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RILEY Tanton’s passion for business started as a kid, making scented candles at nine, then selling lollies and soft drinks out of his school locker in Grade 6 and now, at the age of 17, making it to the recent finals of the Australian Small Business Champion Awards for his most recent business, Millennial Watches.
“A friend suggested I apply,” says Riley, a year 12 student at Canberra Grammar.
“I thought: ‘Why not?’. I was surprised when I got the news I had been placed as a finalist in two categories.”
While Riley didn’t win, the news of being a finalist came not long after starting Millennial Watches.
“I wanted a decent size but light, minimalist in design and affordable,” Riley says.
The mid-December start was perfect timing and he sold most of the watches before Christmas.
Using money from his job at Hotel Realm combined with extra money raised through crowdfunding, Riley was able to get his first bulk order of watches.
It was hard work, especially with the pressures of exams combined with Riley’s age; he wasn’t always taken seriously.
“There was a little bit of hesitation from people I know, not everyone was encouraging,” Riley says.
“There are a lot of competitors, it deterred me but I did it anyway.”
To get the business running, Riley had to learn to build a website, organise product photo shoots, set pricing and find an overseas manufacturing company.
He conducted extensive research and settled on a Chinese manufacturer in Shenzhen.
“I looked at photos of the plant and we Skyped so I could see if the workplace was clean, organised and safe,” he says.
Wanting to keep the watches at an affordable and honest price, Riley sells them for $59.70 directly to consumers.
His new, more up-market design, “The Royal”, will soon be launched, with a royal-blue leather strap, royal-blue watch face and a rose-gold rim.
But Riley doesn’t pocket all the profit; from his current range $3.50 goes to The Garvan Institute from every watch purchased online.
“It was a matter of, I don’t need all this money, how can I help others rather than just help myself?” Riley says.
“I’m a really bad asthmatic, I’ve been hospitalised a bit since I was two.
“The Garvan Institute focuses on asthma, it also focuses on Parkinson’s.”
Supporting Parkinson’s is also important to Riley whose 79-year-old grandmother has been suffering for some time.