I dropped out of university and now I run a hot tub business
Jack Spring’s company employs 35 people and operates in nine cities
Last week, a House of Lords social mobility committee found that young people who don’t go to university are being “failed” by the government. According to its findings, 53 per cent of those who don’t follow a typically “academic” route are “forgotten and left behind” by Whitehall. It also discovered that employers tend to prefer qualifications, and so many young people find that there can be “major barriers” for some people.
This is certainly regrettable. But completing education is not the only route to success – and there are some entrepreneurial individuals who make it work.
For example, when you arrive at uni on your first day, you probably don’t imagine that one year on you’ll have your own international hot tub hire empire. But Jack Spring got bored of university and traded in his essays and student debt for hot tubs and film-directing.
We spoke to Jack and asked him how he found the balls to reject university education and make your own way. The hot tub way.
Hi Jack. Would you like to start by telling us a bit about yourself?
What made you decide to enrol at university in the first place?
I think it probably came down to it being “the thing to do”. It seemed as though all the “clever” kids at school went to university and at that age it seemed as if there were no other feasible options if I wanted to earn a decent living.
Your teachers push you in that direction, so that probably had a big bearing on things too. York had a shiny new building and beer was cheaper than it was in London so it made sense for me to do so at the time.
Did you have a good time while you were at uni?
Yes and no. The course was rubbish, I didn’t like the staff, and I really didn’t think it was worth the £20 train ticket, never mind £9,000.
Saying that, the people I’ve met here have been top drawer. I think it had more to do with moving away from home and all that comes with that rather than being at a university. It was a fun year in terms of the whole social side of it all, but I didn’t really get a lot done.
Tell us about your hot tub hire business?
It’s a bit ridiculous really. In June I went out for a night out in Leeds – woke up the next morning feeling like death. I scrolled through Facebook and my friend Kenny had wisely invested in one of those crappy blue intex swimming pools. I wanted one.
I Googled how much I’d have to fork out, and they were a lot cheaper than I though they’d be. I, for some reason, knew inflatable hot tubs existed so Googled them too. They were about £500 so a little (a lot) out of my budget zone.
I thought the novelty wasn’t worth £500, so did a bit of searching to see if anyone hired them out for a night. There were a few people doing it but they all looked pretty shit. No company had monopolised or had really pushed the inflatable hot tub hire industry so I saw the gap in the market and had a bit of a lightbulb moment.
Fifteen minutes later, Hello Hot Tubs was a registered company. My Grandad had sent all the grandchildren £500 as a pre-inheritance type thing so I’ve got him to thank for the fact I could afford one of the tubs. We bought one then saved up the hire money and bought two, then three, then four… we’ve just opened in our ninth city.
We’re growing at a rate of one city a month and in November we’re opening up in Melbourne and Auckland which is pretty cool. I think we’ve got about 50 tubs all over the country now and 35 staff.
What made you want to drop out?
Spending 20 minutes with filmmakers Scott Elliot and Sid Sadowskyj. I met these guys about a year ago – their “dream chaser” philosophy completely changed my life and the way I saw and thought about the world. My entire work ethic and drive came to light in that twenty-minute meeting.
Within a week, a feature film became a prospect and I’d created Hello Hot Tubs. I went away from that meeting and realised how little I was learning on the course, how utterly meaningless a degree in film and TV actually is in the film industry, and that I could probably do better by winging it by myself. I’d learnt more in that 20 minute meeting than I had in a year of studying.
Was it a difficult decision to make?
Yes definitely. I’d thought about it before I met Scott and Sid but in reality I’d probably have had to have gone and got a ‘proper job’ in order to pay the bills until the film was ready to go a year later. That wasn’t really a route I fancied, so it was a bit of a non-starter until I decided the whole hot tub thing was a good idea.
It got big pretty quickly, which reduced the financial pressure, and then leaving became a no-brainer. It wasn’t a great spell for me during the time I left too. My confidence was at rock bottom in both my personal and artistic senses – family members weren’t very well and for a very brief period I really didn’t enjoy being different.
I remember I’d still tell people on nights out that I was a student as they’d feel more comfortable around other students from the off.
What did your parents say when you told them you were dropping out of uni?
They’ve been great to be honest. They’ve always been very supportive of everything I’ve done and I owe them a lot. Mum now tells me off for “working too hard” – quite the opposite conversation to the one we were having a couple of years back.
Do you regret your decision?
Not at all – it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done. The thought of writing an essay on why “the director decided Barry Chuckle’s trousers would be red not blue” or whatever toss they’re getting students to write about this week, rather than doing what I do now, makes me feel sick.
It was hard at the start and I have to work harder than I’ve ever done to live the life I do now but leaving has given me the freedom to live the life I want to.
What film projects you’ve got going on at the minute?
In August I direct my debut feature film “Destination: Dewsbury”. It’s a road trip-style movie and we’ve got a few really famous people involved with the project (the producer will cut my bollocks off if I tell the world who yet) and I’m very lucky to have a brilliant team around me. It’s due for release circa March 2017. We’ve raised nearly £100,000 of investment now which is very exciting.
I’ve also got “The Great Yorkshire Bank Robbery” which is a TV pilot that premieres at York’s City Screen on April 17th which I’m very much looking forward to showing off. We’re looking to shoot Series one at some point during 2017.
Why do you think most people drop out of uni?
I think there’s a bit of a stigma attached to university drop-outs. I think we’ve all got our different reasons. I have huge respect for anyone who walks away from the trodden path to follow their dreams. Even for those at university – as long as they’re chasing their dream then I have a lot of time for them.
What would your advice be to someone thinking of dropping out of university?
Be brave, have a battle plan or you’ll end up working a job just to pay bills. Work harder than everyone else. Be nice to people. Surround yourself with people that share your mentality.