“From a barback, laborer and then a door-to-door salesman. Now I build houses upside down.” – Tom Dirse
We at BoxHuman are passionate about highlighting and celebrating inspiring humans; especially the ones who are inspiring, helping and bringing light to the world. We do this in order to rebalance some of the negative messages we often hear, see and receive on a daily basis. We met up with one of these amazing individuals…
Hi Tom, it’s so great to meet. Let’s kick off this interview with getting to know you. Can you please tell me a little bit about you and what you are known for?
I am Tom Dirse, I’m twenty-five and I am CEO of The Upside Down House UK. I love Business, Boxing and bringing creative ideas to life.
College wasn’t really for me and I struggled to find the right path. That was until I was introduced to the Prince’s Trust; a two-week course changed the course of my life and I am forever grateful to the people who helped guide me into becoming who I am today. I quite literally turned my life around when I became CEO of the Upside Down House UK, the country’s only topsy turvy tourist attraction, at the age of twenty-four.
A perfect intro, thank you Tom! Let’s move onto my next question. Can you please tell me in your own words…How did your inspiring entrepreneurial journey begin, from what age and what happened?
I guess it all started when I was college, though I didn’t think that back then!
College wasn’t really for me in honesty. After school, I went on to attend two different colleges, Bishop 6th form (Business studies), and Bermondsey College (Cookery Course), both of which ended in me having to leave.
Having always been a hands-on person, I really struggled with the limitations within the school and wasn’t able to find anything that really interested me; which often led to me being in trouble! After the second college didn’t work out, I went on to a series of different jobs; everything from barback to laborer and door to door salesman.
It was then that I was introduced to The Prince’s Trust. It gave me the motivation and the focus to make something of myself. After the Prince’s Trust course, I found myself in my first official role with Systech International, who I worked with for over two years; they gave me the second chance I needed in my career.
Through a friend, I was introduced to a shareholder at the Upside Down House who suggested a site in Bournemouth. What can I say? I fell in love with the concept and began working on a proposal, gathering information, health & safety requirements.
Learning about planning and building control, drafting site plans, all of this whilst I was working at a full-time job which was quantity surveying from 8 AM to 6 PM. For almost a year I would come home from work and then stay up working on The Upside Down House until 3 am to bring the project to life.
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Wow-what an inspiring introduction to you and your entrepreneurial journey, thank you Tom. Your Upside Down House sounds so interesting. I’d love to find out more, so I’m going to ‘throw’ some quick questions to you. Let’s begin…
1) What your business is called and what’s it all about?
The Business is called Upside Down House UK™, the UK’s first inverted photo attraction which gives our customers the opportunity to use Social Media as a tool on a day out, to capture surreal images and share them online with their friends and family.
2) How did you come up with the idea?
The idea for the Upside Down House came from the sister company in Lithuania. I was approached by a current shareholder and he loved my drive, my communication, interpersonal skills and he suggested a site in Bournemouth. I began working on a proposal and the rest, as they say, is history! We now have four houses in the UK with further sites due to be announced in 2020!
3) What inspired you to do this and why?
As for me, I’ve always been inspired by entrepreneurs and knew that I either wanted to start a business or grow one. I’ve never been one to stick to the norm and I’ve always wanted to challenge myself and being CEO of a company certainly does that! You are constantly learning and it’s amazing to be a part of something that has grown so much.
I hope that through the Upside Down House we can show people that no matter how wacky an idea may seem if you believe in it and work hard, you can bring it to life.
Thank you for sharing that, I can’t wait to be able to go! So with anything, especially with business, there are greats ups and downs. Can you tell me…What’s been your biggest challenge since starting your business and how did you overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges we have faced is branding. While there are Upside Down Houses in other parts of the world, our product is unique and so we’ve worked hard to tell the story and show how that our houses can be moved around the UK.
Our aim is to have a house in every major town and to be the UK’s favourite, and only, topsy turvy attraction. That comes with its own challenges and procurement of the right site that offers a medium-high footfall, is essential for our business. The beauty of the Upside Down House is how striking it is to walk past; it instantly intrigues people!
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I’m sure your houses do because I’m certainly intrigued! Okay, let’s lift the mood and move onto my next question…What has been your biggest achievement and proudest moment so far and why?
Our biggest achievement last year (2019) was landing a six location exclusive deal with Intu. This means we are one step closer to our goal and will have a house in each corner of the UK; so, we’re going to our customers instead of them having to travel to us. We currently have four houses located in: Essex, Manchester, Bristol & Brighton. We were also very proud to have a temporary house situation in Hyde Park Winter Wonderland London.
Congratulations on your achievements Tom! That’s an incredible deal to get, so well done to you and your team. After hearing about your incredible achievements I think it’s a good time to start my next set of questions. To kick start these questions off I thought it would be good to ‘fire’ some BoxHuman Inspire questions your way. So without wasting any more precious time, let’s go…
1) What makes you smile?
2) What inspires you to be you on a daily basis and why?
3) What is your favourite quote and why?
Understanding my accomplishments; knowing where I started and where I am now. Appreciating the opportunities given to me and working towards a goal, that is what makes me smile.
I draw inspiration from a drive to prove people wrong and show them that whatever you put to mind, you can do.
My favourite quote is:
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” -Walt Disney
Wow, some great inspiring answers! Let’s keep the positive vibes flowing with some more Inspire questions…
1) If there was one positive thing you would say to someone to inspire and empower them what would it be and why?
I would advise them to take a creative approach, don’t follow a step-by-step guide because that will only show you how to become your competitor! Flip it upside down, become better – more unique. Create something that can be easily marketed, or that may market itself. Social media is more than just posts or retweets, it’s a tool that if used correctly could be your main source of clients.
2) If someone was about to start a business, what advice would you give them?
Do not be scared to fail. Failure is not the end but a beginning, a learning process a lesson learned the hard way. How will you know if you will never try?
If you open a business and you have partners, use a solicitor/lawyer, and if you are setting up your accounts, use an accountant. There is a reason why there are people who study for many years to be specialists in their fields and it’s best to hire their services to set a foundation for your business.
Listen. Most of us listen to find an answer or we think of another question whilst someone is speaking. STOP. Listen. Take it in, but in a way that you understand and can easily translate into your business, daily life or your approach in your new endeavour.
What future life goals do you want to achieve and why? And in three words how would you describe yourself.
I would love to become an ambassador for young people getting into business, and campaign for business studies to be more specific and direct in approaching how to set a business up rather than how to work within a business. I feel that young entrepreneurs are not taken as seriously as others, but everyone comes from different walks of life and we experience things differently and at different stages, so that should not be a reason to hold people back.
As always we like to end our interviews on…BoxHuman is an empowered individual. They will not be defined by society’s labels. They show the better qualities of humankind, such as strength, kindness, and inspiration. Can you please tell us what makes you a BoxHuman?
I am a BoxHuman because I care, I take a personal approach in business and ensure fairness is implemented. I believe a business is built on people and those people talking to your customers on a daily basis will define your success. I wish to inspire others and motivate those that need it the most, I wish to be a guide to potential BoxHumans.
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