Budding entrepreneur, 16, steps into limelight
Wearing a baseball cap backwards and a slightly nervous smile, 16-year-old Isaac Aydelman admits he is “new to this whole interview thing”.
But the budding businessman will have to get used to the limelight if The AI Ark, the luxury concierge and lifestyle management company he started in Hong Kong two years ago, continues to grow.
Mr Aydelman tapped into the business acumen and capital of his financial adviser mother, Eva, to set up The AI Ark.
But although he needed his mother to register the company and act as supervisor due to legal age restrictions, it was his idea to start the business, inspired by a previous family venture in Hong Kong when it was under British rule.
“The idea just came to me,” said Mr Aydelman in the American drawl common among pupils of Verdala International School, which he left recently after completing his GCSEs.
“I was going on different business trips with my mum and observing these concierge companies, and something just clicked”.
Born in Israel but a resident in Malta for the past five years,Mr Aydelman belies his young age when asked why he chose to set up his business in Hong Kong.
“If you ask any businessman they will tell you there is a lot of potential and profits in Hong Kong now. It’s a tax haven which means starting a business there is nearly always profitable,” he says.
Although he makes it clear that his mother has considerable influence over the business, Mr Aydelman says he is very much involved in day-to-day operations, despite studying for A-levels in English literature, philosophy and history through the Oxford distance learning programme.
Mr Aydelman’s share of the profits is paid into a trust fund and he will assume a 50 per cent stake in the business when he turns 18 in February 2014.
The AI Ark is run from Malta, though Mr Aydelman travels to Hong Kong on business at least twice a year with his mother.
He says partners and clients are usually surprised by his age when they meet him initially, “but they see I’m serious in the first meeting”.
Focusing initially on growing its client base, The AI Ark has managed to secure partnership deals with VIP First Class and One Concierge, two of the biggest concierge and lifestyle management companies in the US.
“If they have a client going to Hong Kong they’ll usually give them to us and we provide the services,” Mr Aydelman explains.
The company has also expanded beyond Hong Kong with Vida de Luxe, a subsidiary which covers Portugal and Madeira.
Mr Aydelman sees lots of business potential in the Algarve region of Portugal, which he thinks could rival Paris as a hub for clients searching for luxury goods and services.
Indeed, his company has been tasked by Free Holdings Ltd to organise a millionaires’ fair that will be held in the region just after Easter, attended by high-end clients searching for opulent goods.
Mr Aydelman is currently in the Algarve for meetings about the millionaires’ fair and other events, after spending last weekend as the youngest entrepreneur at the world-famous Bal des Etoiles in Paris.
Unfazed by rubbing shoulders with royalty and celebrities at the invitation-only ball, which signifies the start of the autumn social season, Mr Aydelman saw the event as “a good opportunity for networking”. In between juggling his business commitments, Mr Aydelman is also determined to achieve top A-level results so he can study law at one of the best universities in the US or UK.
How does he cope with all the demands on his time?
“Nerves or stress don’t really get to me. I sleep well, and I do the work that needs to be done,” he says, his youthful grin returning.