Great British Entrepreneurs Magazine (Spring 2019)

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who we are

francesca james Founder

adam stacey Awards & Project Manager

Welcome to the third issue of Great British Entrepreneurs Magazine, which arrives as we move into our seventh year of the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards. While very busy, it’s a hugely exciting time of year for us because it means we get to meet another swathe of the UK’s best entrepreneurial talent. In catching a glimpse of what the future has in store for British enterprise, we get to hear more amazing stories and business lessons to pass on to our readership. Our current issue holds two schools of thought up to the light: Does raw entrepreneurship or university offer the surest route to business success? From MOBO Awards founder, Kanya King CBE, to London Grace owner, Kirsten White, our question leads us to showcase a truly diverse set of individuals whose respective pathways to success are unique, moving and remarkable in equal measure. We culminate in a mouth-watering showdown between the worlds of academia and self-made business. If bruising at times, we trust the debate ultimately tells of a vibrant business ecosystem here UK, and an entrepreneurial landscape of unprecedented opportunity.

jonathan davies Co-Editor

chloe johnson Community & Events Exec

stephen white Co-Editor


Hannah Richards Graphic Designer

Mac Smith Video & Content Exec




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Oli Barrett MBE Serial entrepreneur and NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards Ambassador

How a book about sushi led me to where I am today In the year 2000, the great British entrepreneur Simon Woodroffe wrote ‘The Book of Yo!’. One of the many people who read it was a student at Leeds University. Yes, you’ve guessed it – me! In that little book were packed dozens of inspiring quotations which seasoned the story of how Simon, inspired by Japanese conveyor belt bars, went on to found the UK chain, Yo! Sushi. To me, he was the antithesis of the boring business leader - colourful, maverick and outspoken. A budding entrepreneur at the time, I simply had to meet him. Rather cheekily, I called his head office, asked for his mobile number, left a message, and wondered if I’d ever hear back. The next morning, I was staying with my parents when the phone rang. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I pressed the phone to my ear. It was the fruity baritone voice of Simon Woodroffe. My breathless pitch followed, and he told me, to my surprise, that he wanted to help. True to his word, he spoke at one of my company’s first events at nearby Sheffield University for no fee. Several weeks later, as a thank you, I asked to take him for a beer, in London. At the last minute he asked to bring a friend – “someone closer to your age”, who he thought I’d get on with. He was right, and that beer proved to be fairly important to me. His friend was Ben Way, who became my next business partner. Fifteen years later, I am at the 2015 NatWest Great British Entrepreneur

Awards gala final. All eyes are on the stage as a row of entrepreneurs share their stories. Is there a collective noun for entrepreneurs? Perhaps this year we should find one. For zebras it’s a ‘dazzle’ and for starlings a ‘murmuration’. For entrepreneurs, maybe a ‘cacophony’? Anyway, on this particular stage sits the King of Shaves, Will King. Next to him sits Toni Mascolo of Toni and Guy, who is sadly no longer with us, and next to him sits Simon Woodroffe. Interviewed by Shalini Khemka, they reflect on their journeys. The evening’s master of ceremonies, a former Leeds student, looks on. I share these sushi stories because they remind me that, alongside building a business, some of the best entrepreneurs take time to help others. They do this in so many ways, and Simon’s story reminds me of just three of them. Firstly, by inspiring others. Taking the time to share what they have learned and what they have found. By curating the nuggets of wisdom which they have discovered, they can help the next generation. Secondly, by giving their time. For me, it was the gift of a speech. For others it may be a phone call, or a coffee. For some it is the time, over email, to answer a few wellchosen questions. Finally, the power of thoughtful introductions. Thinking of that person who an entrepreneur should know. Perhaps a client, a customer, a journalist or an investor. In my case it was a business partner who changed my life, became a

friend and, along the way, became the first ever secret millionaire. These gifts, of inspiration, time and introductions need not take hours. With platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, a favourite book or article can be shared in seconds - an introduction can be made in minutes. Over the years I’ve noticed that there is a genuine desire amongst those who have built a company, to help others. Cast your eye down the judges of this year’s NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards and you’ll see dozens of examples of this kind of helpfulness. My encouragement to the next generation is to make it even easier to be helped. Seek out your role models. Write thoughtful, highly personalised notes. Of course, there is a fine line between hustle and hassle, however, sometimes a cheeky approach can pay dividends. It has for me, more than once. Eighteen years ago, I was inspired by a book about sushi. A phone call, a meeting and a beer later, and I was on a roll.




Hayley Parsons OBE: FOUNDER OF GO COMPARE a natural business talent Some get into enterprise through formal education, some stumble upon it after trying other jobs. Others, like Welsh entrepreneur Hayley Parsons, are simply destined to be in business. Cwmbran-born Hayley had no plans to go to university, but she did have clear long-term goals and was going to do things her own way, as she explains: “I didn’t have any big ideas about building a career, but my brother and I certainly had ambition. When we were younger, his dream was to own a flash BMW or Range Rover and mine was to own a red Ferrari. To be fair, we actually made it happen, but you could never have predicted how we’d do it.” Hayley admits to not being “the strongest pupil in school” and had a tendency to “bunk off on occasions”. Far from putting Hayley back into line, phone-calls home from the head teacher only fired up her resourcefulness, innovation and tenacity. “I would intercept the calls and pretend to be my mother on the phone. I knew how to talk to people,” she recalls. The talent would play a big role in Hayley’s later success – that initiative and willingness to put her neck on the line; the entrepreneurial spirit bubbling up, even at that early age. “My mother always said that I was quite stubborn, determined and pretty independent. I just knew that I wanted to earn my own money and pay my own way. There seemed to be no point in telling me what to do, that was for sure.” Upon finishing school at 16, Hayley secured a job at a nearby insurance brokers and picked up her ticket to adulthood. Rising to the top Settled into her vocation, Hayley’s drive for a more customerfacing position won her the promotion that would teach her

fundamental skills in an industry that she would eventually drag into the 21st century. “Back in those days you would calculate insurance rates using rating guides – it wasn’t computerised like it is today, so you’d have to be very precise to get everything right, policy and price.” Subsequent headhunting led to a tip-off about a company named Admiral that was becoming an industry force. Hayley jumped ship to the Welsh firm’s telesales team, and into a new role that, while rewarding, also brought a dream into sharper focus. “The job was great, but what I really wanted to do was set up an insurance brokerage for the company itself. I knew I had the knowledge and experience to make it work, so I kept knocking on the directors’ doors, asking for their approval. After lots of nagging, my perseverance paid off and I was allowed to start developing a concept we could launch as an in-house insurance brokers.”

My mother always said that I was quite stubborn, determined and pretty independent. I just knew that I wanted to earn my own money and pay my own way. There seemed to be no point in telling me what to do, that was for sure. The new role involved insuring high-performance cars and arranging cover for groups that paid the highest premiums. It was fun and exciting work – “a big change from Admiral’s normal business environment and we made a huge success of it,” Hayley says. All the while, the drive to work harder and reach the next level created new opportunities which would allow Hayley to leverage her rapidly developing skillset. Opportunity knocked in the form of, a start-up under the Admiral umbrella. 7

Revolutionising an industry took “five years of blood, sweat and tears to establish”. The insurance sector was ripe for development and modernisation, thanks to technological advances and an expansion of digital marketplaces. It brought the insurance comparison model to life and allowed customers to search online for insurance, rather than using their local broker. But the industry needed someone to champion and drive this model – someone with the right skills and knowledge to read the shifting market landscape and argue the case for change. “I had to persuade the other insurance companies that we needed to re-model the distribution of insurance; soon everything would be online and that they needed to come on board. “The message was disruptive and did not go down too well. Also, I knew that customers would have to be helped and guided through new buying habits for insurance. The process of buying a policy had gone from a shop on the high street to the telephone, and now it was online.

Gio Compario

“Technology was a springboard for the early success of Confused. But there was also a great attitude in the Admiral Group, which always embraced new ways of operating and thinking about how insurance could work.”

After eight fantastic years building the company up from nothing, Hayley left Go Compare in 2014, at which time the firm was valued at £190 million. The departure put her name in the headlines, but consumers had long been familiar with her marketing genius through an infamous moustachioed ‘Italian’. “We needed something different. I wanted an annoyingly catchy song and a name that would get stuck in everybody’s heads. Gio Compario and his singing really helped us to nail that. I didn’t care what anybody else thought of the campaign – I just loved it and still do.” “Gio – aka opera singer, Wynne Evans – has since become one of my best friends. If we’re ever out on international day in Cardiff he has to suffer a fair amount of ‘Go Compare’ sung out as people recognise him in the street, but he doesn’t mind. He loves Gio as much as I do.”

Taking the leap

Lessons learnt in business

Hayley had helped build to the great success it was, but she still felt that the insurance industry could deliver

Today, Hayley nurtures the UK’s future enterprise talent, investing in businesses from start-ups to more established firms

I had to persuade the other insurance companies that we needed to re-model the distribution of insurance; soon everything would be online.


improved results for customers through a more sophisticated site. So she quit her job and fulfilled a lifelong desire to work for herself by building a business from scratch. “I woke up the day after resigning, knowing that I had to make this happen. I had the drive, passion and knowledge to make it work. I knew the comparison site model could evolve further, and I had a wealth of working relationships that would help me do this.” With a little help from her friends and using the kitchen table for an office, Hayley’s team put together a more consumer-focused comparison site model. Before long, a conversation with an investor led to £1.5 million in funding and Go Compare was born.

Left : Backing the fast expanding tech group, Inspiretec. Middle : Standing proud with the Welsh dragon. Right : Hayley with Gio Compario from the infamous adverts.

and mentoring entrepreneurs, and also through her membership of the Inspire Growth Wales investment consortium. With no formal business training, how and where she acquire the skills to succeed? Similar to many leaders, self-confidence and an ability to learn on the job are cited among cornerstones to education. “I trust and go with my gut; if it feels right, then it probably is right, but if it goes wrong, don’t dwell on it – learn and move on,” she explains. Understanding human behaviours and how relationships work has also played a pivotal role, whether it’s creating an iconic advertising campaign, or dealing with people on a daily basis. “I’ve learnt not to put awkward conversations off; always be open and honest, deal with issues as soon as they arise and manage the situation as soon as possible. “Those who have helped you get off the ground may not be the people you need ten years down the line. An awareness of how role requirements can change is important if you’re to have the flexibility to go with the flow. Difficult decisions could mean falling out with friends and colleagues, so it’s important to handle situations with care and respect. Always treat people as kindly and fairly as you would expect to be treated yourself.”

