GBEAâ€™S TOP 20 START-UPS OF 2019
HALL OF FAME
INTERVIEWS WITH SOME OF OUR TOP TALENT ULTIMATE ALUMNI SHOWCASE COMPANY PROFILES OF PAST FINALISTS & WINNERS
MENTAL HEALTH IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP greatbritishentrepreneurawards.com
Hayley Parsons OBE - Go Compare
Jenny Campbell - Serial entrepreneur
OLI BARRETT MBE - SERIAL ENTREPRENEUR
Stephen Fear - Serial entrepreneur
Holly Tucker MBE - Holly & co
Hugh Chappell - Serial entrepreneur
Kanya King CBE - Mobo AwardS
Paul Lees - Powwownow
Steven Smith - Poundland
Matt Smith - Centre for EntrepreneurS
PETER ROBERTS - PUREGYM
Will King - King of Shaves
JAMES CAAN CBE - Serial entrepreneur
Mel Young - Homeless World Cup
ALUMNI PROFILES 40 / ALISON SHADRACK - ADIA PR 42 / AMMAR MIRZA CBE - SME CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE 44 / ANDREW WEBBER - WHITESPACE 46 / CHRISTINA GABBITAS - READING FESTIVALS CIC 48 / CLARE VILLAR - CLARE VILLAR MILITARY ART 50 / FLORIN & CAROLYN MANDACHE - TIME2DINE
HALL OF FAME/
52 / KIRAN BHAGOTRA - PROTECTBOX 54 / LAURA JONES & HEATHER MCDAID - 404 INK 56 / MARK WRIGHT - CLIMB ONLINE 58 / MATT JONES - OXBRIDGE HOME LEARNING 60 / MICK LINDSAY - MOCEAN 62 / PETER KELLY & KIERON YEOMAN - IMPLOYABLE 64 / ROSS DAVIES & PATRICK DOLAN - STRAFE CREATIVE 66 / SARAH STONE - FEMALE SUCCESS NETWORK
Words from the founder Over the past seven years we have built a supportive and connected ecosystem of entrepreneurs, mentors and investors through the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards. The community of business talent and support that the Awards have brought together has thrived beyond what we ever imagined. At the heart of the community is a panel of judges who work to support and champion entrepreneurs of all stages. While the Awards focus on celebrating the entrepreneurs, and rightly so, this year we are launching the Great British Entrepreneurs Champions Hall of Fame to shine a spotlight on those who give back to the next generation of entrepreneurship. The Great British Entrepreneurs Champions Hall of Fame recognises individuals with a long-term record of combining their outstanding entrepreneurial achievements with a sustained commitment to support entrepreneurial talent through the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards and other partner programmes. This issue of the Great British Entrepreneurs Magazine shares the stories of the first 14 inductees into the Hall of Fame, exploring what makes them so successful and why supporting others is so important to them. It also features our Alumni Showcase; a chance for previous winners and finalists to tell you about their business, how they got there and their plans for the future.
As well as adding new locations, we recently announced some pretty exciting changes to the format of our events. We’re ditching the black tie dress code and going maverick for our eight regional finals. Taking of a format similar to late night talk shows, the regional finals will be more casual and relaxed, giving us more opportunities to showcase some of the incredible entrepreneurial stories from within our community and beyond in a more intimate setting. The change also allows the Awards to become more accessible than ever before. More locations means shorter journeys to the regional finals and the new format allows us to lower any barriers to entry, particularly costs. The regional finals will take place throughout September and October, and the National Final will bring together regional winners at a more traditional, glamorous red carpet ceremony in November, during Global Entrepreneurship Week. We also recently announced the launch of the GB Entrepreneurs Community App, which is available on iOS and Android. By downloading the app, you’ll be able to network, create and innovate with other members of the community, get exclusive access to advice and insights, be the first to receive important updates from the Awards and receive deals and discounts from partners. 2019 is an incredibly exciting year for us, and we’re thrilled to have you part of it!
Going maverick In 2019, as we embark on our seventh year, we’re making some big changes to the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards. Firstly, we’re heading into three new regions and swapping Edinburgh for Glasgow. Towards the end of the year we’ll be visiting:
BELFAST BIRMINGHAM CARDIFF EXETER GLASGOW LONDON MANCHESTER NEWCASTLE 4
SEARCH FOR GB ENTREPRENEURS TO DOWNLOAD OUR COMMUNITY APP
CELEBRATING THE GAME-CHANGING LEADERS OF TODAY P.T.O The Great British Entrepreneurs Champions Hall of Fame recognises individuals with a long-term record of combining their outstanding entrepreneurial achievements, with a sustained commitment to supporting entrepreneurial talent through the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards and other partner programmes.
