My name is James Leech. The year I entered honours, I made £768 – which really pissed me off, because it was three shy of £14.83 a week.
I don’t come from a rich family. When I first arrived here, I struggled to keep up with the expensive lifestyle of the St Andrews elite. Six weeks into semester one, I was £4,000 into my overdraft, down on my luck and struggling to make ends meet. I was desperate for my degree and terrified at the prospect of having to drop out.
By chance, I read an article about a student who made money selling advertising space on his shirt. It was the answer to my prayers, a ray of hope, and so I did what all great businessmen do when they recognise a great idea: I copied it.
I started off small. Some student-focused start-ups tossed me a couple of quid to flaunt their logo. Ladbrokes gave me a free bet. Colgate sent me a toothbrush and the RSPCA offered me a free puppy, which I found a bit suspect. This was all good, but I needed cold, hard cash. I experimented with appealing directly to the businesses, and took it a step further.
Real money came from taking cash dares from huge corporations, rather than promoting penny-advert nobodies. A chief executive of Barclays paid me £100 to record myself dropping a clementine down Menzies Campbell’s trousers. He sent me the money in a discrete brown envelope with a note scrawled across the front in biro: “absolute LAD”.
I was living the dream. I had a surprisingly steady income between the adverts and the dares. I was making more than enough money to take me through university and I was having a great time doing it – though I’m not so sure how much Menzies enjoyed it.
Every day since that time, I look back and curse myself for not stopping there. For not quitting while I was ahead.
But it was never enough. I wanted more.
I couldn’t sell adverts on my shirt forever, and there are only so many small fruits you can drop down someone’s pants before it gets old; 23, to be exact. Every idea has a shelf life, and it was getting stale. Once top-tier student newspapers stop doing novelty write-ups about your shirt advertisement scheme, businesses don’t have the incentive to sponsor you anymore.
My life became a constant chase after the next big fad, and my portfolio of novelty businesses became seedier and seedier. I didn’t know where to draw the line – every scheme had to be more extreme than the last.
In one, I hired third-year girls into my own private agency. Then, I invited third-year men who were struggling to start an academic family round to my flat. They would sift through the girls and ‘buy’ the academic wife of their choosing. The girls made some extra pocket change and I took a healthy commission.
My arranged academic marriages scheme did big business (mostly among male geographers) and I was rocketing to an unprecedented level of wealth. I had reached what no St Andrews student had achieved before: financial independence.
But my success was starting to give me a reputation. The University bloodhounds caught wind of my operation. I was in violation of more University regulations than a swastika carved into Principal Richardson’s left cheek. All they needed was the evidence to prove it, which they didn’t have. Yet.
I should have stopped then, before they could catch me. But I didn’t. And they did.
I was finally snagged as an unlicensed orthodontist out of a closed down bakery shop on South Street. I had nicked some spare metal from the chemistry building for a set of braces. The moment I installed them, they frothed and sparked and blew out half of my first client’s teeth.
How was I supposed to know I used potassium? Unfortunately, a generous bribe of £23.50 wasn’t enough to keep the guy quiet: he squealed, and the University was on me like a pack of starved rats. That same afternoon, I was sat across a smirking Menzies Campbell, listening to him smugly announce my immediate expulsion.
I almost had a degree. Now I work at Nando’s.
Shirt advertising is a gateway drug to an illegitimate empire. I implore you, don’t get involved. It will ruin your life – just as it did mine.