THERE was a time when all he thought about was golf, but now Lee Fitzpatrick has his sights set on becoming a leading businessman.
The 21-year-old from Prestonpans has been shortlisted as one of only six finalists to make it through to an Evening News-backed Dragons’ Den-style contest.
If he wins, he will secure not only free advertising in the paper for his company, but free mentoring from the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, and a chance to get one-to-one advice from real life “dragon” Deborah Meaden.
“My school years were spent at Preston Lodge until fifth year and then I got granted a golf scholarship at Loretto in Musselburgh,” he said. “But I’m pretty much struggling to play golf just now because it’s 24/7 with the business.”
Eight months ago, Mr Fitzpatrick set up his own company, Market Prepare!, which helps fully equip properties for rent or sale.
He entered the nationwide Local Business Accelerators contest late last year as one of thousands of budding entrepreneurs hoping to secure exposure for their firms.
He said: “It [his business] is pretty unique in that we are an outsourced preparation department for letting agents.
“We allow property professionals to, for the first time, access one company and get all the preparation done if they’re renting or selling a house.
“They can get things like cleaning, safety certification, property staging, electrical appliances and a lot more from one company, instead of going to several different companies.”
After leaving school, Mr Fitzpatrick went on to work at a letting agent from the age of 17 for more than three years.
“Then I saw a gap in the market and decided to start the business up,” he said.
The competition has attracted more than 3000 entrants and will see 1500 firms across the UK receive £15 million of free advertising.
Locally, joining Market Prepare! on the shortlist are social enterprise Greetings from Leith; Vertex eCommerce, in South Queensferry; tea boutique Eteaket, in Frederick Street; Gardening Services Edinburgh, in Colinton; and AM Lettings, based in Dalkeith.
Mr Fitzpatrick said he entered the competition because he is always looking for new ideas and, if he were to win, would benefit most from the free advertising.
He said: “Developing the brand and getting trust from the public is the main thing for us.
“We have actually grown really quickly but because we are so young, a lot of people are still questioning if we can do the job, why we can do everything, and that sort of thing. If we can start to get their trust and get them to believe in the brand, it will make a huge difference.”
He said he was “over the moon” when he realised the business had been shortlisted, admitting it would be “invaluable” if he were to go on to win the competition.
“The long-term goal is to be national so I can’t explain what it would mean,” he said.
Part of his two-year plan for the company is to launch an online appliance store, initially targeted at property professionals and then the wider public.