Decrae, Charisma, Alex and Ethan

Four enterprising Birmingham teenagers have launched their own business selling a range of tourist merchandise promoting their beloved home city.

Charisma Meehan, Decrae Simms, Alex Yang and Ethan Widgery-Powell all met at the free@last youth club, which was set up to help young people in the inner-city Nechells area.

Aged just 15, 16 and 17, they created Brum Ting as a way of making some money and learning about business.

It is already proving a success and they have big plans for the future with their sights set on turning the brand into a global franchise.

John Street, founder and director of free@last, said: “I am incredibly proud of how hard they have all worked on this.

“Every step of the journey has been a challenge – from learning to Zoom and attend meetings through lockdown, to having enough money to buy products to sell, to finding the right suppliers who will help them on their journey. The biggest challenge now is finding the time to manage school, life, mental wellbeing and business.”

John said the idea for the business was born when he launched a project asking young people at the youth club to make jewellery which they then sold on a market stall in Sutton Coldfield.

Ethan, Alex, Decrae and Charisma

Charisma, 17, Decrae,17, Alex,16, and Ethan, 15, who are all studying at school or college, found themselves bitten by the business bug. They noticed there was a gap in the market for Birmingham-related tourism products, came up with the name Brum Ting and a brand was born.

John said: “The initial idea was that they would make a variety of products in our workshop, but as they were all still at school and lockdown had begun, we decided to teach them how to run a business and set up a supply chain.”

Business mentors were brought in to help bring their vision to life and their creativity and enthusiasm has already made it a success so far, with around £800 worth of products sold through social media and word of mouth alone.

Some of the Brum Ting merchandise

They plan to officially launch the business, selling goods including clothing and accessories, in the run up to Christmas.

John added: “After that, they would like to franchise the brand across the world so that young people in every city on Earth can have their own Ting business.”

Ethan said he also believed Brum Ting could become an international brand. “I believe that with the correct input and effort that Brum Ting can become a worldwide brand name and more people will know our story and become inspired to thrive in their work, everyday lives and their passion for whatever it is they enjoy,” he said.

Decrae added: “As long as we stay determined and put the work in, I’m more than sure Brum Ting will be successful.”

Some of the Brum Ting merchandise

John thanked everyone who had helped the group out so far, including the staff at Martin James Network, which provided an initial grant, and suppliers Sandeep Nandra at Dr Print, Helen Butler at Thread A Pixel and Steve Quance at Steven Charles Quance Jewellery.

Calum Sawford, programme director at the Martin James Network, a Birmingham-based organisation which aims to help families and vulnerable people, said: “We are delighted to see the growth of Brum Ting from a glimmer of an idea into a fantastic business through the engagement and enablement of young people under the stewardship of free@last. This is a shining example of ‘Fearless Futures’ – inspiring others to be bold, kind and courageous in their ventures to be an entrepreneur.”

Elevate FM, a facilities management company, is also supporting free@last as its chosen charity. Director David Warren said: “We are based in Birmingham and this is our way of giving something back to the city. They do such good work and the Brum Ting business is a fantastic enterprise. We wish them every success.”

John added: “There are many, many more people who have help along the way and we are very grateful for all their support.”

To find out more about Brum Ting visit brumting.co.uk

For more about free@last visit www.freeatlast.st