Business venture

Childhood friends start joint venture aged just 19 after lockdown redundancy

Two teenage friends since age 12 started their own auto and real estate business in Darlington.

Chris Hughes, from Hurworth, and Ben Pickering, from Middleton St George, met in high school and started their business 14 months ago after merging their specialties. Park Lane Automobiles is a used car specialist that buys and sells used cars and real estate firm Pickering Wayside Real Estate buys homes and puts them on the rental market.

After being made redundant from his accounting apprenticeship at the start of lockdown, Ben decided to focus on what he had on his mind since high school – business. Chris studied business, media and geography and the two friends joined forces.

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Ben said: ‘I’ve always had accountancy, my mum wanted me to be an accountant and straight after school I took an apprenticeship in accountancy. But I knew at school around 15, 16 that I was going to do business and real estate in particular.

“It takes time and effort and when we had these ideas in mind, we constantly consumed information such as podcasts, educational videos, reading books and it really put us in a good position.”

Anyone interested in a rental property or a used car can find information on the company’s websites

For Chris, the time he spent studying business at university has nothing to do with the reality of starting his own business. He said: “Even though business and media is what we would do on a daily basis, much of what Ben and I had to do was self-taught.

“Since high school, we have had such a strong bond. We have very similar business values.

Pickering Wayside Real Estate currently has eight properties in its portfolio and the duo recently acquired an industrial unit in Darlington for Park Lane Automobiles. Teens are also gradually building their personal brand through “Day in the Life” videos documenting their journey on social media.

They created a YouTube channel called “Day in the life of Chris and Ben” and a podcast called “Mindset of a young entrepreneur”. Chris and Ben hope the presentation of their journey will inspire and motivate other like-minded young people to take the ‘seemingly overwhelming’ step into business.

Ben said: “We are always learning new things and growing all the time. We have grown relatively quickly considering the time scale.

“There are a lot of challenges — every day is really a challenge. It’s just about learning how to overcome those challenges and move on.