I trust and go with my gut; if it feels right, then it probably is right, but if it goes wrong, don’t dwell on it – learn and move on. Now with two boys of her own, Hayley is better placed than most to pass judgement on pathways into enterprise, but feels entrepreneurs are mainly born with attributes that help them become business people. “It’s a question of nature, rather than nurture. [Entrepreneurs] have specific traits; we can be difficult or simply an absolute pain

in the ass. We like having things our own way, we’re determined, and we keep going no matter what.” “I worked my backside off for five years to put myself in a position which would allow me to realise my dreams, and almost everything else had to go by the wayside. That’s the kind of determination you need as a starting block to success in business. It was also a lot of fun and at the end of it all I’ve managed to get the freedom and choice of how I live my life from now on,” she adds. As for the value of school and education, Hayley is characteristically pragmatic. “School wasn’t for me, but getting a good education is essential for budding entrepreneurs. More than learning about the three Rs, school is about interacting with other people, gaining confidence and learning about yourself. It was where I found my drive, determination and diligence. “My boys know the importance of hard work; they’ve seen their mummy do it all their lives. They know that with passion, determination and a bit of bloody mindedness they might also, one day, be able to buy their own red Ferraris.” 9


the winners of each category across all five cities CREATIVE INDUSTRIES ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR BIRMINGHAM: Jo Ham, HAM Cardiff: Grant Mansfield, Plimsoll Productions Edinburgh: Veoeani Krishnal, Quick Block Ltd London: Serena Guen, SUITCASE Group Manchester: Carole Laine, Cats Pyjamas Productions Ltd

Entrepreneurs’ Champion of the Year Birmingham: Gemma Went, Gemma Went Ltd

Entrepreneur for Good Award

Entrepreneurial Spirit Award



Alex Nash, Alcuris

Rachel & Tru Powell, Kandy Girl



Stephanie Wheen, Gympanzees

Peter Kelly & Kieron Yeoman, Imployable



Alan Mahon, Brewgooder

Jon Erasmus, Hop Software Ltd



Nick Aldridge, PayPal Giving Fund UK

Martha Silcott, FabLittleBag



Julie Anne Parker, Million Stars Sustainable Events Ltd

Sally Fielding, Sally’s Cottages

Entrepreneurs’ Team of the Year

Family Business Entrepreneur of the Year

Birmingham: Matt Jones, Oxbridge Home Learning



Charles Oliver Hassall, Falcon Contract Flooring Sales Ltd

Jamie McGowan, Welsh ICE

Lee Powell & Faith Olding, Apollo Teaching Services




Conrad Ford, Funding Options

Mark Wright, Climb Online



Maggie O’Carroll, The Women’s Organisation

Steven Rawlingson, Samuel Knight International


Dom & Ali Beaven, Prezola Edinburgh: Jo Milne, Mascot Group London: Mike & Alison Battle, Lapland UK Manchester: Christine & Jenny Chau, Charley Chau Ltd

Innovation Entrepreneur of the Year

Scale-Up Entrepreneur of the Year

Service Industries Entrepreneur of the Year




Dr Nik Kotecha OBE, Morningside Pharmaceuticals Ltd

Juliet & Alan Barratt, Grenade

Arjun Panesar & Charlotte Summers, Diabetes Digial Media

Cardiff: Lelia Francis Coleman & Tom Whelan, AquaPhysical Edinburgh: Denis Lynn, Finnebrogue London: Ruby Raut & Dave Slocombe, WUKA Ltd Manchester:


Cardiff: Alex LovĂŠn, Net World Sports Edinburgh:

Mick Lindsay, Mocean Edinburgh:

Jo-Anne Chidley, Beauty Kitchen London:

Alex Barron, TriyIt London:

Adam Ludwin & Dominic Joseph, Captify Manchester:

Andrew Hulbert, Pareto FM Manchester:

Paul Rothwell, Empire Property Concepts Jackie Mulligan, ShopAppy Ltd

Louis-James Davis, VST Enterprises

2018 natwest great british entrepreneur awards regional winners Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year

Start-Up Entrepreneur of the Year

Young Entrepreneur of the Year




Joanna Hilditch, White Heron Brands Ltd

Tom Walker & Gaz Booth, Holy Moly Dips

Omar Sacranie, Saints of Mokha




Daniel Manley & Heleen Lamm, Big Blue Adventures

Ieuan Rosser, Freight Logistics Solutions

Chris Rundle, GK Signs & Screenprint Ltd



Edinburgh: Jamie Douglas-Hamilton, ACTIPH Water

Michael Harkins, Turtle Pack

Sean Walls & Carla DiMambro, The Optical Factory & Hearing Clinic




Pippa Murray, Pip & Nut

Jamie Bolding, Jungle Creations

Peter Grainger, CafePod Coffee Company




Carley Jones, Kettlebell Kitchen

Robert Byrne, Franklin Energy

Kenny Macfarlane, Handrail Creations Ltd


The Grenade® story is one of roll-your-sleeves-up hard work and a commitment to doing things better. Founded in 2009, their mission was simple. As sports supplement distributors they’d grown tired of selling a bunch of stuff that looked and sounded the same. So they set about creating products that people would actively seek out and remember. Their first attempt at a weight loss formula was so effective a friend described the results as explosive, ‘like a grenade’. That product became Thermo Detonator® and Grenade® became the name they were looking for. Over the following years their team grew, alongside a product family bursting with personality (and greattasting, high-quality ingredients). Today, Grenade® continues to pride itself on making each product and formulation as unique as possible. Products that exceed label claims and go beyond the seen-it-all-before sports nutrition stereotypes. It’s a 12

“A really great story. Grenade is a very strong brand with really exciting prospects. It is also in a really interesting segment of the market.” DARREN BOOCOCK, DELOITTE commitment that’s seen Grenade® named as one of the UK’s fastest growing companies, as well as being featured in The Sunday Times’ Fast Track Top 100 in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. They are just as passionate and hands on as they were on day one. Be that new product development, trademarking, global marketing or looking after the logistics of having customers in over 80 countries, life’s never dull at Grenade®. That simple mission has now grown into establishing Grenade® as a global lifestyle brand. One that represents life athletes the world over.


Samantha Evans and Shauna Guinn quit their careers and travelled to America in 2012 – 2013 on a road trip of epic proportions to find out ‘what exactly is American slow and low barbecue?’ Their adventures saw them help cook for a rodeo in Houston (smoking 50 briskets, 300 chickens and 500 racks of spare rib!), help an old mountain man repair his even older drum smoker deep in the Appalachians and being entrusted with spice rub secrets that they have to ‘take to the grave’. They attended masterclasses by competition winning barbecuers and travelled around the southern states eating all the major state variations. Since arriving back, Sam & Shauna, affectionately known as ‘The First Ladies of ‘Cue’ have taken the slow and low world by storm. They have a restaurant in Barry and a pop up stall. Sam and Shauna were working eighteen hour days and cruising around in their food truck come BBQ

“Great idea! Love the concept and vision. To pull something like that off, complete dedication and whole hearted commitment and passion to the cause is almost a given. More power to their grill!” ALAN WHITELEY, FARSIGHT GROUP shack. Serving Southern style cooking to bar flies in the back of closing down pubs to major music festivals and everything in between. From the outside it’s the evolution of a successful business, on the inside it’s two women quitting their jobs, busking across America, living off the generosity of friends, pulling together skills, trusting and believing in each other, a lot of hard work and the accumulation of the three things they love. Food. Music. People. 13


Alan started Brewgooder with a simple but ambitious mission: to bring 1,000,000 people clean drinking water through the power of beer. For him, beer was the most social consumer on the planet, often criticised when used anti-socially, its positive social power - if harnessed towards a singular mission - could be unparalleled. Alan understood from the beginning that an ambitious mission required an unconventional business model that would allow for scalability from day one, a realisation that led him to persue a collaborative business model which combined expertise and efficiency in an industry which he had no experience in. He teamed up with BrewDog to brew a Clean Water Lager beer and JW Filshill in Scotland to provide seamless logistical capacity, knowing that both these partnerships were pivotal to bring a quality beer to the biggest possible market to allow consumers the 14

“Enterprising, innovative, well led with articulate vision and plans as well as making a difference to people’s lives. This has the potential to be a global player, and is a great example to other social enterprises about how to start, build and develop a successful business.” MEL YOUNG, THE HOMELESS WORLD CUP choice to drink beer and give water. Alongside this he established the Brewgooder Foundation as the parent charity of the company to maximise the transparency and accountability of Brewgooder and to ensure that 100% of profits could be sustainably invested in bringing more and more people clean drinking water. Brewgooder has helped fund 65 projects in Malawi which have brought 40,000 people clean drinking water.


Pip & Nut is a natural food brand challenging the idea that food has to be either delicious or nutritious – Their mission is to help people love food that loves them. They seek to bring the fun to health foods in the supermarket, and appeal to a younger health conscious demographic. Pip bought her first blender and begun experimenting at home with flavours. Whilst keeping up her fulltime job, she sold her nut butters on Maltby Street Market at the weekends. This phase was vital to test if there was a demand for her product with actual buyers, and hone her recipes. Scaling up was the next step, and one of the hardest parts of the journey. Finding a partner who could not only make the product but also willing to take a punt on a new idea was difficult. But after eight months of searching she secured a manufacturing partner. With product and brand sorted, the last step was funding. Six months before launching the brand she

“Brilliant to see how Pip has grown a company that not only has a strong brand that appeals to a new market but is also environmentally and health conscious, solving a problem that the market needed. The growth has been phenomenal in such a short space of time.” EJ PACKE, THE SUPPER CLUB

crowdfunded the brand raising £120k in just nine days and added 80 investors to the business. Pip & Nut is now stocked in the UK’s four largest supermarkets as well as internationally. They’ve launched 23 products, have recently been valued at £13.5 million in their last fundraise, and built a team of 13 including the newest member at the Nest, Pip’s puppy Charlie! 15


Christine is an accidental entrepreneur. She never thought she would end up running her own business, so the last eight years spent nurturing Charley Chau have been a wholly unexpected joy. Charley Chau makes beautiful bedding for dogs that look gorgeous in your home, it was a company founded out of a love for dogs. It all started on the sitting room floor, her second dog arrived and she needed a new dog bed. Christine had bought around a dozen in the previous twelve months that were all sub-standard, regardless of the price tag, and all ended up in the bin. She decided to make one. She created what is now their signature Snuggle Bed, not with any thought of trying to create a business but simply because she wanted her dogs to be as comfortable as caninely possible, plus she wanted the bed to look smart in her sitting room. Christine posted a photo of the bed on Facebook and was inundated with requests. She set out to start 16

“A passion combined with fantastic business skills and a personal and professional awareness illustrated by the entrepreneur mean this business is going from strength to strength. Their focus and enthusiasm literally jumped off the page.� HELENE PANZARINO, GBEA AMBASSADOR designing the most beautiful dog beds in the UK, comfortable, and made to the highest standards. She named the company after Charley, her first dog, and after two years it was clear that there was potential in her quirky little hobby Her elder sister, Jenny, joined her on this adventure, and Charley Chau now has customers in over fortyfive countries.