Hayley Parsons OBE
natural business talent Some get into enterprise through formal education, some stumble upon it after trying other jobs. Others, like Welsh entrepreneur Hayley Parsons OBE, are simply destined to be an entrepreneur. 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. She 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. Upon finishing school at 16, Hayley secured a job at a nearby insurance broker and picked up her ticket to adulthood. Rising to the top Settled into her vocation, Hayley’s drive for a more customer-facing position won her the promotion that would teach her fundamental skills in an industry that she would eventually drag into the 21st century. Subsequent 6
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.” 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 Confused.com, a start-up under the Admiral umbrella. Revolutionising an industry Confused.com took “five years of blood, sweat and tears to establish”, Hayley says. Increases in digital marketplaces and technological advances 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.
Hayley says: “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. “Technology was a springboard for the early success of Confused.com. 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.” Taking the leap Hayley helped build Confused.com to the great success it was, but felt that the insurance industry could deliver improved results for customers through a more sophisticated site. So she quit her job and fulfilled a lifelong desire to be her own boss and build 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 put together a more consumerfocused comparison site model. Before long, a conversation with an investor led to £1.5 million in funding and Go Compare was born.
Gio Compario 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 ‘Italian’ with an infamous moustache. “We needed something different,” Hayley says. “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. Lessons learnt in business Today, Hayley nurtures the UK’s future business talent, investing in businesses from start-ups to more established ones and mentoring entrepreneurs, and also through her membership of the Inspire Growth Wales investment consortium. With no formal business training, how and where did this icon of British business 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 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.” “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. “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.” 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. 7
Holly Tucker MBE
Disrupting the High Street
While most entrepreneurs claim to innovate or disrupt, there are relatively few who really bring about genuine, significant change to an industry. One entrepreneur who can certainly say they have done so is Holly Tucker MBE, co-founder of notonthehighstreet. com and founder of Holly & Co. “The internet was in its infancy when we launched Notonthehighstreet.com. Not only were we trying to get people to join our unknown site, we were also teaching them about the internet,” Holly starts. Online shopping was yet to take off, and Holly admits “people didn’t like to put their bank details into websites” at the time, adding that the word ‘marketplace’ barely existed - at least not in its current meaning. She adds: “We passionately believed in our business, so I called people I wanted to join the site everyday. I didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and persevered because I knew that I was creating something amazing.” Taking control Holly admits she has always been entrepreneurial, launching and running her school’s first sweet shop. So it may be that she was always going to become an entrepreneur one way or another. But it was her childhood spent abroad that Holly believes gave her a grounding that has served her so well in later, entrepreneurial life. 8
Holly says: “As a child I grew up in the Netherlands. My father’s job took us there and I went to an international school. I think that was a very early introduction to different cultures, languages and backgrounds, which gave me the most amazing grounding in being able to talk to anyone. “Being able to make connections quickly, to find common ground quickly and to have the confidence to speak to anyone absolutely set me up to be a successful entrepreneur.” Holly began her working life in advertising in 1995 at Publicis, before running Brides magazine from 1999. A year later, things started to go wrong for Holly, and she knew she needed to do something about it. Holly explains: “At 23, I was going through a divorce and I had been diagnosed with a brain tumour. Things were not going to plan, and I knew I had to take control.”
“TO ME, THAT IS SUCCESS. SEEING SMALL, CREATIVE BUSINESSES BEING EMPOWERED AND SUPPORT, AND IT’S A MISSION I PLAN TO CONTINUE WITH.” She turned to her natural creative passion and talent, making wreaths out of vegetables. “I know! I really thought they were brilliant and thought I’d make my fortune,” Holly laughs. Intent on starting to build her fortune somewhere, Holly sought out her local Christmas fair but was astounded when there wasn’t one. She hired the local town hall herself and approached a number of creative businesses from the area to run her own Christmas fair, of course giving herself the best table. Holly recalls: “The fair was a huge success, and whilst I never wanted to see another vegetable wreath, there was
a kind of magic that happens when you bring together creative businesses and customers.” It was the start of Holly’s first business, Your Local Fair, which operated fairs across London’s most cosmopolitan areas. Although successful, Your Local Fair was limited by things like weather or even a big football match. And there sparked the idea for Notonthehighstreet.com - a 24/7 fair for creative businesses that wouldn’t be disrupted by rain or football matches. Empowering creatives
happy, fulfilled life, is building a business doing what you love. “My life’s mission is to support as many people as I can at whatever point of their business journey.” In particular, Holly’s passion lies within supporting younger people. “I want to show them that you can build a business from your passions,” she says. “It’s so important that when the education system is teaching our kids that they must follow the set path and get certain grades, they can excel outside of this and see their own happiness as the main goal of life.”
