Even from a young age, George Meressa was a budding entrepreneur.
The 33-year-old would sell sweets and fizzy drinks at school and later on at university, where he studied for a degree in Business Management.
His advertising agency was vital during lockdown as a wave of companies relied on online advertisements in order to survive financially.
Clear Ads’ revenue skyrocketed from less than half a million to over £1.2 million in the space of a year.
READ MORE:Croydon’s inspirational restaurant owner ‘Big Mike’ who’s feeding the homeless
(Image: George Meressa)
But it hasn’t always been easy for George, who grew up in Hackney in a low-income family.
George told My London: “Up until age 14 I had the best childhood ever – it was so much fun. But then when I got to 15 and 16 years old, there were a lot of gangs. I didn’t really go out much.
“My family didn’t have much money, we used to have to do things that most people wouldn’t do. Like walk an hour to Tesco to pick up some stuff and then walk a further 30 minutes away from home to Lidl just because they had cheaper sweetcorn and ketchup.
“We’d always have to be really tight on everything we spent money on. Growing up I always had that, I guess that’s what motivated me to want to make something of myself and set a business up.”
‘People told me to get a life – it was hard’
During his early twenties, George moved to East Croydon to follow his business dreams and eventually worked for a friend who ran a Google advertisement agency.
George says he owes it all to his friend for his big break: “He gave me that opportunity, I knew from that day that I was set for life.”
After three years, George began exploring his own business ideas with Clear Ads, though the venture was also tough to begin with.
” I was making around 100 phone calls a day, it was so demoralising, people told me I should get a life. I’m not thick-skinned like that so I took everything to heart – but then it grew,” he added.
On most days, George was working 16-hour shifts.
Here at MyLondon, we’re doing our very best to make sure you get the latest news, reviews and features from your area.
Now there’s a way you can keep up to date with the areas that matter to you with our free email newsletter.
The South London newsletter goes out twice day – at 7am and 4pm – and sends you the latest stories straight to your inbox.
From Croydon to Catford, Peckham to Putney, we’ll make sure you get the very best every day.
To sign up to the South London newsletter, simply follow this link and select the newsletter that’s right for you.
And to really customise your news experience on the go, you can download our top-rated free apps for iPhone and Android. Find out more here.
But then Amazon, which has an average of 197 million people visiting its site every month was struggling with Amazon PPC – its pay-per-pick advertising platform.
George was building a huge client base with businesses who needed his help with advertising, and work began to pick up.
He began to hire more employees and the team grew to seven people.
Everything was working out for George and Clear Ads – until the pandemic hit. He suddenly developed sharp stomach pains and was bleeding every time he went to the toilet.
The nasty stomach pains worsened when George consumed some Golden Syrup, he became severely ill and couldn’t leave his bed for three months.
George was diagnosed with Colitis, a long-term health condition where the colon and rectum become inflamed, last January.
He lost two stone in under two weeks and had to move back in with his mum.
During this time, George worked on his own business goals and decided it was time to step down from working 16 hours a day. As Colitis is stress-related, George now works around three to four hours a week.
‘I couldn’t do anything without my staff’
At the same time, a surge in online buying on sites such as Amazon saw George’s agency in high demand as more businesses needed advertising. His team of seven people tripled in size and 21 people now work with him at Clear Ads.
While he awaits further tests for Colitis, George has been advised not to travel until he receives the right medication. He is grateful for his staff and wants to take them overseas to places including Morocco and St Lucia.
” I couldn’t do anything without my staff, I appreciate them so much and if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to do this.
“Finding good and honest people that work hard and are keen to learn – the way they’ve blessed and supported me … it’s been really key,” he added.
You can find out more about Clear Ads online.
Got a story we should be covering? Contact Ruby at [email protected]