ALEX Edwards was just 20 and still in his second year at university when he set up his business.

Six years on, as managing director of The Cotswold Tailor, he has shops in Woodstock and Shipston-on-Stour and employs four staff.

Turnover is nudging £400,000 a year and he is shortlisted for this year’s West Oxfordshire Business Awards.

He spotted an opportunity on his gap year, after ordering a made-to-measure suit from a tailor in Thailand.

Back in the UK, he tried to buy another but couldn’t afford it and realised there was a market for having suits made abroad.

Since then, he has gone upmarket, using mainly British tailors who also supply Savile Row.

Mr Edwards, who lives in Chipping Norton, went to the town’s secondary school and D’Overbroeck’s sixth form in Oxford before taking a business administration degree.

He said: “Using my student loan to finance my business was ideal, because it is one of the cheapest ways to borrow money.

“It’s a risk to start up on your own but better to do that now, while I don’t have any children or a mortgage.”

Mr Edwards is part of a trend for young adults to shun the traditional workplace in favour of becoming entrepreneurs.

Accountancy firm Wilkins Kennedy says 27,000 people aged 21 or under are listed as directors of limited companies.

It’s partly due to the ‘app economy’, where youngsters develop hobbies into high-tech businesses.

And youthful business gurus, such as 17-year-old Nick D’Aloisio, who created news app Summly in his bedroom, before selling it to Yahoo for £20m last year, are role models.

James Murray, curator at Saïd Business School’s Launchpad for entrepreneurs, said: “It has become more of a career choice, promoted by school careers advisers, and the media is making young people more aware of the option.”

The Oxford Times: Samantha Ball

Another entrepreneurial student is 21-year-old Samantha Ball, who launched her suitcase label business Luggage Laughs last year and was a finalist in the Santander Universities Entrepreneurships Award.

In the third year of a degree in fine art at Oxford Brookes University, she lives in halls in Cowley.

She said: “There is a lot more enthusiasm for the entrepreneurial route among young people, especially students, because of the economic situation and the fact university fees are rising.

“You need to make money to afford university, so from a young age many start a business, get the hunger for it and stick with it.”