Holly launched Notonthehighstreet.com with her cofounder Sophie Cornish in 2006. Together they built the company on a shoestring budget with a skeleton staff, underwriting the business’ debts and not taking a salary for over a year. Thirteen years on since it began, Notonthehighstreet. com supports over 5,000 small and independent creative businesses, with more than 20 generating over £1 million a year in revenue. “To me, that is success. Seeing small, creative businesses being empowered and supported, and it’s a mission I plan to continue with.” In providing a platform to allow so many small businesses to succeed, championing and supporting entrepreneurs is central to Holly’s values. In 2013, she was awarded an MBE for her services to small businesses and enterprise. Two years later, Prime Minister David Cameron invited Holly to become a UK Ambassador to Creative Small Businesses.
“IT’S SO IMPORTANT THAT WHEN THE EDUCATION SYSTEM IS TEACHING OUR KIDS THAT THEY MUST FOLLOW THE SET PATH AND GET CERTAIN GRADES, THEY CAN EXCEL OUTSIDE OF THIS AND SEE THEIR OWN HAPPINESS AS THE MAIN GOAL OF LIFE.” Later that year, Holly shifted her focus away from providing a platform to enable small businesses grow to directly offering advice and support. She launched Instadvice, a video-based business advice blog which offered instant advice to small, independent and creative entrepreneurs. It was a move that would provide the inspiration and foundations of Holly’s current focus - Holly & Co, where she works with a wide range of businesses to offer advice and ideas through a series of events and a podcast series, which was launched in September 2018. Explaining why supporting entrepreneurs is so important to her, Holly says: “Life is short. We have an average of 29,000 days on this planet and it’s so important to make every single one count. “With less interaction, less community, longer working hours, depression going up - I believe that the key to living a
“WITH LESS INTERACTION, LESS COMMUNITY, LONGER WORKING HOURS, DEPRESSION GOING UP - I BELIEVE THAT THE KEY TO LIVING A HAPPY, FULFILLED LIFE, IS BUILDING A BUSINESS DOING WHAT YOU LOVE.” With an estimated 40% of the UK workforce working as a freelancer by 2020, Holly believes it is no longer enough to be born entrepreneurial, instead it must be taught. “I think business can be portrayed as grey, cut throat and all about boardrooms. I want to dispel this myth and bring colour to it. Business is fun, it’s creative and definitely colourful.” 9
Jumping into an ice-cold bath Hugh Chappell is one of the UK’s most revered entrepreneurs, investors and mentors with a long and distinguished career in the technology space. With over 20 years in the corporate world, several years as an entrepreneur and over a decade supporting the next generation, Hugh is someone whose knowledge and experience is valued and admired across the country. Long before his entrepreneurial journey began, Hugh was part of the team to establish Apple in the UK in 1979. He joined the man who brought Apple across the pond, Michael Brewer, who he says “realised that the personal computer would change the computer industry and seized on this opportunity by approaching Steve Jobs”. Michael initially secured sole distribution rights for Apple in the UK before selling the company to Apple Computer Inc. in 1981. “I learnt a great deal from Mike, and was very grateful that he mentored and trusted me in a senior managerial role when I was very young,” Hugh explains. Hugh’s experience at Apple and working with Mike Brewer gave him the first real insights into entrepreneurship. He says: “By working in this disruptive environment, I worked with and met many truly inspiring entrepreneurs. It was a cauldron of passion, hard work, innovation and excitement. It fuelled my entrepreneurial ambitions.” 10
It seems Hugh was destined for a successful career from a young age, whether that was as an employee or going it alone. As a child, Hugh saw his own father carve out a path as a successful businessman, albeit in the corporate world at a senior level rather than entrepreneurship. “He worked very hard which I admired,” Hugh says. “My parents separated and divorced when I was 17. It’s clearly not something you wish for, but at a young and pivotal age, it triggered maturity, responsibility, independence and a desire to succeed.” From 1985 Hugh would spend the next 18 years expanding his horizons and continuing his development as a highly skilled businessperson with one of Japan’s leading electronics companies. He established their computer display business in Europe under the TAXAN brand name from nothing to more than £50 million in revenue per annum. And it was here that Hugh really began to consider launching his own business.