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National Westminster Bank plc. Registered in England and Wales No. 929027. Registered Office: 135 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3UR. Financial Services Firm Reference Number 121878. We are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Get time on your side. Spend less on accounting, and more on what counts. With a designated finance expert on hand, we’ll take the stress out of cash flow and bring your finances to life using best-in-class technology, tracking real-time performance 24/7 and providing critical insights for fast growth organisations. With Propel by Deloitte at your side, you can re-focus and invest your energy back into the key activities that you know drives your business towards growth. Find more information via our website, tailored especially for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. Š 2018 Deloitte LLP. All rights reserved.

Q&A Did you ever think that what you started age 11 could turn into a feasible business? When did you realise you could turn it into a real business?

young entrepreneurs. I would never have got to where I am today without the support of my team and mentors and so I see the value in passing this on to other young people.

BT: When I started my business, I was purely doing it for fun and some extra pocket money; I never saw it as a business until aged 13 when my grandad opened my eyes to what I was doing and the potential I had.

What advice would you give to teenagers who might want to go into business?

Did you always want to be an entrepreneur? I never really thought about being an entrepreneur when I was growing up; I was debating between becoming a politician or something in IT for quite some time. Was it difficult to balance studies and freelancing, and did you receive support on your journey?

Self-Starter: Ben Towers Q&A

It was very difficult! Having people working for me trying to contact me whilst I was working or in exams was not easy. My school couldn’t provide me with any business support but they did allow me days off to go to meetings and conferences which was amazing! Of course, not everyone was supportive but I made it my mission to surround myself with the right people. who inspires you on your business journey?

When Ben Towers was 11, a family member challenged him to design a website. It was the start of Towers Design, a full-service marketing company that employed 22 people and counted names such as Twitter and Wolters Kluwer among its clients.

I have always been inspired by my grandad, his lifestyle as an entrepreneur and being your own boss. I admire the business acumen of entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson and Elon Musk.

In April 2017, Ben oversaw a multi-million-pound merger of Towers Design with Zest The Agency. He now works as a marketing consultant for some of the UK’s leading brands and delivers keynotes at conferences around the world.

You’ve been described as ‘one of the most influential entrepreneurs on the planet’. To what extent do you feel you’re a role model for aspiring young entrepreneurs, and is it a role that you enjoy?

We caught up with the Gillingham-born businessman who Richard Branson has labelled “one of the UK’s most exciting entrepreneurs.”

For me it is super important to give back and help other

Just do it! You can spend ages planning things out; just give it a go. Start young – what you lack is experience, but you also don’t have all of the financial and responsibility pressures you will face when you are older. Also, don’t try and go for investment from day one – find ways to prove your concept works first. What has been your biggest challenge in business so far, and how did you overcome it? I would say it has been trying to get people to respect me as a young business owner, but over time as I started to have a stronger portfolio of clients, I was able to prove myself a lot more and gain the respect which allowed us to generate more sales. To what extent is young age a barrier/enabler to business? I think that things are getting much easier for young people to start a business. I was fortunate enough to become the first ever under-18 in the UK to get a business bank account. I hope help like this will be available to more young people. What does 2019 hold for you? You mentioned a TV show on Twitter?! I am doing some exciting TV and radio work, speaking at conferences and also launching a new app to help attack issues like obesity and diabetes. Helping people to make healthier life choices and using peer-to-peer health support and plans. @TowersBen 19

GETTING THE BALL ROLLING Joseph Clarke is the manager of Spartacus Bubble Soccer, a Liverpool-based company whose hilarious take on the beautiful game is taking the nation by storm. Part football, part human dodgems, bubble soccer has to be seen to be believed. Think regular five-a-side soccer, but with each participant wearing bubble armour – “giant bubble suits that give special powers, letting you safely bump your opponents a few hundred feet through the air,” explains the website blurb. Scoring a goal gets forgotten, as players turn into human wrecking balls, sending opponents rolling and bouncing across the terrain as they compete for possession. Uniting the British demands of footy and carnage, and the game is as fun as it is mesmerising. Turbulent early years Joe’s business might sell organised chaos on the pitch, but bubble soccer has brought stability to his life beyond the lines of play. Low concentration and motivation at school meant he didn’t turn up to some of his GCSE exams. Things subsequently went from bad to worse when a string of unfulfilling jobs led Joe to mix with the wrong crowd and fall into trouble with the police. “I wasn’t the person I wanted to be,” he reflects. Back then, he would have been forgiven for not predicting a life on the entrepreneurial straight and narrow. His school, now closed down, never gave “any hint” that the vocation was an option. However, Joe was not devoid of acumen. 20

“In the play-ground I sold all kinds – not just usual sweets or confectionary either. I remember I was selling South Park toys at one point. I have always been selling something or thinking of some business idea, but never actually went for it or took it seriously until much later on in my life,” he reflects. “Not many kids growing up from where I’m from get exposed to business, so they lack the guidance or support needed to get one off the ground,” he explains. Joe’s strictly extracurricular education in enterprise was also helped by his passion for reading; he thrived off business biographies which opened his eyes to “how [entrepreneurs] turn a simple idea into a hugely successful commercial success.” “The stories of their struggles and challenges, how they overcame them and how they never gave up was very inspiring. Hard work and persistence always came out on top, and that’s something I’ve taken into my business,” he says. A new life While watching bubble soccer for the first time on TV’s The Only Way Is Essex, the man from Netherton, Liverpool saw through the fun to perceive a more serious calling – the chance to become his own boss. A quick net-search led him to The Prince’s Trust website where he read how many young people had been helped out of similarly disadvantaged situations and into a life in business. Joe took his idea of renting out zorb balls onto The Prince’s Trust Enterprise

ARTICLE of Enterprise Programme for North of England. “The biggest challenge which faced Joe was that he had an idea of what he wanted to do but very little practical knowledge of how to actually do it. The Trust helped him to do market research and develop a strategy to evidence that his idea was viable and then to follow this strategy through to sales,” he adds. A fresh outlook In 2017, Joe’s remarkable achievements were recognised when he won the North-West regional Prince’s Trust Enterprise award. “I got to go to Manchester for the ceremony with my mum and dad, which was a proud moment for all of us,” he remembers. Acknowledging young people who have overcome barriers and achieved success in creating a sustainable business, a community or social enterprise, the award topped off years of hard work, during which time Joe went through character-building highs and lows. “[The business] gave me a passion and focus that I’ve never experienced before. I honestly don’t feel like I work anymore. I actually get grumpy if I don’t work now. There are definitely really tough days and hard times, but you deal with those and carry on. Being the boss, success or failure were down to me. I struggled for a long time to fully let go of my old life and behaviours, but I persisted and never gave up. Before I knew it, I was running a successful business and was on a different path.” “My confidence has grown massively, and I’ve met so many interesting and talented people along the way who have gone out of their way to help me.” Advice to budding entrepreneurs

programme, along with the determination to make a business work. “The Trust gave me loads of pointers, made sure I did my market research, and helped me write a business plan complete with a list of potential customers and costings. Based on that, they gave me money to start up my zorb football business, Spartacus Bubble Soccer,” he says. Thriving in this new environment, Joe connected with proactive mindsets that had been missing from his life. People believed in him, and this gave him the power to escape the vicious circle his life had become. “They surround you with positive individuals who genuinely want to help. The support network is unique to anywhere else as the people who guide you have had successful careers and businesses themselves. “But for me, it was never about the money. It was about getting help to move away from my negative lifestyle – and that’s what The Prince’s Trust did,” he adds. Two years down the line, Spartacus Bubble Soccer is fulfilling its remit to “create special memories through exciting shared experiences.” The firm’s offering has expanded to include combat archery, football darts and glow ball – Joe’s own creation – and expansion into the Manchester market beckons. The Prince’s Trust saw Joe’s potential and gave him the tools he needed to turn his dream into a reality. “The trust helped Joe develop the initial idea that he had into a workable proposition with full costings and assisted with funding in order for him to start his business,” says Mathew Holt, Head

Understandably, Joe’s experiences have made him a strong advocate for youngsters being more exposed to enterprise as a career choice. “A business GSCE is a no-brainer for me, it should definitely be more widely offered in schools,” he says, citing the “purpose and focus” that business mentoring can bring. He is equally clear-sighted on the benefits awaiting those willing to roll up their sleeves. “Start today – there is no right moment. I waited twelve years before the ‘time was right’. If you commit to it 100 percent, it will be the best thing you ever do, I guarantee that. “Persistence is probably the most important thing. You don’t have to start strong-minded and confident – those [virtues] will come in time, but you need to really want it. At the start, I wanted to give up many times because I had no money and was getting nowhere fast. But I never gave in and now it’s finally starting to pay off; I love what I do.” Future goals Critical of current trends that see ‘an experience’ amounting to little more than rented warehouse full of inflatable obstacles, Joe now has his sights set on driving value and revolutionising the events business. His latest creation, The Romans, is a Roman-themed outdoor activity park where up to 16 teams will compete to win the ‘Emperor’s Games’, with the final battle being staged in a purpose-built colosseum. Joe hopes it will become the “biggest and most fun attraction in Liverpool.” “I will then move to other big cities in the UK, Ireland and other popular holiday destinations around Europe,” he adds. With Bubble Soccer already an established success, few would doubt Joe’s ability to conquer the events industry on a global scale. 21


Believe. Support. Donate.




Having launched Gymshark from his parents’ house in 2012 at just 19, Ben Francis has gone on to build one of the fastest growing companies in the UK. With a hugely dedicated social media following and a team of influencers promoting the brand, Gymshark is on course to break the £100 million turnover milestone in 2018. Ben is used to smashing it in the gym, so we gave him some quickfire questions to smash as well.

Tell us about the business Gymshark exists to inspire people to be a visionary in all that they do. Gymshark was founded in 2012 and is now a leading, sports and fitness clothing brand, which delivers superior gym wear and accessories. In 2018, it is on course to hit a £100 million turnover.

people join the company, so it has become a much more peopleoriented life. What motivates you?

In its short existence, Gymshark has already served over 1.2 million customers, processed over 2.3 million orders and currently employs more than 160 people.

I want to inspire as many people as I can and leave a legacy.

What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur?

I’m inspired by Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Gary Vaynerchuk.

Working towards a greater purpose and creating something that is bigger than any individual.

What has been your best day in business so far?

What’s the hardest? The relentless nature of our insane growth. There’s no time to rest. What are the biggest barriers you’ve faced as an entrepreneur?

Who inspires you?

My favourite day was opening GSHQ – our new state-of-the-art 42,000 sq ft headquarters based in Solihull. It launched in April this year and will allow us to continue to grow as both a brand and a team. How do you start your day? Breakfast at GSHQ!

