At Age 12, He Was Cyberbullied On YouTube. By 15, He Was Running a Profitable Marketing Agency for Instagram Stars. Meet the British teen who stepped away from the camera and started his own successful social media-consulting company.
When Laurence Moss was 12, he decided to try his hand at becoming a YouTuber. It was a quick and harsh lesson in cyberbullying. As he recalls, "Amateurish videos of me talking to a camera seemed to be something that people liked to make fun of."
So he switched gears. At 13, he pivoted to Instagram, experimenting with accounts themed around everything from memes to cars, with less of an emphasis on his own face and personality. By the end of 2018, he'd accumulated well over a quarter-million followers and realized he had a knack for intuiting what drew people to other users' content.
The following year, having only just turned 14, Moss launched his marketing agency, Greedy Growth, from his home in Kent, UK. In the company's own verbiage, it exists to "turn your Instagram page into a marketing asset," claims clients including soccer star Joel Mumbongo and health-food brand Ossa Organic, and earned five figures in revenue in 2020.
Zooming in from his home office, Moss — who is also still contending with his academic studies while managing Greedy Growth's remote sales, operations and customer-support teams — discussed his day-to-day grind, as well as whether he can still enjoy social media for its more whimsically exhibitionist pleasures.
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What does running a company like this from your home with a remote team while also attending school actually look like when you zoom in on it?
There's staff based in lots of different countries. We've got freelancers based in the UK. All the people working underneath me are independent contractors. Some of them work a few hours a day. It's people in a Slack channel, and I've got people in different positions throughout the company to do different tasks. One of the reasons why I've been able to scale so much while being at school and being young is because I've been able to recognize the things that I need to delegate so that I can put the time I have in the right places.
This is also happening against the backdrop of the pandemic. Is this a balancing act you think most students could pull off or are you just uniquely cut out for it?
I never went into it thinking of myself as an entrepreneur. It grew out of a hobby for me, sort of wanting to build communities on Instagram. I had about a year when I wasn't monetizing it. Not everybody can balance it. It really just depends on the person. Over the past few months, yes, it's been difficult to balance, but I've realized that's just part of the process. And if I do want to scale, this is what I'm going to have to do.
Do you ever feel like you're missing out on the fun of being a teen on Instagram if you're always having to think about leveraging it for your business?
Yeah, don't get me wrong. I do have an Instagram account, where I talk to my friends and all that kind of stuff. I am just like pretty much everybody. I partake in Instagram as a consumer, and I think in a way, being a consumer on Instagram kind of helps you understand the position that brands are in when they're trying to reach their consumers. You're scrolling through, seeing things that pick up your own attention.
How did you start to convert brands that were skeptical of signing on because of your youth?
The outreach does not stop when you're running a business. I don't think there's a point where you stop putting yourself out there. For us, it's definitely an aggressive scaling strategy that we're currently using to try and help brands understand how our service could benefit them. There are obviously going to be people out there who might not trust a 16-year-old with their marketing spend, but you know, here in the United Kingdom, you can register a company when you're 16. So I'm currently the only director, and it's a registered company. And over the past year and a half, we've built up enough case studies to show people that yes, we are a real marketing company, as we can get results.
When I launched the company I was 14, and I was getting on calls with business owners, and as long as I displayed the confidence of knowing my craft, which was Instagram marketing, then they were confident to trust me with their marketing spend. But there are always going to be the odd business owners who are trying to haggle you down and try and take advantage of your age. It's just about having that diligence and understanding that I'm not going to make concessions on the price that I offer my services if they think they can get that because of my age. Sometimes if you're starting a business as a young person, you can fall into the trap of making those sorts of concessions. You have to set a bottom line regardless of how much money you are making.
Who sets the tone for your mindset in all this? Was it family? Did you have entrepreneurs you admired?
My brother is in university and has followed a very academic path. My parents are big believers in academic paths. Obviously they've come to realize that I'm probably on more of an entrepreneurial one, but I never really had a mentor. There are industry leaders that I look up to, like Gary V. There's a UK-based influencer marketing agency called the Goat Agency that's fairly large, and they're a 200-employee business.
I look up to those sorts of people, but I wouldn't say I had someone holding my hand. And I think that part of the reason I got to the point where I am now is because I was almost a self-starter. So nobody held my hand or told me to do any of this. It has to come off your own bat as an entrepreneur. If I didn't have that drive to try and find things out for myself and be curious, I don't think it would have come about in the first place.
It also sounds like you're still on the fence about whether to continue juggling studies and entrepreneurial efforts down the line?
I still might want to go to university. It's not something that I've decided yet. There is a likelihood of me deciding when the time comes around that I don't want to go to uni, and that I want to pursue the business full-time. Not that it isn't already a proper business, but you know, devoting more time towards it than I've been able to.
Instagram and social media marketing are becoming oversaturated spaces. Are you keeping an eye out for the next under-saturated sector?
Oversaturated is probably a word that's used a bit too much when we refer to social media platforms. I think there's always going to be audiences that hang out on social media platforms. As long as you're staying ahead in terms of the trends happening on those social media platforms, there's always a way to reach that audience. So for example, when TikTok was released, obviously it drew some attention away from Instagram, but they made Reels, which tried to grab a little bit of that back. I see Instagram being fairly longterm, but obviously you never really know what's gonna come around the door and be the next Instagram.
For me, it's about which platform can help the brands that we work with get the most exposure right now. That's why I've chosen Instagram and that's why we stuck with Instagram thus far.
And is there a North Star for you as far as maintaining ethical standards as the company becomes more profitable?
To be honest with you, what makes me most happy is not necessarily the money side of things, but my idea growing. Early this year, we started working with professional British footballers, and it's really interesting to me how I can stake this idea and turn it into something that's actually real and making an impact.
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If you could say something now to the folks online who used to bully you, what would it be?
It's all about empathy and understanding that I don't hate anybody for any decisions or actions that they make. Many of the people who did those sorts of things back then, I'm now quite good friends with. I think the whole reason why I persevered is because I've learned to sort of stay in my own lane. Other people's decisions or other people's thoughts don't really make a difference to me. I've got a close support network of friends that I really care about, and family, and what those people say to me does have an impact. But anybody outside of that, I take it with a grain of salt. You never know where what somebody is saying is coming from.