“BY WORKING IN THIS DISRUPTIVE ENVIRONMENT, I WORKED WITH AND MET MANY TRULY INSPIRING ENTREPRENEURS. IT WAS A CAULDRON OF PASSION, HARD WORK, INNOVATION AND EXCITEMENT.” “Building a very successful and very profitable business without ownership fuelled my desire to do it again, but owning the business myself. So it was a very gradual but continual realisation that entrepreneurship was an option for me,” Hugh explains. “The epiphany moment came on a flight to Japan to agree budgets for the upcoming year. Despite wanting to start
my own business I’d never had the courage. I’d always loved the few jobs I’d had and I was always treated and rewarded well. I couldn’t sleep during the 12 hour flight. I kept thinking about my future and that was the defining moment. I stepped off the plane having made the decision to finally pluck up the courage to quit my job and start my own business.” That plunge came in 2003, with 24 years experience running businesses behind him, when he launched TrustedReviews. com. Hugh likened going from his comfortable life of employment to entrepreneurship as a huge shock. “Migrating from the security of employment, which included a big salary, bonuses, pension, car, fuel, expenses and multiple benefits like golf club memberships, to nothing was like jumping into a bath full of ice-cold water.” He adds: “I recall the initial pressure, having invested my own money, earning nothing for the first time in my working career and writing cheques to fund the business. I remember thinking to myself ‘what have I done?!’. “I believe in hard work - the harder you work the luckier you are. I worked seven days a week, but by doing so I got more done. It was particularly challenging on my personal wellbeing and my family. Fortunately I had the support of my wife, and the support of my co-founder, Riyad Emeran.” TrustedReviews.com took the concept of a computer magazine, which contained reviews, news and features, and moved it online. “We quickly became the market leader. Our audience was huge and importantly we were very profitable.
By 2007, TrustedReview.com had more than two million unique users every month and nearly 15 million monthly page views. That level of success attracted interest from larger companies, and Hugh soon sold it to Time Warner/IPC Media. Having amassed nearly 30 years of experience, Hugh turned his attention to helping the next generation of entrepreneurs. Through investments, mentoring and board positions, Hugh has established himself as one of the biggest champions of entrepreneurship since selling TrustedReviews.com. Chief among these is Hugh’s role as a non-executive director and shareholder at the LADBible Group. Hugh has utilised his experience and knowledge to help the LADBible Group develop into a growing digital publishing house consisting of LADbible, UNILAD, SPORTbible, Pretty52 and ODDSbible. Hugh is also a board director at E2Exchange, a non-profit organisation that believes entrepreneurs learn most from fellow entrepreneurs. Hugh says: “I’ve been very lucky to work with many successful companies, including my own. I enjoy working with competent, passionate and hard-working people. It is my intention to continue doing so by investing my time and money as appropriate.” But what about setting up more businesses in the future? “I miss being in the cockpit,” Hugh admits. “I do miss owning my own business, and I have thought about getting back on the pitch and playing again. Never say never!”
James Caan CBE
James Caan CBE is one of the UK’s most recognisable entrepreneurs. Having initially achieved success in the recruitment industry, he is now best known for his three years on the BBC television programme Dragon’s Den. JAMES has more recently hosted The Business Class on CNBC, a series which sees him joined by experts from a range of industries, to analyse and advise innovative UK small and medium-sized enterprises. He is also Chairman of the UK government’s StartUp Loans initiative, which supports entrepreneurs with funding and mentoring, to help them launch their own business. With a wealth of experience both as an entrepreneur himself, and helping others to start their own entrepreneurial journeys, he was ideally placed to come on board as a judge for the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards in 2017. We caught up with James to ask him about the start of his entrepreneurial journey, his famous rejection of 2016 Great British Entrepreneur of the Year, Shaun Pulfrey, and to find out his top tips for those entrepreneurs at earlier stages of their journeys. ‘I’m Out’ The Dragons in Dragons’ Den build their reputations and fortunes by combing through investment proposals to spot money-spinning opportunities. Some of these businesses 12
become very successful joint ventures. But the Dragons sometimes get it wrong. Former hairdresser Shaun Pulfrey is one of the most ‘successful failures’ ever to have left the Den. He braved the notoriously high-pressure environment of the Den in a bid to raise £80,000 in exchange for 15% in his young company, Tangle Teezer, which produces detangling brushes designed to glide through tangled hair. When it came to investing, however, all Dragons opted out. James called the product ‘a waste of time’ when facing Shaun in the Den, but later admits that there was a part of him that thought ‘that’s kind of neat.’ Shaun is now worth a cool £200 million and was crowned ‘Great British Entrepreneur of the Year’ at the 2016 NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards. Based on his own personal experiences, James admits that he knew there was a market for it, and as Shaun was pitching actually thought, ‘I’m going to invest.’ “I liked Shaun Pulfrey and I liked the product. I thought, ‘it’s £10 and it works.’ My daughter has really long hair in ringlets and she is constantly complaining that she can’t get a brush to work,” James recalls.
