When I was 11, I spent most of my free time in a fantasy world, pretending to be shipwrecked and building a fort in the woods behind my house. When Steve Sayer was 11, he was starting a business that has given the now 14-year-old over £4,500 in the last 3 years. The schoolboy sweeps up and sells manure from his father’s horse farm.
Now, you might think that a local government would want to support this kind of behaviour, or at least would not actively stand in its way… but you would be wrong. In 2006, Steve discovered what so many entrepreneurs do; that advertising would help his business. He bought a small £100 sign and leaned it between two wheels on his father’s property. A year later, the local council decided this sign was “illegally placed,” and the boy had to remove it. He spent the next 10 months collecting signatures, applying for approval, and appealing the rejection of his application before finally being allowed to put the sign back up.
If it’s this hard for a 14-year-old kid to sell manure, how much harder must it be for adults to start or advertise for a small business? I understand not wanting giant billboards to appear in the middle of a farmland, but really, should placing a knee-high sign leaning against some wheels on private property require a year of time, effort, and lost revenue? I’m sure the local commission had the best of intentions. But when we make it difficult for people to use their own ingenuity and stifle this kind of enterprise, we help no one.