From Pizza Express to stock exchange


Emma Sinclair, the youngest person ever to have a company on the London Stock Exchange and UNICEF’s first Business Mentor, knows about grit. 

“‘No’ doesn’t work on me,” she said in her speech at the Waterloo Innovation Summit Sept. 15.

She got her first job at McDonald’s as soon as she could, but first she had to sell her suitability to the manager — because her secondary school grades made her overqualified. 

Sinclair didn’t start trading stocks until university, despite her student loans (she doesn’t recommend using those to fund trading: “Students, don’t do this!”). Her strategy was to only buy stocks in companies she was a customer of; this led to her buying her first stocks in Pizza Express, a U.K. fast food chain with a location near her campus.

This was never part of her schooling — like reviewing her father’s stock performance on the daily walk to primary school, Sinclair hadn’t considered finance her life’s main focus. 

It wasn’t until realizing her McDonald’s wage wouldn’t cover her new lifestyle that Sinclair decided to get serious about her investments. When a resume didn’t work, Sinclair made copies of her investment record and “spammed 15 banks.” Every single one sent back an offer.

“I’m surprised by how many people don’t knock on doors,” she said. 

Her financial career grew from there, starting in real estate, getting a company on the London Stock Exchange at age 29, and later moving into the tech sector. 

Her advice to innovators?  Keep it simple.

“Simple doesn’t mean basic or not well thought-out,” she said. “If you can’t explain it in layman’s terms … I think there’s more work to do.”