“PETER AND DEBORAH ABSOLUTELY CRUCIFIED THE GUY, SO BY THE TIME IT HAD GOT TO ME, I’D CHANGED MY MIND.” James admits that even Dragons sometimes follow the herd. Despite not investing, he confirms that “everything in my head said I can see that working.” He holds his hands up
to being swayed by his fellow Dragons and confesses that “Peter and Deborah absolutely crucified the guy, so by the time it had got to me, I’d changed my mind.”
“I LIKED SHAUN PULFREY AND I LIKED THE PRODUCT. I THOUGHT, ‘IT’S £10 AND IT WORKS.’ MY DAUGHTER HAS REALLY LONG HAIR IN RINGLETS AND SHE IS CONSTANTLY COMPLAINING” Upon returning home, he was even told that he’d got it wrong by his daughter who said “Dad, if it does what he says, I’d buy it.” Low and behold, six months later “it’s up for sale in Selfridges.”
I’m doing a TV show and then writing a book. Entrepreneurship gives you that freedom to be yourself and have the flexibility to build something that really makes a difference.” Observe the masses and do the opposite Entrepreneurial spirit to James is the freedom to “think, express yourself, and the opportunity to be different and think outside the box.” James says, “My father once said to me, ‘observe the masses and do the opposite’ and that’s always stuck with me. “I think it’s important that entrepreneurs recognise that we’re in a challenging landscape and the market we serve today changes so quickly.”
‘Be a chameleon’ When asked what his fondest memory of his entrepreneurial story was, James recalls the many twists and turns in his journey and says that “the thing I’ve enjoyed the most is the need to constantly reinvent myself. As an entrepreneur, I believe that you truly have to be a bit of a chameleon, because one day your business is going in one direction and the next, before you know it, the market changes and you’re off on a different path.” “For me, as a serial entrepreneur, one minute I’m running a recruitment business and the next a private equity firm, then
James recognises that part of the journey to success is failure and says that “the one thing you can guarantee in business is that if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. I think it’s absolutely vital that entrepreneurs, at all stages of their journeys, embrace failure and dont’t be afraid of it.”
Turning challenge into opportunity Entrepreneurialism is in Jenny Campbell’s blood. That may sound strange for someone who forged an incredibly successful career in the corporate world of banking. Yet, a quick look at Jenny’s family history suggests she was always going to become an entrepreneur at some point. “If I look back 100 years, my ancestors were entrepreneurs,” Jenny begins. “I was brought up in the house my great grandfather had built for his family. I knew that he built most of the town we grew up in. And my other great grandfather had a printing business.” Wanting less risk for their children, Jenny’s great grandparents encouraged their children to follow professional careers, which fell through the generations. Heavily influenced by her parents, who were in banking, Jenny was brought up to work hard, achieve and value the power of money, regardless of whether that was in a job or as an entrepreneur. From the age of 13, while other kids were out playing on the weekends, Jenny was working in her local newsagents, igniting her passion for making her own money. At 16, she began grooming dogs and earned enough to buy her own car at 17. Fast forward to her mid 40s and, following a successful career in banking, Jenny has become one of the UK’s most formidable entrepreneurs. 14
Breaking the mould Instead of progressing with her education, Jenny decided to leave school and work in the financial sector to satisfy her drive to earn. She made a deal with her father that she would continue to study and become a qualified banker. Five years of night school later, she did. However, that didn’t spell the end of the hard work. In fact, it was only just starting. Jenny explains: “At the time I didn’t necessarily see it, but there were times during my 20s where being a woman in banking was not easy.”