The most difficult thing for me was learning to trust others to do the things in the business that I used to do. What has been your most stressful time as an entrepreneur? Learning to trust others. I will always be the Founder of Gymshark and will always have an active role in the company, but for Gymshark to continue to thrive, I have had to learn to trust others with the day-to-day running of certain parts of the business. Is being an entrepreneur different to how you imagined it would be? It’s a lot more people-oriented than I thought it would be. Starting Gymshark was quite solitary. The bigger it gets, more and more

How do you stay productive during the day? Gymshark has a unique dynamic and collaborative working environment, which helps me to perform at the best of my ability and benefits the productivity of the wider company too. What do you do to unwind? Spend time with my girlfriend, Robin, and ride my motorbike. What’s your favourite business book? Instead of reading, I love listening to podcasts such as Russell Brand, Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris. 23





Restoring THE BALANCE Now in its 23rd year, the annual MOBO (music of black origin) Awards has made household names of the likes of Stormzy, Emily Sandé, Skepta and Ms Dynamite, simultaneously mainstreaming genres such as soul, RnB, urban and grime.

It’s part of a remarkable evolution that can be traced back to the exploits of Kanya King, who founded the Awards back in 1996. Many business owners succeed by tapping into trends, but back then Kanya was creating something totally new. Through the blur of cool Britannia, she saw she saw a void in the music industry’s representation of certain forms in popular music at a time when the winners’ rostrum at the BRIT Awards was conspicuously indie-white. While it was no time to talk about race and gender inequality, “there was a gradual realisation growing up of being surrounded by artists who were immensely talented but frustrated by the lack of awareness of their creativity,” Kanya says. Initially ostracised for her ideas, Kanya organised and booked the inaugural MOBO Awards in just six weeks, even remortgaging her house to support TV production. It was a huge success that has led to the show becoming a regular fixture on the global A-lister’s calendar. But with no background or education in enterprise, how did she manage it? 25

Kanya explains: “There is a saying: ‘You don’t know what you don’t know’, and that very much rings true. The biggest challenge I faced was having no network in a completely new industry, which was daunting. Not having anyone with business experience to turn to for advice can be very isolating and lonely. In running a business, it is important to have people to share experiences with without feeling judged,” she says. “It was tough to handle, but I prevailed; however difficult it was for me, it was nothing compared to what my parents had to go through.” Early challenges The youngest of nine, Kanya’s turbulent childhood in Kilburn, north London, shines a light on the mindset of an individual who would go on to become one of the UK’s leading business figures. Her Ghanaian father, whose strong African accent attracted racist comments, died when Kanya was just 13, leaving her Irish mother struggling to keep a roof over their heads. Working to support the household finances gave Kanya “the inner drive and motivation to overcome the precarious life that being an entrepreneur can be.”

Hard work pays off It was while working as a TV researcher and organising reggae and RnB gigs in London, that Kanya began to start thinking more seriously about creating something new “We used to sit around my friend’s kitchen table and bounce ideas around. When you believe in something wholeheartedly, you use every opportunity to research and refine how you can make it work,” she remembers. “I unknowingly met the MD of an ITV network at Highbury (Arsenal Football Club’s stadium at the time); I couldn’t resist telling him that I had this great TV idea. He asked me to send in a proposal and I immediately followed this up. A week later I was in a meeting with the head of entertainment pitching the show.” Cultural evolution The pitch was a success, as were the subsequent 22 years of the Awards’ history. But the MOBOs’ recognition for black and minority ethnic artistic talent today sends a message of inclusivity which surpasses commercial success. “At the heart of MOBO lies the idea that music and creativity are powerful expressions of identity, capable of transcending racial and cultural division – an effective tool for social activism. I wanted to inspire others to step beyond what the world expects of them to pursue their own dreams and ambitions. I wanted every young person from every community, family, city to have an equal chance to progress in life.” This ethic also informs Kanya’s outlook as an entrepreneur. “Changing the status quo is an economic imperative because diversity is among the most important predictors of increased revenue and profitability. The drive for lasting impact should come from the entrepreneurial community. “Business leaders need to stay ahead of the curve to survive, by foreseeing how the landscape will be changed by new entrants. With new waves of start-ups coming in, the average lifespan of companies has dropped dramatically, so to still be around and relevant over two decades later is something we are not complacent about.” making IT HAPPEN

“I did not want the same rollercoaster for my own life,” Kanya says, but tougher tests were to come when, following the birth of her son, she was forced to drop out of school. What would make lesser individuals crumble only galvanised 16-year-old Kanya, who had been told by her careers adviser that she “might make manager at the local Sainsbury’s one day.” But her ambition flourished, and Kanya went to Goldsmiths College to study English literature. “I had enormous responsibilities at a young age so had to make different choices from my peers. At university, most students stayed in halls of residence, had fun and built friendships, whereas I had to rush home after lectures to pick up my son. I ended up getting kicked out of because I was not attending enough lectures. The combination of studying and holding a job took its toll.” 26

Kanya was named one of London’s Most Influential People by the London Evening Standard in 2011, among many other accolades, but only an CBE put an end to her mother asking when Kanya would “get a proper job”. The MOBOs’ founder is more down to earth in identifying her breakthrough moment. “[It] was when I realised that actually there is no right time to launch a business. It will happen when you make it happen regardless of the climate you are in and obstacles in your life. “I have created most opportunities for myself having been unsuccessful in getting a job in the creative industries. Like a lot of jobs, it is dependent on who you know rather than what you know. Therefore, venturing out on my own and becoming entrepreneurial seemed like the only option to getting on. “When I launched the MOBO Awards, I was told that there was not an audience for such an event, that the music industry would not get behind it, no-one would support it and that I was wasting my time and energy. I shut out all the noise and detractors and launched the concept at the Ministry of Sound with many artists supporting the concept, and said we needed the MOBOs to readdress the imbalance in music. “We have some major plans to elevate our brand to a higher level and wider base by working with the top global companies out

there. We want to leverage our intellectual property and focus on expanding our market via licensing our brand in different markets and segments. Licensing is one of the fastest and most powerful ways to expand the business working with partners for winwin opportunities. As to me personally, doing this will free up my time and allow me to focus on my strengths, bring in more opportunities and leverage the brand. Exciting times overall!” Lessons for future entrepreneurs Aware of how the digital revolution has brought down the costs of setting up in business, Kanya says that more needs to be done to develop educational pathways so that our young entrepreneurial talent gets a chance to grow. “I strongly believe in internships to gain business experience, financial education in schools and mentoring – things that will help young entrepreneurs. I have recently joined the New Entrepreneurs Foundation (NEF) in an advisory role which is doing just this. It is a not-for-profit organisation that runs development programmes for aspiring entrepreneurs, designed to support the next generation of UK entrepreneurs building new businesses.

I wanted to inspire others to step beyond what the world expects of them to pursue their own dreams and ambitions. I wanted every young person from every community, family, city to have an equal chance to progress in life.


“The programmes have several components including paid work placements, learning and development workshops, coaching, mentor ships and a speaker series. As of now, NEF has developed nearly 200 entrepreneurial ventures of which over 60 remain active and with more than £10 million investment raised and over 600 jobs created,” she says. Thinking back to the early careers advice she received, Kanya’s intrinsic self-belief and work ethic led her to succeed despite her formative years in education, not because of them, and this has turned her into a business role model in the purest sense. Her experiences are passed on in talks at schools and colleges, where she gives youngsters the supportive messages she never had. “I started from humble beginnings with practically no guidance, financial or otherwise, yet have managed to build a global brand by being very driven and persistent, overcoming numerous challenges along the way. If I am a role model for female entrepreneurs, it is something I am proud of.” Kanya advises: “Never lose faith in what you are doing – if you believe in something wholeheartedly, put all the necessary energy into it and stick to it until you either reach your goal or find out that you may want to pursue a different path. You need to know when to call it quits and when to double down and separate emotion and logic. Be passionate about the bigger picture and not about the little details.” “Self-confidence is one of the most important elements for women entrepreneurs: stay positive and try to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances. Don’t be afraid of challenges and invest in personal growth and dreams.”

I started from humble beginnings with practically no guidance, financial or otherwise, yet have managed to build a global brand by being very driven and persistent, overcoming numerous challenges along the way. If I am a role model for female entrepreneurs, it is something I am proud of!

“ 28

Great British Entrepreneur Awards - Presenting -



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THE MINI ROARS LIKE A LION The lion is fierce and bold, but it’s also MINI… At least in the case of S3 Advertising. After founder Matt Jones picked up the national Creative Industries Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2017 at the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards, category sponsor MINI supplied S3 with a Countryman, which the advertising agency branded in its trademark lion design. 31

S3 launched from a dark attic eight years ago when Matt had just £75 to his name. He had spent years working for large advertising agencies, but came to realise that big brands were ignoring Welsh advertising agencies, even the Welsh brands. So he decided to launch S3, which would focus on creativity, transparency and boldness, creating an ad agency the big brands, from Wales and further afield would want to go. We caught up with Matt to hear all about the MINI and his entrepreneurial journey.

THE LION DESIGN ON THE MINI COUNTRYMAN LOOKS GREAT, MATT! TELL US ABOUT THE THINKING BEHIND IT. The lion is emblematic of S3 Advertising agency. Since the very start we knew that a lion represented us – it’s fierce and bold – and also slightly aggressive in terms of new business wins. So, when we had the 32

opportunity of branding the car, the first thing that came into our minds to make the car stand out was to design it as a lion.

in Cardiff and Wales see it. And to be proud of the fact that we won the Creative Industries award at the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards.

WHAT HAS IMPRESSED YOU MOST ABOUT THE CAR, AND HOW HAS IT YOU FAMOUSLY STARTED S3 ASSISTED THE BUSINESS SO FAR? FROM YOUR ATTIC WITH £75 TO YOUR NAME. AT WHAT POINT DID It stands out from the crowd and gets ENTREPRENEURSHIP SEEM LIKE A plenty of attention when it’s being driven around the city centre, and that’s what S3 REALISTIC CAREER PATH TO YOU? is all about. The graphics, the way the car is, it’s a fabulous car. It’s a 10 foot lion driving around the city and that’s what good advertising does, it appeals to people.

HAVE YOU GOT ANY SPECIAL PLANS FOR THE CAR? Just to keep on showcasing it around the city centre and keep making sure that people are noticing us, that the public

From the off, really. I’ve been in the industry for about 17 years, but when I first started S3, I’d been working for other people for so long, I felt it was about time that I started going it alone. I think I stepped onto this planet being an entrepreneur, started my own business, and a few weeks into it I knew that was the right path for me – being my own boss.

LOOK TO THE GROWING NETWORK OF SIMILAR ENTREPRENEURS AND GO TO THEM FOR ADVICE. NEVER BE SCARED TO ASK PEOPLE FOR HELP. DOES MORE NEED TO BE DONE TO PROMOTE ENTREPRENEURSHIP AS A LEGITIMATE CAREER OPTION IN SCHOOLS AND EDUCATION? Absolutely! I have two sons, being a dad and being in business, it’s definitely helped to open their eyes to starting something of their own rather than being employed. I definitely think entrepreneurship in schools should be more considered because it will get more businesses off the ground and help our economy.

