generation. Personally, it’s been a transformational journey and listening to the first-hand stories of those impacted by The CT has been hugely motivational as I’ve continued my entrepreneurship.
2. When did you know you were made to become an entrepreneur?
I don’t know if I would ever say I was made to be an entrepreneur, I suppose it sort of just happened. I didn’t start businesses to become an entrepreneur or acquire a title, I created them because I have a natural passion for connecting people and building meaningful and impactful organisations. I also think my parents played a crucial role in my entrepreneurial discovery, they’ve always been encouraging of me trying new things and exploring interests further.
3. What major challenges have you faced in starting your businesses?
Age discrimination has certainly proved challenging, however, my youth is a double-edged sword. On one hand, I’ve experienced barriers because of my age, both in the eye of the law, due to the legal age restrictions around business ownership, and also when relationship building, as to some people youth signals a lack of credibility. However, being young can also be an advantage, as the work we do can be interpreted as more impressive precisely because of how young we are.
As a young person, understandably, there are many financial constraints. Pocket money can only go so far! No matter how much you save, it’s impossible to come up with sufficient capital to fund a startup at scale. Originally, I navigated this challenge by targeting low initial-capital required industries, for example, I was able to launch an online magazine with only a £100 loan from my parents (which I’m proud to say I’ve paid back). This challenge also has its perks – besides teaching me to value money, I feel that as a young person I’m able to take more calculated risks in the business world, largely because I do not have a spiderweb of people relying on me providing a steady income. This ambitious mindset enables me to grow further as an individual and in business.
The third significant challenge I face is time! Juggling full time school, exams, ballet training, social activism and my passion for business certainly renders time as a sparse resource.
“I didn’t start businesses to become an entrepreneur or acquire a title, I created them because I have a natural passion for connecting people and building meaningful and impactful organisations.”
4. What is the Global Young Entrepreneur Society and how can it change the world?
The Global Young Entrepreneur Society (GYES) is an international organization that supports exceptional young people in reaching their aspirations through giving them a platform for entrepreneurial growth. We regularly publish our ‘signature’ content on our website (gyes.org) and YouTube channel, making interviews with some of the most successful entrepreneurs, politicians and academics freely available to our community. We also run a project called ‘25 under 25’, which spotlights and celebrates the twenty-five most incredible young entrepreneurs and changemakers under the age of twenty-five. We’re very proud of our partnership with Trinity College Dublin Tangent, which has made our most recent project possible. I co-founded the non-profit with my wonderful business partner from Hungary, Daniel Gerlei, almost three years ago.
5. Classical Ballet? Royal Academy of Dance? Tell us EVERYTHING!
I first began ballet when I was 3 years old and like entrepreneurship, once I got a feel for it, I was hooked! I spend approximately 20 hours a week in the ballet studio, so it’s certainly a lot of work, but I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it. I am immensely privileged to train with Scottish Ballet’s national Associates programme, as well as The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and my local dance school. Currently, I am taking classes in Grade 8 and Advanced Foundation ballet with the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus. When I’m dancing, I experience a sense of escape like no other – in ballet class I can only think of my dancing, this intense focus clears my head and is incredibly beneficial for my mental health. I think ballet is a wonderful training for the brain and body and develops resilience, communication skills and a great work ethic. Ballet and business, in my opinion, complement each other beautifully.
“I first began ballet when I was 3 years old and like entrepreneurship, once I got a feel for it, I was hooked!”
6. When did you start your first business and what services did you offer?
I founded my first business when I was around 10 years old. At Aurora Bath Bombs we sold, as the sharper amongst you may have guessed, bath bombs. We crafted a variety of handmade products using the finest organic ingredients (and gave them cool names, of course). Selling to the local community was a fabulous way to experiment on a small scale and build a foundation of business skills.
7. The Curious Times?
The Curious Times is a multi-award winning international online magazine, ‘By Young People, For Young People’, dedicated to amplifying the voices of young people on a global stage. I founded the non-profit in the April lockdown of 2020, having identified the need for a platform to connect young people at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, when social isolation was hitting my generation hard. Since then, we’ve built a community of hundreds of thousands of passionate young people, committed to sharing the stories that matter to them. We primarily operate from our website (curioustimes.co.uk), but also have a famous podcast and YouTube channel. Excitingly, we are currently in the process of appointing our first ever advisory board and are currently executing our 2023 growth plan.
