A YOUNG Pembrokeshire businessman who abandoned his A level studies to launch a fancy dress sales business with an annual turnover now exceeding £1.5 million says entrepreneurship should be added to the school curriculum.

Jack Lear had his first experience of business when he was just 15, when he spotted an opportunity to make a healthy profit from reselling obsolete Olympic cycling suits.

Fast forward eight years and global sales of fancy dress costumes from the Welsh entrepreneur’s Bodysocks business exceed 100,000 a year.

But that opportunity could have passed him by had he followed the direction his school expected of him after excelling in his GCSE exams.

He clearly recalls a meeting with his school careers adviser and completing a Centigrade questionnaire aimed at matching his interests and abilities. “I was desperate to leave school because it was holding me back from growing my business. After that meeting and test he told my parents there was no point in me staying school, they might as well let me go!’’

It set Jack on course to achieve an ambition he always dreamed of, to set up his own business, but the outcome could have been different had he not persisted. He now wants to see greater encouragement of entrepreneurship in schools. “If young people have the knowledge and confidence to establish a business it is more likely to succeed if they have had exposure to entrepreneurship skills at school.’’

Jack had displayed an entrepreneurial flair at a young age, attempting to rent out his kayak from the beach at Tenby being a case in point. He had set up his sign when he was reprimanded by the licence holder for watersports activities on that beach.

He had a simlar experience with Paypal, getting banned because he was caught selling goods on Ebay as a minor. He persisted, using various combinations of family names to open an account, but to no avail. When he hit 18 and made a bold prediction that the projected turnover of his business was £1 million, PayPal softened and lifted the ban. It transpired that he hadn’t been bold enough because, at 23, his turnover is £1.5 million.

The Bodysocks costumes, which are inflatable and feature many jungle and farmyard animals, are made in China and shipped to the company’s warehouse in Pembroke Dock, where they are packaged, labelled and shipped out again.

All the designs are original, many of which Jack has created. “We create unique and visually impressive costumes that are only available from us or our resellers."

The export market for Bodysocks costumes is so big that sales overseas, to 70 countries, dwarf his domestic sales. “We have got strong sales in the UK but they only account for 25% of total sales because the costumes are so popular overseas. We offer free, next day delivery, that is a big selling point. In fact the company has grown 300% in the last 12 months since offering next day delivery in most of North America and Europe.

Jack is now successfully securing shelf space in retail outlets and expansion in this arena is now an important focus.