It’s fantastic, I left school with no qualifications, I set up this business to give a better life for myself and my family. As I’ve grown over the last eight years, the business has also grown; we’ve accrued more clients, more awards. But that’s not what you focus on really, you just focus on doing a good job. So, when you get a NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Award, it’s a massive accomplishment. It means a lot to be recognised.

YOU’RE OBVIOUSLY SOMEONE WHO REALLY LOVES WHAT THEY DO. BUT WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF YOUR WORK? WHEN YOU BEGAN, YOU SAID YOU I think it’s the pressure that comes with WERE STARTING A COMPANY WITH it. When you reach a certain level, I think A CULTURE BUILT ON ‘CREATIVITY, you’re competing against yourself and TRANSPARENCY AND BOLDNESS’. with how well you’ve done in the past. It’s about staying ahead of your game, HOW MUCH DO YOU ATTRIBUTE that’s tough. Also, being responsible for S3’S SUCCESS TO THAT CULTURE? 35 members of staff, and then making sure that you’re paying the bills and providing a great service to clients.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE THAT YOU CAN GIVE TO AN ENTREPRENEUR? Find a good support network. Find people who will be there to help you. There are loads of great initiatives to help entrepreneurs, but I think look to the growing network of similar entrepreneurs and go to them for advice. Never be scared to ask people for help. That would be my advice.

All of it. As I said, I’ve been in the industry for a long time, but the idea of S3 was firstly to keep our talent in Wales instead of going to London, and building an environment that nourishes creativity and enables it to grow. To protect our own creative, talented men and women in Wales. So, I think every day we’re bold, every day we’re courageous, and we’re always trying to do things differently. Hence driving around in a lion!

IS IT EASIER OR HARDER TO MAINTAIN THAT COMPANY CULTURE S3 HAS WON SEVERAL AWARDS IN AS THE BUSINESS GROWS? RECENT YEARS, BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN RECEIVING INDIVIDUAL It’s the hardest part, because I started this business myself and we grew to RECOGNITION FOR YOUR STORY AS seven staff, then 15 staff, then 20, and now we’re up to 35. Creating a culture is AN ENTREPRENEUR? 33

really hard. Maintaining it is even harder, because with new personalities and new characters, you need to make sure that they align to us as much as we align to them. So, it is tricky, but it’s also what keeps the business heading down the right path, regarding where we want to be and who we are.

EVERY DAY WE’RE BOLD, EVERY DAY WE’RE COURAGEOUS, AND WE’RE ALWAYS TRYING TO DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY. HENCE DRIVING AROUND IN A LION WHAT’S NEXT FOR S3? Our new financial year started on 1 July, so this year is going to be our biggest year yet. We set a target at the beginning of year to do £5 million – we reached £6.2m! So this year we’re looking to do £12m, and also increase our staff base and client base. We just won several large national accounts, so we’re really aiming to keep moving forward and keep showing why we’re the UK’s No.1 independent advertising agency.

The advertising agency interior includes a games area with pool and football tables, a kitchen bar area, a lion island in a sea of 18,000 balls, a huge hammock, relaxation seats, living trees, multicoloured paths and dazzling neon signs.


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KIRSTEN’S STORY IS SOMEWHAT OF A FULL CIRCLE, STARTING A BUSINESS AT A YOUNG AGE, GOING TO UNIVERSITY, ENTERING EMPLOYMENT AND RETURNING TO ENTREPRENEURSHIP. WHILE SHE MAY NOT HAVE STUCK FIRMLY TO THE PATH YOU MIGHT EXPECT A YOUNG FOUNDER TO TAKE, KIRSTEN HAS KNOWN FROM A YOUNG AGE THAT SHE WANTED TO START A BUSINESS. AND SHE WAS VERY MUCH INSPIRED BY HER PARENTS. “My dad decided to explore the entrepreneur world himself. He decided to quit his job at a fairly young age, I think he was 24. The next day, my parents found out that I was coming!,” Kirsten explains. “He had a moment where he thought ‘I’ve quit my job, I don’t have any income now, I’ve got a little one on the way!’. So he had to make it work, and thankfully he did. “My parents have inspired me in that respect, that starting your own business is achievable with hard work and self-belief.” Growing up in Oxfordshire with her younger brother and sister, Kirsten spent her childhood with a love of art, which unknowingly sparked the idea for at least part of her business. “I’ve always been very arty – the main things for me were always arts and crafts. I love painting and drawing. Of course, painting my nails was a big one. I would paint my nails every other week. My grandparents lived in the UK when I grew up, and I used to love visiting them and going to American Nail Bar and getting my nails done there.” 38

While starting her own business was a goal, Kirsten was smitten with the world of work. So much so that, as a fresh-faced 13-yearold, she got her first job at a local pub: “I absolutely loved it. I loved working with customers, I loved working with a team.” It’s a mindset that would serve her well in later years. A few years into her small local job, like many teenagers undertake, things really started to move for Kirsten. A testament to her ability and demeanour as a waiter, friends and friends of friends started asking her to work at birthday parties and dinner parties. “There might actually be something in that.” Kirsten thought. She realised that if people needed her for their events, they might need other people as well. She launched Party Staff, and on her 16th birthday registered the business with Companies House. “It was really exciting for me at that age. We started out small and got in touch with a few catering companies. That’s where it really started to kick off because they had events regularly and often needed 10-12 staff for weddings and corporate events. That sort of thing.” With a competitive price point, around 60 staff on the books doing 10-12 events a week, Kirsten had grown Party Staff into a successful business as a teenager. And yet, that journey came to an end as Kirsten approached the end of school. Perhaps surprisingly to many reading this, Kirsten decided to quit entrepreneurship and head to university. And it wasn’t a tough decision to leave her growing business

STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS IS ACHIEVABLE WITH HARD WORK AND SELF-BELIEF behind, Kirsten explains: “I could’ve grown Party Staff, but the other side was going to university and having a normal life for a few years was really appealing. I’d done Party Staff for a number of years and my social life probably wasn’t as big as I would’ve liked it to be, because I was working on the business in the evenings and weekends. “That’s why I decided to do the ‘normal’ thing and go to university. I wanted to explore other places, other people, sports, other things.” Going to university wasn’t the end of her entrepreneurial journey, however. Kirsten chose to study Economics and Management at Southamption University. “I thought the two combined would be quite useful if I was to ever revisit the entrepreneurial world. But I also knew I could transfer it into whatever I chose to do after university.”

The completion of her degree prompted her to find another course. Kirsten graduated just as the recession was really gathering pace. Finding a graduate scheme in London proved extremely difficult. Unsure what to do next, she thought of travelling. “I wanted to do something I could be really proud of, but also learn and take something away from.” Because of her love of art and design, Kirsten studied graphic design at Parson School of Design in New York on a fast-track degree. Although she didn’t know it, her time in New York would formulate the other key component of London Grace, the social element. “Because I did a two-year degree, I had a busy timetable and didn’t have much time for other things. My friends and I did make sure we got our nails done every other week. It was a chance to catch up together, have a bit of a pamper and just take a break from studying.” 39

The nail bars Kirsten visited in New York with her friends allowed them to sit together, something that was really missing when she returned to London. “I was really surprised that there was nowhere open late at night where you could go with friends. Often you would go in, you’d be put on one table and your friend would be put on another table across the room, which defeated the purpose altogether. We wouldn’t catch up or spend time together.”

I WANTED TO DO SOMETHING I COULD BE REALLY PROUD OF, BUT ALSO LEARN AND TAKE SOMETHING AWAY FROM. There sparked the idea for London Grace. “It was the social side that I wanted to develop. I thought of combining nails with coffee and wine – two of my favourite things!” Kirsten says. “I thought that there must be people out there that would also enjoy that – somewhere in the middle between the cheap and cheerful nail salons and the quiet spa environment at the other end of the spectrum. I wanted something in between the two, and that’s what London Grace offers.” Even Kirsten’s return to London didn’t spark an immediate return to entrepreneurship, however. She first opted for a graduate scheme. “I knew I would start another business, but it didn’t feel right at the time. I didn’t have the right idea when I came back. I didn’t really know that many people in London, so I thought a graduate scheme would be a great way to enjoy the corporate world for a bit, meet new people, and base myself in London to see if there were any gaps in the market.” There doesn’t appear to be a hint of regret over not returning to running a business straight away, or even continuing to grow Party Staff. Instead, Kirsten seems confident and content that her choices have helped her on the way to where she is now, developing the skills and understanding that makes her the entrepreneur she is today. And today, that is an entrepreneur with a team of over 90 staff – interestingly 90 women and one man – doing things differently in an industry she says that doesn’t necessarily have the best reputation. “Typically, this industry doesn’t have a natural career progression. That’s something I really wanted to offer and I’m really proud that we have it now. We offer regular appraisals and opportunities for promotions to supervisory and management positions.

BEING PIGEONHOLED As someone who started a business while at school, then dedicated her time to university before returning to entrepreneurship, Kirsten is perfectly placed to weigh into the debate surrounding the paths entrepreneurs can take and whether or not the education system does enough to promote them. Quite simply, there is not enough promotion and awareness of entrepreneurship in education, Kirsten says. “Even when I was at school with Party Staff, I felt like it was 40

very ‘hush, hush’. I didn’t get praise or encouragement from teachers. I was providing employment for pupils but it wasn’t mentioned. I was made to feel like I was doing something wrong. It definitely wasn’t a time where I felt supported. “At the time, I was coming to the end of school and we were having conversations with careers advisers about employment and university, but no one ever said you could start a business. They try to pigeon-hole you into certain brackets.”

SO WHAT CAN WE DO TO CHANGE THAT? Kirsten is someone already trying to make the changes. As often as her schedule permits, she organises talks from entrepreneurs in local schools. Regardless of how big or small the business is, even a local baker going to their closest school could be enough to inspire a handful of children to start their own business, Kirsten explained. “Of course, you’d have some big entrepreneurs, but it can appeal to all sorts of levels. It’s so important that the youth of today hear the stories of how the businesses they know were started.” An idea Kirsten wants implemented is for career change quizzes. “You know, the ones where you answer a load of questions and you’re told which career you are suited to based on your personality traits?” Kirsten wants entrepreneurship to be a possible result on those quizzes, because certain types of people are simply suited to launching and running their own businesses.

