Sitting at the dining room table with his mother, 13-year-old Ollie Hodgson tried to ignore the constant trilling of his mobile phone.
"It was ringing and ringing and I didn’t want to answer it because it was a NO CALLER ID and I knew what was coming," says Hodgson, now 17, who lives in West Cumbria.
"But eventually we couldn’t ignore it any longer and I picked it up. The guys on the other end of the phone shouted: ‘You’re a f****** *******!’ at me and I hung up. It was heartbreaking because my mum was sitting right there with me and heard it all. I couldn’t bear to take it anymore."
Today, four years on, Hodgson’s phone continues to ring off the hook – but for altogether more positive reasons. For although the relentless bullying drove him to quit school at the age of 15, without a single GCSE, he could not be happier.
A successful entrepreneur, he launched his own events and communications company in March 2020, just as the UK was heading into the first lockdown. Despite the odds, it has gone from strength to strength and now the teenager – still four months shy of his 18th birthday – has 26 clients on his books and has opened his first office.
But the journey to this point has been challenging. Hodgson is one of tens of thousands of children bullied every year. In a 2019 report by the charity Ditch the Label, 62% of children said they were bullied by a classmate and 37% by someone at school they did not know.
"My primary school years were great but the bullying began when I went up to a much larger secondary school," says Hodgson, who lives with his dad Dale and stepmother Sandra.
"Because I wasn’t interested in rugby or football I was called ‘gay’ or a ‘t***’ in the corridors or on the school bus. There were several times where it got so bad that I just got off the bus and went home.
"One of the worst times was when someone Googled an old photograph of me as a little boy doing a charity carwash with my mum and they projected it onto the large screen in the classroom. They were calling me names and I tried to laugh it off but it was so hateful and humiliating.
"I couldn’t understand why they had so much of a vendetta against me. I had a few friends – mainly girls – but no one really stuck up for me. At lunchtimes I’d go and hide in the toilets but even there, I once found abusive graffiti about me on the back of the door.
"The teachers kept telling me it would get better if I persevered but it got to breaking point and my mental health was suffering. I couldn’t take it anymore."
In January 2019, Hodgson’s GP signed him off school for a month to help ease his anxiety.
"My mental health was at rock bottom and after I went back to school after that time off it was the worst three months of my life," he admits.
"In the end I simply said: ‘Enough is enough’ and despite lots of meetings and threats from the education authority about fines for my parents, I put my foot down. I’d been bullied terribly for nearly five years of my life and I wanted out.
"My parents were supportive and it wasn’t that I hated education – I actually loved English and business studies – but I prefer to learn by experience rather from a course-book.
"I don’t come from a family who run businesses – my parents work in the public sector and retail – but I’ve always been inspired by TV programmes like Dragon’s Den.
"My childhood dream was to own my own business so, when lockdown started, I decided to go for it. I had £25 to spend and £12 of that was spent on registering my business Platinum Live with Companies House."
Watch: Confessions: 'It was the first time in my life that I reacted to bullying'
Ollie’s local community embraced his entrepreneurial spirit and within weeks he had several clients.
"I was nervous that people might not take me seriously because of my age but if anything, it’s worked for me," he says.
"Not everyone understands the internet and social media yet I’ve been brought up in a digital world so it’s second nature to me. I can help those small businesses who might not understand it so well.
"It’s funny because at school I was always bullied for not being into sports and yet now I worked with someone from SAS Who Dares Wins, a professional rugby club and a gym – and they’re three of my favourite clients."
He is now turning over £4,000 a month and his dream is to eventually open up offices in Manchester and London. But he is in no rush to leave his local area just yet.
"There’s nothing better than getting out of bed every morning and doing what you do because you love it," he says.
"I hope the bullies at school meet as many interesting people from different backgrounds as I have through my job, because it really widens your world and changes your opinions – and they need to open up their minds."
Find out more: platinum-live.co.uk
Watch: See how this teenager is standing up to bullies through fashion