The teenager knows what he’s talking about too, after launching his homeware and clothing store, Blank Space, in his hometown of Fairlie a month ago.
Dobbs always wanted to have his own store, particularly to sell and display his scenic photography. But he was aware photography does not sell well, as it is not an “everyday essential”, he says.
So, instead, the fashion-loving teen decided to sell clothing as well, and rounded out the offerings with accessories, homeware and gifts.
So far, Dobbs has found great local support for his clothing brands – which include Kiwi icons Federation, Huffer and RPM – with a wide range of ages buying the garments.
“Lots of people in Fairlie say they are pleased they don’t have to go to Timaru, which is a 45-minute drive, they can get what they want right now in Fairlie.”
Dobbs says it didn’t cross his mind not to set up the store because of his age.
“I wanted to do things while I’m young. I thought, why not do it now, why wait 10 years?”
His experience includes working at Fairlie Bakehouse, where he is continuing a baking apprenticeship. Dobbs has also spent time working in his mother’s clothing store, Mint Boutique, and got a bit of advice from her.
Dobbs admits that when setting up the store, companies were hesitant about relying on the then 18-year-old. Fortunately, he had good references from previous transactions, including with local business Corporate Prints, whom he used to print calendars of his photos.
The bank manager also wanted to see a detailed budget and cost analysis, before agreeing to a small overdraft to set up the business.
Dobbs runs Blank Space with the help of an assistant, and the shop is open just 11am to 4pm so he can continue with his baking apprenticeship.
In the first few weeks of opening business was “really good” but the last week has been a little slow, which could be just due to the winter season.
“It’s been -10° and -7°outside which is a little cold for people walking around… The school holidays were busier too,” Dobbs says.
His hint for the younger generation interested in opening their own store is to “give it your best shot”.
“You have to have the energy and can-do attitude to do it.”