For Kirsten, though, the immediate future is all about learning how to juggle the stresses of running a business and caring for her new born baby. “I had no idea what to expect, so I decided to work up until she was born and then figure it out. I’m coming up with a few different options now, but my team have been so supportive. London Grace has been running pretty smoothly without me, so I’m wondering if I do need to do anything!” On a professional level, Kirsten and the London Grace team are working towards an expansion of the company on the High Street, particularly outside of London. And then there’s the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards, of course. In 2017, Kirsten won the national High Street Entrepreneur of the Year award. “I’ve always been someone who has underplayed what they’ve achieved, so it was actually overwhelming to be recognised, especially being a female entrepreneur, for my personal story. “It would be amazing [if we were able to go one step further and win the overall Great British Entrepreneur of the Year award]. The Spectrum sisters – Hannah and Sophie Pycroft – who won the overall award last year, what they’ve achieved is phenomenal and it was nice to see two women win it, and from the beauty industry as well.


THE FUTURE Even with limited promotion in education, Kirsten believes the future of entrepreneurship is bright. “I think it’s going to push the boundaries a bit more. There’s so much going on right now, especially with technology. There’s so much disruption. I think there’ll be a lot more opportunity for entrepreneurship to thrive. There’s so much knowledge out there and anyone can access it.”


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The Great Debate : Entrepreneurship vs University ‘Should I start a business or go to university?’ It’s a question young, aspiring entrepreneurs are often faced with as they come to the end of their compulsory education. It is widely accepted that the UK’s education system does not do enough to promote entrepreneurship as a legitimate and possible career path for its students.

Steven Bartlett, the co-founder of Social Chain, and Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2017 NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards in Manchester is someone quite vocal in his criticism of university. Steven dropped out of university after one business lecture and launched his business. In a video he recorded in 2017, Steven says: “The vast majority of students in university right now are wasting both their time and their money. And the higher education system is totally broken.” He goes on to say: “In today’s world, the information you learn at university is invalid within a few years, anyway… nearly half of these graduates regret going to university and half reckon they could’ve landed their current job without having to study.” It’s an idea shared by Gary Vaynerchuk. The influential entrepreneur has spoken countless times about how education systems shun entrepreneurship, instead forcing students towards traditional career paths. Now, university business schools are turning their attention to entrepreneurship.

To understand the other side of the story, we spoke to Andrew Henley Professor of Entrepreneurship and Economics at Cardiff Business School. When I put it to him that a lot of entrepreneurs are saying that university is a ‘waste of time’, I asked why that is happening. He responded: “Really? Which entrepreneurs?” “Yes, entrepreneurship is increasingly being promoted as a career option for young people, and young people in school and university have more options to see success from their peers (via social media),” he added. “But the data still shows that most self-employed business owners are older, choosing business ownership after gaining several years of commercial or professional experience.” Andrew explained that, occasionally, smaller business owners concede that university education “raises career expectations, but may not always prepare graduates with appropriate “soft” employability skills to work in the competitive world in which many businesses operate.”

The vast majority of students in university right now are wasting both their time and their money. And the higher education system is totally broken. STeVen Bartlett, Social Chain


“In today’s world, the information you learn at university is invalid within a few years, anyway… nearly half of these graduates regret going to university and half reckon they could’ve landed their current job without having to study.” STeVen Bartlett, Social Chain

He also stressed that he’s encountered entrepreneurs who have expressed regret over not having a “more formal education in professional business skills such as accounting, corporate finance, marketing and strategy.” There is an acceptance that traditional teaching tailored to management tracks in large corporates are no longer appropriate for all students, however. And Andrew stresses that business schools across the UK, and other departments in the wider university, are “more and more contextualising their teaching to careers in entrepreneurial businesses and social enterprises.”

Universities now provide a lot of extra-curricular start-up support for students across all subjects. Andrew Henley, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Economics at Cardiff Business School.


A realistic pathway? With many in entrepreneurship having spent years convincing young people that starting a business is a realistic pathway, is it now the job of universities to convince young people that education is a realistic pathway for aspiring entrepreneurs? Andrew strongly believes university has a role to play in developing the entrepreneurs of the future. He said: “Universities are thinking much more about the relevance of curriculum to business start-up. “Modules in small business and venture creation are increasingly popular with students, not least because they are often taught by committed and experienced staff, supported by the enthusiasm of Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, or willing guest role-models keen to recount their inspiring stories drawn from schemes such as the Welsh Government’s Big Ideas Wales programme.” He also added that: “Universities now provide a lot of extra-curricular start-up support for students across all subjects, ranging from awareness of self-employment and business start-up as a career option, through to more immersive support delivered through longer programmes.”

The social media battle In an age of social media, where everyone from seasoned serial entrepreneurs, to the young guns and influencers, are able to showcase their lives – the success, the money, the lifestyle – can universities really attract students? “Entrepreneurship appeals to people for a range of reasons,” Andrew explains. “All the research shows that intrinsic motivators, particularly the appeal of personal freedom and autonomy that running your own business offers, are much more important than financial motivators.” Andrew says that the media “sometimes portrays a very lop-sided view of entrepreneurs”, which he describes as ‘not helpful at all’. “It is not going to be plain sailing and it will involve a lot of hard work.” “One thing that differentiates those who go on to start businesses is a more positive sense of optimism and attitude to risk. But equally, it is sensible for people starting a business to frame risk in terms of “affordable loss” and not to get carried away by wild expectations about how much money they will make.” Why start at university? It’s clear to see the higher education system wants to remove any idea that it is a blockade

against young people starting businesses. Instead, it wants to focus on the skills that will support the entrepreneurial journey and the resources available to students. “The main benefit is in terms of being able to connect with support during the important early start-up stage,” Andrew explains, “and to try out business ideas in business pitching and planning competitions.” Competition winners are often provided with space in an incubator operated by the university or closely connected organisation, while all students have access to the “brain power” of academic tutors who often have experience that will come in handy in some way, shape or form. They will be “able to point you in the right direction to solve problems, even if they don’t directly have the answers.” Andrew pointed out that some of the most successful technology companies in the UK began while their founders were at university, and that those entrepreneurs often maintain very close links with that university, “not least because they want to talent spot for the future”. The learning opportunities available to aspiring entrepreneurs while they study is invaluable, Andrew says. He adds that networking, or “social capital building”, is another useful benefit of launching a business at university: “Three years at university can provide these in good measure; opportunities to connect with

like-minded students, opportunities to meet entrepreneurs who have formal and informal connections with universities, opportunities to be mentored by people with experience and knowledge.” It’s highly unlikely this debate will be settled any time soon, let alone by highlighting this feature. What it is doing, though, is highlight that there are benefits to both avenues for aspiring entrepreneurs. Not going to university provides entrepreneurs with the time to fully focus on launching and growing their business, while time at university can be incredibly useful in terms of resources, connections and knowledge. And what is clear from speaking to Andrew, is that universities, Cardiff Business School in particular, are working hard to modernise their offering to those who want to start a business; making business studies a lot more entrepreneurial. dus quo maximincto minctate



NOT YOUR TYPICAL BUSINESS LOAN: ESME LOANS The way in which big businesses innovate is shifting. Big businesses are bringing a start-up mentality to corporate organisations via internal incubators and accelerator panels and, as a result, many of the UK’s corporate giants are fully embracing the concept of ‘intrapreneurship’. While still a relatively new term, intrapreneurship refers to an entrepreneurial approach where teams and individuals are driving innovation from within an organisation and it’s becoming a prominent and viable option for employees of a company that have many of the attributes of entrepreneurs. Within many large organisations, there are very talented people with exciting ideas and new ways of doing things. Large companies have a reputation of being very effective at doing one thing well and often struggle to change direction or embrace change, and this is where intrapreneurship comes in. Business bankers Richard, Veronica and Lucy are great examples of intrapreneurs, disrupting a practice and industry that they are experts in. 46

ARTICLE Like entrepreneurs, they are self-starters and know what they are meant to do in life. Whilst working within NatWest and wider RBS Group, the trio knew in their hearts that there was too much uncertainty and complexity surrounding business loans and that it was time for a different approach.

INTRODUCING ESME LOANS: After years of seeing friends and family go to extreme lengths to grow a business without securing a business loan, Richard Kerton, Veronika Lovett and Lucy Hasson knew something had to change. The three left their comfortable jobs in the corporate banking world to launch Esme Loans, an online business lender with simple, fair terms and a hassle-free application process. “We saw friends use things like credit cards and overdrafts, which is often not the most optimal way to fund the business needs,” explained Veronika, Esme’s marketing director. “It shouldn’t be easier to get a credit card than a business loan. People shouldn’t be nervous or scared about borrowing for business needs, especially given how comfortable many are borrowing for personal ones.” With years of experience dealing with finance for small businesses, the three founders were confident that they could use this expertise and entrepreneurial endeavour to create something that really works for entrepreneurs and their businesses. ‘We’re not your typical bankers and Esme is very much not your typical business loan.’


explains: “Is the way in which you can access the finance, the way that we talk about the finance, the way the product works and allows great flexibility than some other methods. It’s something we want to continue to evolve and adapt. We want to use the SME customers to refine the product and make it as flexible as we can to support them in different ways.” It’s not just Esme’s offering that is flexible and varied. There is a huge range in the type and size of businesses borrowing from the platform. Turnovers range from £25,000 to over £20 million, while ages range from those in their early 20s to founders in their 70s, 80s and even 90s. The types range from large corporates, manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, lifestyle businesses and owner-managed businesses. Richard describes these insights as a “real window on the UK entrepreneurship population”.

ENTREPRENEURIAL AMBITIONS Long-running ambitions to start a business existed for both Richard and Lucy. Lucy was, inspired by her parents, and later her husband and sister who have gone on the start their own businesses. Richard’s ambitions were born from a 20+ year career working with SMEs on a daily basis. He said: “I’d gained a lot of knowledge and appetite to want to go out and do it myself, having been around entrepreneurs, small business owners and large business owners. So, when this opportunity came along, it was too good to pass up.” For Veronika, however, her entrepreneurial ambitions are fresh in comparison to her two co-founders. Having admittedly been focused on the corporate world until she left to launch Esme Loans, it was her time spent with small businesses that gave her the inspiration and confidence that she could do it herself. “Through my time with the structured finance team I came across a lot of very successful businesses that have flourished from a good idea and then grew to scale.” She added: “From getting our first customer to the breadth of firms we have supported in the relatively short time we have been open. It’s been a very exciting year of growth in our team and our customers.”


