The story of an entrepreneur

by The Times 100 on Thursday 13th December, 2007

In the News … The story of an entrepreneur

When Andrew Crawford was eight, his father ran an international trading company in Africa, so he was sent to boarding school in England and only saw his parents during the holidays. Leaving school, he studied engineering science and industrial management at Liverpool University and then spent three years working for his father who was by then running a business in the Midlands. He then joined a management-trainee scheme at Group 4 Security where Crawford said he didn't fit in. He had always been a bit of a”Maverick” and wanted to do things his own way (The Sunday Times - 18 November 2007).

At 26, he went to work for Book Pages, a small company which sold books on the internet in the early days of e-retailing. In 1997 Amazon.com bought up the company to start its British operation and the existing staff became the founding team for Amazon.co.uk. He learned everything he could about the operation over the next three years and became Senior Operations Director (The Sunday Times - 18 November 2007). However, Crawford said:”When Book Pages was sold to Amazon I was a bit disappointed because I thought Book Pages had some legs on it and could stand up against Amazon in the UK market. I always had this hankering to take it further”.

Therefore, at 29 he decided it was time to start a book business of his own. His contract with Amazon meant he was forbidden to start up a competing business straightaway, so initially he became a consultant for start-up companies (The Sunday Times - 18 November 2007).

By 2004, he was free to set up a book business and with £10,000 of his own savings, he built a website and set up the Thebookdepository.com. The aim of the company is to try to make all books available to all people and it has introduced free delivery to anywhere in the world - even for a single book. However, Crawford still has close ties with Amazon, to the extent that customers on his site are offered the choice of buying a book through the Book Depository site or through Amazon (The Sunday Times - 18 November 2007).

The philosophy has certainly paid off. This year the company's turnover is expected to be at least £35m.

This is a story that illustrates the importance of entrepreneurship in small businesses. See the Times 100 case studies on NFTE (The Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship). NFTE is an international nonprofit organisation introducing young people to the world of business and entrepreneurship. It teaches them how to develop and operate their own legitimate small business.

Sources:

Former employee who took a leaf out of Amazon's book – The Sunday Times (print edition) - 18 November 2007

The Times 100 Edition 11 Case Study - NFTE – The importance of entrepreneurship in small businesses

The Times 100 Edition 12 Case Study - NFTE – Developing enterprise skills

The Times Online – Former employee who took a leaft out of Amazon's book, 18 November 2007

The Times Online – Former employee who took a leaft out of Amazon's book, 18 November 200

Potentional Questions:

  • Look at the skills and abilities listed in the NFTE case study 'Developing enterprise skills' and determine which statements in the article on Andrew Crawford mark him out as being entrepreneurial
  • Explain why you think so many 'start-up' companies are launched on the internet. Evaluate what benefits there may be for entrepreneurs starting up their businesses in this way?

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