Passed/Failed: An education in the life of Dominic McVey, entrepreneur and millionaire

I was a pain in the backside'
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The Independent Online

Dominic McVey, 22, became a millionaire at 15 by importing micro-scooters. He is now in pharmaceuticals, and his company Cosmagenics specialises in distribution and marketing of cosmetics. He appeared in the C4 series Millionaires' Mission and is an "ambassador" for Enterprise Week, which finishes on Sunday and is run by the Make Your Mark campaign (www.enterpriseweek.org).



People want my youthful ideas, but I feel like an old hand at the game. At about eight, I went to Japan with my dad, who was a percussionist with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and brought back a load of gadgets. I sold them to my friends for a 20 per cent profit. At 12, I was using my father's credit card to run my business; he didn't know about it until they rang up to say: "Congratulations on the performance of your shares." He said: "You'd better talk to my son."

At 13, I was looking for Visa on Yahoo! but spelt it wrongly and discovered Viza, a "push-scooter" company based in Arizona. The man I contacted there said: "Buy five and I'll give you one for free." I sold 11 million scooters; I used to send a container a week to Japan.

At 14, I managed to pay for my first-class ticket to Japan, where I was looking at various business opportunities. I was going to import toilet seats, but it was too complicated.

I learnt to walk at nine months and to run at 12 months; my mother couldn't handle me, and at two sent me to a Montessori school in Epping. When I was four, I went to Coopersale Hall, a private school. I'd run out of the class; I wanted to be with my mum.

At seven, I went to another independent school, Forest School in Snaresbrook. You had to take an exam to get in and I was quite excited about going, as it had fantastic sports facilities. I hated the exams; we were always doing exams! They were always telling us it was the end of the world if we failed. They used to say that employers would look at your school record – and might not take you if you had more than 10 detentions. I always passed exams and I passed my 11-plus to the senior school.

I was always given detentions but I never turned up, apart from when I got a two-hour detention for not doing my shoelaces up; the teacher called my mother and said I would be suspended if I didn't turn up. The detention was on the Saturday afternoon when the Rugby World Cup was being played, and so the teacher taking the detention couldn't go to the match, although he had a ticket. The deputy head hated me. He would walk round the school saying: "Boy! Why are you smiling?" "Because I have just sold 10,000 scooters," I said.

I also used to say: "School should be a happy environment," but he would say: "No, it's not, you're here to learn."

I was a pain in the backside. I took a thermometer into the mock GCSEs and, as it showed 16C, they had to cancel the exams because of health and safety rules. They were not happy!

I got 8 per cent in my Latin exam but I wish I had stuck at it; it is important to know things other people don't. I went to two biology lessons in the two GCSE years – and I was able to get a C.

I got kicked out before my GCSEs. They said: "We don't think you'll pass," but my mother told them: "I've spent £10,000 every year for 10 years – and you can't stop him taking his GCSEs!" I went back and passed them all: nine GCSEs. I was chuffed until I realised that if I had failed, the school's place in the league table would have been damaged.

They wanted me to go into the sixth form, but if I'd gone back my life would be over. I'd be out there trying to get a job like everyone else.

I cycled through the school the other day and got kicked out by security.

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