Having seen friends avoid business loans at all costs because of the assumptions they had about them, Esme Loans’ focus is to make the process of applying for a loan as simple and hassle-free as possible. Lucy started: “The reality is that most business lenders still make people go through a very long and difficult process to borrow money. They still ask lots of questions and involve multiple people – making it a really drawn out process. We’ve worked out how to be more agile and flexible than that.” Richard added: “People don’t need lots of different lending products. That just adds to the complexity. When you think about what the customer really wants, a lot of the time that boils down to simplicity. A simple product explained in simple terms.” While ‘not your typical business loan’ means a number of things to Esme, not taking away control of a business from the entrepreneur is a fundamental element, as Lucy explained: “People go into business because they want control. So, we tried to launch a product that allows them to have the utmost control over it. They’re in charge of their finances and of their business. That was one of the fundamental drivers behind the product proposition.” In addition, what makes Esme Loans different, as Richard

Esme Loans is 100% owned and backed by NatWest, though it is a stand-alone digital lender. The trio of founders say they’ve learnt how to combine the rigour and diligence of major High Street banks with the agility and flexibility of an alternative lender. Richard explained what the working relationship with NatWest looks like, and the value of the support the bank has provided. He said: “We’re fortunate enough to have extensive support from within the organisation. We’re able to tap into resources in terms of finance and skills, knowledge and experience. “But we were also left to our own devices to shape, develop and build the business.” And that’s the crucial element of the entrepreneurial mindsets Richard, Veronika and Lucy are bringing to the table. “That’s the fun part,” Richard says, “digging into your own knowledge and skillset, and the ability to reach out into the organisation and external markets. “When you’ve been in the bank nearly 30 years, you think you’ve experienced everything, but shaping the business you realise that you’ve not really experienced anywhere near as much as you thought.” 47


Veronika believes large organisations almost have a responsibility to empower their employees to achieve their dreams. She said: “Making them aware that, whatever their dream is, it’s not that unattainable, it can be set up. It’s not always as difficult as some people think it might be – whether it’s getting it off the ground or getting it properly funded. We’re seeing more communities and organisations willing to support that intrapreneurship culture.” Understanding the value of the resources large organisations can offer to intrapreneurs is crucial to developing the intrapreneur culture, Richard emphasises: “There’s an opportunity for large organisations, particularly the big banks, to create an environment to support employees; through providing access to workplaces, skills and support to get the business going in the first place.”



Being left to their own devices allowed them to experience the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. “We were able to learn what the pain points are; the fear of it not being a success, the first day of business and not a lot really happening, learning how to scale, recruit and resource appropriately at the right time,” Veronika recalled. “Even just little things like all of a sudden having to order IT equipment, trying to figure out office space,” Lucy laughed. “It was incredible to be autonomous at the beginning, but also have the ability to use bank resources when support was needed. “I feel like it was a learning curve for the bank as well – it’s been a long time since they launched a new business, so it’s been a very enriching experience for us and them.” This intrapreneurship journey is showing a lot of benefits; for Richard, Veronika and Lucy, for NatWest, for job creation, and for the small businesses securing loans. So, should the UK be harnessing those benefits and developing an intrapreneurship culture? “It’s massively important,” Richard starts, pointing to the value of small businesses “The one thing that stands out in the UK is how its economy is supported by small businesses. We’re seeing a steady increase in the number of people who, at all sorts of ages, are building new careers by setting up businesses and following their vision. “It’s fascinating just to see the sheer number of different ways people create businesses and opportunities for themselves and their families.”

The business The business loan that loan that knows The business knows when it’s loan that when it’s not wanted. knows not wanted. when it’s not wanted. With Esme, if you want to pay off your loan all at once, you can. No early repayment charges. And no hidden fees. Just fair and competitive rates. Search ‘Esme loans’ With Esme, if you want to pay off your loan all at once, you can. No early repayment charges. And no hidden fees. Just fair and competitive rates. Search ‘Esme loans’ You must be a Director of a UK Limited Company, actively trading for at least 18 months with a minimum annual turnover £15,000,to over 18 and to provide With Esme, if you of want pay offable your loana personal all at guarantee. Fees apply. © Esme Loans Limited, company number: 10411077. Registered address, 250 Bishopsgate, London, United Kingdom, EC2M 4AA.

once, you can. No early repayment charges. And no hidden fees. Just fair and competitive rates.

You must be a Director of a UK Limited Company, actively trading for at least 18 months with a minimum turnover of £15,000, over 18 and able to provide a personal guarantee. Fees apply. Searchannual ‘Esme loans’ © Esme Loans Limited, company number: 10411077. Registered address, 250 Bishopsgate, London, United Kingdom, EC2M 4AA.

The Plastic Problem Entrepreneurs leading the war on waste

Mountain of waste in the Maldives, Thilafushi is an artificial island created a few miles off the coast of capital city MalĂŠ, to be used as a landfill.


ARTICLE Top : Reusable Coffee Cups made with natural bamboo fibre. Ecoffee Cup is light, bright and beautiful to drink from and won’t make your hot drink taste funny. Bottom : David McLagan, Founder and CEO of Ecoffee Cup.

Over 100 billion single-use cups go to landfill globally each year (Starbucks, in the US alone, serves 8,000 cups per minute).

In the most recent Blue Planet series, David Attenborough voiced his concern over the current state of our seas. “Plastic is now found everywhere in the ocean, from its surface to its greatest depths,” Sir David wrote. “There are fragments of nets so big they entangle the heads of fish, birds and turtles, and slowly strangle them. Other pieces of plastic are so small that they are mistaken for food and eaten, accumulating in fishes’ stomachs, leaving them undernourished.” He stresses how if we are to protect our planet, and improve the welfare of these animals, then we need to take action now. We are at a turning point, where we can consciously choose to take the necessary steps to prevent further pollution. Irreversible damage has been done, but there is still time to slow down the effects. Ever since the invention of plastic in 1907, the lack of its recycling and degradation of the material, means that fish and animals have played victim to the deadly man-made substance. Although Attenborough has highlighted the critical deterioration of our oceans, these issues have been deeply rooted long before Attenborough’s episodes were aired. But, the issue, which has taken a backseat to more ‘pressing issues’ has finally been recognised as a fundamental and vexing problem. Many have attempted to bring this into the public eye, taking matters into their own hands. And now, finally, thanks to Sir David, Blue Planet and subsequent news coverage, the public is listening. Making a change Initiating small changes in our daily routine can help pave the way for progress. Choosing a paper bag to put your fruit and vegetables in, taking your own reusable 51

Georganics are sustainable & plastic-free manufacturers of natural, organic and zero waste toothpastes and oral care.

bags to the supermarket and drinking your coffee from an ecological cup can all help towards reducing waste. David McLagan, founder of Ecoffee Cup (the reusable bamboo coffee cup) describes how “over 100 billion single-use cups go to landfill globally each year (Starbucks, in the US alone, serves 8,000 cups per minute). Unfortunately, the issue of singleuse plastic is not going away anytime soon, but there are many proactive steps we can take, including choosing reusable and biodegradable products rather than opting for the ‘convenience’ of single-use or plastic items.” He talks about how changing attitudes towards consumption and waste will be the catalyst for change. By raising awareness of the issues, we will be able to “influence consumer consciousness to the point that we see a marked change in attitudes and increasing numbers of people switching to reusabales.” It’s easy to forget how many plastic products we use, and dispose of, in our day to day lives. From the straw in our drinks 52

to the toothbrush we update quarterly, this waste is finding its way into landfill and our oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a byproduct of this waste, an island of plastic containing around 79,000 tons of discarded plastic and covering an area of 617,800 square miles, according to a study published by Scientific Reports. But progress is being made by companies of all sizes. Georganics, in West Sussex, work with local suppliers to produce a fully natural oral care range which is 100% cruelty-free, plastic-free and environmentally sustainable. They use ingredients from pure, organic sources to produce a range toothpaste, mouthwash and toothbrushes. The UK government are hoping to prevent the production and use of the 8.5 billion plastic straws which are thrown away here every year. Companies such as Ecostrawz have developed glass alternatives, which can be used time and time again, and bamboo disposables which are completely biodegradable. Their ethos stretches through to their postage and packaging which is also plastic-free and non-toxic. They actively encourage development and collaboration, believing it to be more important to work together than to compete in the plastic-free product space. The situation goes way beyond toothpaste tubes, coffee cups and plastic straws. But by supporting these entrepreneurs’ revolutionary concepts and adapting to a plastic-free lifestyle, we will be able to inhibit the pollution of our oceans and start cleaning up the mess that humans have created.

Unfortunately, the issue of single-use plastic is not going away anytime soon, but there are many proactive steps we can take, including choosing reusable and biodegradable products rather than opting for the ‘convenience’ of single-use or plastic items.

CleanTech six Companies innovating the clean energy industry: McCormack Innovation Their development plan will see the establishment of more innovative products regarding Sanitary and Bowel Screening issues within the Healthcare industry as well as environmentally enabling soluble solutions. Zoom EV Zoom’s purpose is to increase the utilisation of low emission vehicles and enable its members to have a direct and personal impact on reducing carbon emissions. Xerogrid Xerogrid designs and deploys electricity generating systems that are not connected to the national (privatelyowned and underfunded) grid. The systems use solar, wind and hydro power to make electricity. LettUs Grow LettUs Grow have invented a unique mechanism for generating aeroponic conditions of plant growth. This is centred around a core product, a grow bed for leafy greens, rooting and fruiting crops. Azuri Technologies A business that combines solar energy and mobile phone technology to bring affordable, renewable energy to the 600 million people in sub-Saharan Africa that have no access to mains power. Pavegen

Top : Macrebur select plastics, taken from old rubbish, and add it into roads to improve strength and durability. Bottom : Wyatt and Jack creates sustainable bags and accessories from upcycled beach deckchair canvas and retired bouncy castle vinyl pvc.

Pavegen’s flooring technology converts the kinetic energy of footsteps and uniquely, provides power output data, rewards users via smartphone apps and generates permission-based customer analytics. 53


NO1 Select your award category carefully Similar to most enterprise competitions, the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards has a wide range of categories for firms of all sizes to enter, from Startup and Scale-up, to Young Entrepreneur, Service Industries, Creative Entrepreneur and many more. You need to pick a category that will put your business in its best light, one that plays to your strengths, not your weaknesses, and through which you can specifically showcase your best successes. Next, dig deep and think about what you’ve been working on the past year, then tailor the stories to bring out the issues that are most relevant to the award you’re targeting. This is especially important if you’re entering more than one category.


It’s no secret that winning an award can do wonders for business growth, but fewer realise the huge potential benefits on offer to firms that simply enter an awards competition. Make the shortlist in your chosen category and you’ll harness valuable exposure for you and your brand, access new audiences and maybe meet investors who can help you get your latest product or service off the ground. But to make this happen, your entry form needs to be in top condition. Read on to discover key do’s and don’ts that will give your application the X-factor it needs to stand out from the crowd.

NO2 Answer the question It might sound strange, but many candidates – whether by accident or intention – fill their response space with information that’s not asked for. Read the questions carefully, and circle keywords to ensure your focus remains on what’s important. Questions will probably change according to the awards category, so be prepared to put in some research to help you zone in on what the judges are looking for; remember they are entrepreneurs too and won’t suffer waffle gladly.

NO3 Be concise A potential cap of 300 words means you need to make every sentence work. Concision comes through revision and re-drafting, so have fun with your first edit – pour out everything you think you need to say, then re-read and trim the bits that don’t add informational value. Early drafts may be full of words such as ‘really’, ‘very’ and ‘absolutely’ and emotive language to add impact. Overuse of adverbs and adjectives makes writing sound less authoritative, not more passionate, so employ emphasisers sparingly. Write only what’s needed to convey your message honestly, and your answer will be far clearer. When you’ve finished, send your entry to friends or colleagues who can proof-read, and make sure you’re not over – or too far under – the word limit.