8. Stealth StartUp?
They call it stealth for a reason!
9. How did you learn to trust yourself in building these ventures?
Naturally, I am quite a confident person, and would like to think that I’m in touch with who I am. This allows me to trust in my intuition and decision making when building ventures. I also take every opportunity to bounce ideas off friends and listen carefully to any advice I get, but I’m careful to stay authentic and not blindly follow others.
“We should be taught more communication skills in school, which is a major part of personal branding and managing your reputation.”
10. Gen Z and personal branding?
I feel that one of the things Gen Z value most is authenticity. Personal branding provides a brilliant opportunity to share the most genuine version of yourself consciously and intentionally, allowing you to earn the trust of others.
11. Is personal branding important?
Undoubtedly, in today’s business world personal branding is more important than ever. It can provide entrepreneurs with a monumental advantage when building new relationships and growing their company.
12. Should it be taught in schools? If so, how would it improve your life?
I think we should be taught more communication skills in school, which is a major part of personal branding and managing your reputation. I think understanding personal branding would enhance young people’s soft skillset, make us all more self-aware and improve interactions with others at all levels.
13. What is missing in the world’s education system?
Big question… it’s hard to know where to start. Current education systems don’t seem fit for the future. Education should encourage and support young people to explore their internal world as well as acquire the tools they need to thrive in the wider world. Our traditional education system is rooted in the 19th century and designed to further the industrial revolution… it’s definitely time for a re-think. I would like to see investment in the creation of learning environments that actively encourage ‘the process of having original ideas that have value’, as Sir Ken Robinson says. What’s missing? If you ask me, it’s room for creativity and self-expression.
14. AI or EQ in schools around the world?
I think there is a balance to be discovered – a classroom in which AI supports young people to develop EQ would be a very interesting space. I think there is room for both in the drive to give young people the tools they need to thrive emotionally and in the outside world.
15. What do you think of artificial intelligence and how do you use it in your everyday life?
Well, I could say that I’ve used Chat GPT to draft an essay or two, but I genuinely haven’t. I have played with it though and, disappointingly, the level of writing it produced was pretty ‘average’, nothing worth submitting. I’ve also used AI to generate animations and create artwork. I look forward to witnessing how AI’s capabilities develop, but I hope there will be checks and balances in place. Already, AI based algorithms determine what content I see every day, and its influence is only going to grow in the future. We need to think critically about how we use AI and make sure young people are armed with an understanding of the benefits and the risks.
“Current education systems don’t seem fit for the future. Education should encourage and support young people to explore their internal world as well as acquire the tools they need to thrive in the wider world.”
16. What is your trick for focusing on school while building a business? What strategies do you use?
Honestly, it can be very difficult at times. My strategy tends to lean towards creating time – that may be replying to emails in my lunch break or working when I come back from ballet training. I’ve always had the mindset that I need to make every second count, no matter if I’m in class or in the car, you’ll always find me working away at something. When it comes to schoolwork, I’m in mutual agreement with my parents that it must take priority, especially around exam time. This week is a perfect example, I have six prelim exams (mocks) and feel totally consumed by schoolwork, yet I am still finding the time to write this.
17. What is your greatest dream? Or what do you wish for your future?
Hmmm… another big question. I would like to leave the world having created lasting positive impact. In terms of goals/dreams, I wish to dance for The Royal Ballet and continue to build meaningful organisations at scale.
18. What advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs?
Take that first step, that leap of faith. Once you do, you’ll soon find it has grown into something beautiful. I would also advise young entrepreneurs to maximise their learning from failures and connect with as many likeminded individuals as possible.
19. Someone who inspires you?
Lewis Hamilton, for sheer determination and positive attitude. Richard Branson. Jenk Oz. Omar Bawa. My family.
20. Something you’re very proud of?
The impact of my magazine is something I’m enormously proud of. Specifically, it has been awesome witnessing the transformation of individuals’ who have been positively affected by the CT. Something else I’m proud of was being granted the opportunity to speak at the opening and closing plenaries at the Summit of Minds in Chamonix, this enabled me to talk face to face with global leaders and voice the issues of young people to those in power.
21. Any parting thoughts, Lewis?
Don’t be afraid to be yourself, trust in your own ability. Embrace the challenge of beating who you were yesterday. Strive to live up to your full potential. I’m extraordinarily excited for what the future may hold. Thanks for inviting me to chat!