Remove technical babble Depending on the complexity of your business, service or product, you may need to use some jargon. Your judges will understand the technical terms, but applications that use clear English and bring out the personality of the business itself will be far more attractive to read. The NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards is about the entrepreneur, not just the balance sheet – we look for the inspirational stories that colour the business journey. Applications that explore and justify your passion as an entrepreneur will be more likely to capture the judges’ interest. 54

NO5 Provide proof If possible and where appropriate, include evidence to support your words. These might be testimonials, thirdparty endorsements, an interview or a great review in an industry magazine. If you’re providing media coverage, make sure it’s a real publication and not sponsored content, unless it’s directly asked for.

This is no time to be humble If you want to secure the silverware, be proud about your success; underline how you’re different from your competitors by demonstrating the niche you’ve carved in your segment of the market and how it benefits all stakeholders. Think about the value your business brings to consumers or clients; don’t give away your secrets, but share the bigger picture of your experience. Whether you’re a disruptor, innovator or thought-leader in your sector, now is your time to shout your message and share your passion with the world.


“The Enterprise team in the Business School have made my business plan a reality with the support of workshops, office space and a mentor. In 3 years’ time, I hope to scale up my business” Ophelia Madourie Enterprise Graduate & Entrepreneur

Find out more about studying with us at























This sports nutrition company has been powering the UK since 2009 with a range of high-protein bars, drinks and other explosive snacks. The Grenade brand now provides top-level athletes with original, uniquelyformulated products bursting with flavour, nutritional value and personality.

When cancer diagnosis prevented Damien Lee from eating his favourite noodles, he decided he would dedicate his life to creating a healthy and delicious version of the dish. The dream is now realised, as Mr Lee’s company brings freshness straight from the paddy fields of Vietnam through gluten-free, award-winning noodles.



Are you ready? The founders of Brixton-born Honest Burgers are on a mission to make the best British burgers available. Using the more expensive chuck and rib cap from grass-fed Scottish Highland cows, these burgers are juicier, chunkier and all about the beef. Homemade veggie fritters, pickles and Honest sauces are the perfect accompaniment to a seriously heavy taste baseline.




The Keebles bring you Heck! Food, a fantastic range of gluten-free sausages, burgers and balls which also come in a great veggie range. The family’s industry heritage, huge expertise and use of fresh herbs delivers truly belting bangers to festival- and event-goers nationwide.

Kasim launched Waterloo Tea in 2008, long before the specialist teas trend took off in the UK. Now a rapidly growing market, Waterloo Tea is at the forefront, exporting products across the world Paris, Amsterdam, Adelaide, Berlin, Budapest and Dubai, building on the success of their three local teahouses in the Cardiff area.

3 TIMO BOLDT GOUSTO Founded by Timo Boldt, Gousto’s ready-to-cook meal kits are made up of measured ingredients and recipes that turn kitchen-dodgers into master chefs. Championing sustainability, Gousto is one of the UK’s fastest-growing start-ups and has just secured £28.5 million in fresh backing.

4 SAMANTHA EVANS AND SHAUNA GUINN HANG FIRE Co-founders Samantha Evans and Shauna Guinn discovered the true meaning of American BBQ on a trip to the States in 2012. Six years later and ‘The first ladies of the ‘cue’ are stunning south Wales palates with locally-sourced produce that blazes with hot ‘n’ smoky spirit. Their success secured the coveted ‘Best Street Food’ award at the BBCR4 Food Awards.

5 DOUGAL GUNN SHARP INNIS & GUNN Beer brewed in bourbon barrels could never work, could it? In 2002, an outside-the-box idea led to the creation of Innis & Gunn, which today produces a range of award-winning lager-beer and IPAs for those who prefer a hoppier brew. Subsequent Innis & Gunn kitchens put these innovative tipples in harmony with dishes such as IPA battered fish and chips and the Scotch Egg with a beery ‘brewn’ sauce.


KERSTIN ROBINSON AND JULIA KESSLER NIX & KIX Nix & Kix are spicing up the soft drinks market to break the social stigma around choosing not to drink alcohol. Free of refined sugar and anything artificial, the London-based firm has infused imagination and passion into their exciting new drinks range, which also cater to vegan tastes.


12 IFEYINWA AND EMEKA FREDERICK CHUKU’S LONDON This Nigerian tapas restaurant is the place to ‘chop, chat and chill’. Whether choosing traditional dishes or one with a unique Chuku’s twist, guests can expect a menu bursting with authentic Nigerian flavours. This is a place to enjoy fantastic food, relax and chat, so soak up the country’s chill-out beats and make yourself at home!

13 JOSH LITTLEJOHN MBE AND ALICE THOMPSON SOCIAL BITE Josh and Alice are doing incredible things with Social Bite, a sandwich shop with a mission to end homelessness in Scotland. The social enterprise last year raised £4 million towards their goal and in May opened a village in Edinburgh, providing housing for homeless people in the city.




Training as a high-end pastry chef and work experience in a Michelin-starred restaurant are behind this Birmingham firm’s exquisite leading products – macaroons whose vibrant colours are matched only by their deliciousness. When matched to a Miss Macaroon Pantone, you’ve got a confectionary combination that’s guaranteed to wow guests at any special occasion.

A South American adventure of a lifetime led Charlie and Henry to discover the most fantastic fruit they’d ever eaten. By 2014, the friends had brought their treasure trove of tastes to market, locked inside some of the most indulgent and exotically tasty ice cream to ever wash up on UK shores.

10 NATASHA BOWES BIO-TIFUL DAIRY Bio-tiful Dairy boasts a range of cultured milk that’s inspired by kefir, a fermented milk drink from the mountains that divide Europe and Asia. Recreating authentic recipes, these high-quality beverages use the very best of British milk to deliver superior and nutritious refreshment at any time of day.

15 KEITH, GREG, KIT, NATHAN, DANNY, LUKE AND GUY MCAVOY SEVEN BRO7HERS BREWERY Within four short years of launching, Seven Bro7hers Brewery is well on its way to becoming one of the most exciting brewery and bar businesses in the UK. Having set up their first bar in Salford, the brothers have plans to open a venue in both Leeds and Liverpool, and have a successful £150,000 crowdfunding campaign behind them. 57

CREATIVITY, THE BACKBONE OF EntrepreneurSHIP by michael jacobsen

Entrepreneurialism is not a new pursuit. It has been around since the time humans first set foot on the earth. In fact, everything that wasn’t created by the universe and nature came out of the mind of an entrepreneur or inventor, both of whom have the same ‘creative’ gene necessary to invent. As you read this article, think of the amazing, insightful and intuitive entrepreneurialism of Steve Jobs and Apple. Okay, that’s an obvious one. Look at the clothes you are wearing, the room you are in, the desks around you and even look outside at the traffic lights, the road, and all of the cars around. All of these were invented by an innovator or entrepreneur, with businesses, distribution channels and companies built to take them to market and get them to the very places you now see them. I write this to you on a plane flying from Sydney to London. My mind reflects on the entrepreneurialism evident here from the design of the plane itself, to the seats, the brand on the wing and the market positioning that has come to represent. Entrepreneurs are inventors. Sometimes of products, but always of businesses. The product or service created does not have to be totally new in itself. The smartphone was not the first phone, but the creation can be innovation of an existing invention. Entrepreneurialism is a creative pursuit. Not exactly like an artist is creative, but similar. Artists start with a blank canvass and, with their own hands, channel inspiration that will later be called their ‘piece of art’. Entrepreneurs start with a blank canvass and, with their own mind, channel inspiration that will later be referred to as their ‘business’. It’s their piece of art. It’s the same. Where does the inspiration come from? It arrives from ‘above’ and is then shaped into something material, physical, it literally manifests. In the case of an artist, their work appeals to a certain section of the population who then buy the art and use it to fulfil their needs for that type of beauty on their walls. In the case of an entrepreneur, their work appeals to a certain section of the population who then buy that good or service to fulfil their needs for whatever it does. Again, it’s the same. An entrepreneur’s creation, when it is called a business, is not as finite as an artist’s, however, whose work is finished with the final paint brush stroke. Their creation is not just their product or service, but the intangible business itself. Like the wind, you cannot see a ‘business’. You can’t see a it, but once its created, it is like a person, with its own identity and ever-growing personality. Unlike an artist’s work, an entrepreneur’s creation is dynamic and ever evolving throughout its life. It has the chance, the opportunity, to change not its brush strokes themselves, but their colour. To use the analogy, not to change its creation but change aspects of how it operates, to meet the evolving needs of its market. 58

This requires constant innovation. To novate is to make new. As such, innovation is the birth of the new which is another way of saying ‘creation’. Entrepreneurs constantly create. Those that don’t will usually not succeed. They will become obsolete. We don’t use analogue cameras anymore because something better was created. Phone boxes, T Model Fords, Blackberries, 747s – they all look old. How can they look old when they seemed so modern to their original users? Because they have been superseded. They only look old when compared to new. New ‘novated’ products are simply an evolution of creativity which has changed the product or service. And this is the same reason why in ten years the devices we use today, the clothes we are wearing now, and the plane I am flying in now, will also seem so old, when they seem so modern now. Old and new in terms of entrepreneurism is subjective, philosophical and not real. It is simply that entrepreneurs create and this, when it meets the needs of the market, delivers a better-looking product or service and one that becomes more economically successful. Yes, there is ‘economically successful’ – income, money, profit. This is an afterthought. It is only by creating something that meets the market needs that profit can come. Entrepreneurs do not pursue money first. Not successful ones anyway. They are artists. Artists creating something to satisfy a market. Money is the measure the world places on this success. The economic model is a paradigm to enable the circle to continue, motivate it and reward its participants. Entrepreneurs are not businesspeople; they’re not directors or executives or managers. They are entrepreneurs. They are in their own category. They are creators. They are people who are responsible for much of what our world is. Creators. Artists. Visionaries. This is the spirit they possess and must continually immerse themselves in to grow their business. Harder still, it is the spirit big corporations, covered in red tape, policies and demands must tap into the survive. Entrepreneurs have always created and will always create. They are one of the key pillars of society. Anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur or any organisation which wants to increase its entrepreneurial spirit must pursue, cultivate and fertilise creativity.


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next issue

A huge thank you goes out to all those involved with the production of our third issue of Great British Entrepreneurs Magazine. We will never cease to be amazed by the creativity, character and resilience of the entrepreneurs we meet. We trust you’ll agree that the pathway into business can be as unique as the individual making the journey. Rather, it’s mindset that matters: having the willingness to make something happen each day that keeps you moving towards your goals. Stay tuned for issue four of the Great British Entrepreneurs Magazine, coming in the summer.