“AT THE TIME I DIDN’T NECESSARILY SEE IT, BUT THERE WERE TIMES DURING MY 20S WHERE BEING A WOMAN IN BANKING WAS NOT EASY.” At the age of 25, Jenny recalls receiving a letter from the personnel department rating her future career prospects as a ‘B’. Not knowing exactly what that meant, Jenny noticed a young, male colleague opposite also receive a letter, a colleague she knew she was outperforming. His prospects were graded ‘A’. “You start to learn to challenge the system and perceptions. When I went to London in my 30s, I found it hard as a female in a male environment, but also as a northerner in a southern environment. And that was all while trying to raise two young children under the age of 10.” She adds: “I actually don’t find it difficult in an all-male environment. I think other people make it difficult. I grew
up between two brothers, hanging out of trees, playing cowboys and Indians. I was very much a tom boy and comfortable in a male environment. Sometimes it’s others that aren’t so comfortable with female leadership, but you need to work through that.” Turning challenge into opportunity
to support young entrepreneurs in setting up and growing businesses, and is able to do this in her new role at the Prince’s Trust, where she is Vice-Chair of the Enterprise Fellowship Programme. She also came away from the Den with an impressive portfolio of clients, who she can spend time on developing, and helping their businesses flourish.
In 2006, Jenny was tasked with repairing and selling YourCash Europe, a struggling ATM provider owned at the time by Royal Bank of Scotland. Initially, she saw it as a two-year project before returning to the day-to-day life of banking, but Jenny fell in love with running a business.
“YOU START TO LEARN TO CHALLENGE THE SYSTEM AND PERCEPTIONS. WHEN I WENT TO LONDON IN MY 30S, I FOUND IT HARD AS A FEMALE IN A MALE ENVIRONMENT, BUT ALSO AS A NORTHERNER IN A SOUTHERN ENVIRONMENT. AND THAT WAS ALL WHILE TRYING TO RAISE TWO YOUNG CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 10.” By the time the two-year turnaround project came to an end, Jenny found herself considering that owning a business was a very real and credible option for her. By the time the financial crisis struck in 2008, buying a repaired ATM provider wasn’t the most attractive option for other organisations. Jenny says :“I’d done two years of hard work, I said why don’t we buy it rather than trying to sell it? The financial crisis provided challenges for a lot of people, but it gave an opportunity for me.” Jenny and her team extended the two-year turnaround project into four before buying the company from RBS in 2010. She pays tribute to the bank for equipping her with the skillset to run a company, and the opportunity to repair the business, without which she says wouldn’t have happened without RBS’ support. “I didn’t become the entrepreneur until I was mid 40s, and by then I had a whole bag of skills that I’d learned through my banking career,” Jenny says. Buying YourCash Europe gave Jenny the chance to work on it for a further six years, concentrating her efforts on its upward trajectory. It was a strategy which paid off, as she took the company from losing £7 million a year, to turning a profit of £7m. In October 2016, Jenny sold YourCash to US business Euronet for £50 million. The future Jenny joined BBC’s Dragon’s Den in 2017 where she remained for two series before leaving in 2019. But it’s the investor and mentor roles where Jenny sees her future. She is an opportunist, ready for a fresh challenge. Jenny wants
Jenny actively encourages investment opportunities through her Invest in Me programme, which focuses on identifying the potential of the entrepreneurs themselves perhaps more than specific business ideas and plans. She is on the hunt for successful entrepreneurs. “I pick pieces of out of people’s journeys and think that there’s a place for everyone to be successful if they’re determined enough. I’m widely read and inspired by these little nuggets of people’s own struggles,” she says. Sometimes, people message or approach Jenny just asking for advice, “it’s the simplest of questions that you can help them with, and it unlocks any inhibitions that they might have”.
“I PICK PIECES OF OUT OF PEOPLE’S JOURNEYS AND THINK THAT THERE’S A PLACE FOR EVERYONE TO BE SUCCESSFUL IF THEY’RE DETERMINED ENOUGH.” Entrepreneurship is thriving in the UK, and Jenny is the perfect ambassador to champion new business. She has saved a failing company, invested in numerous start-ups, and is supporting Britain’s next generation of entrepreneurs. “Entrepreneurship is so important to the UK, for our economy. It was stifled for many years, the corporates probably took a lot of the talent because of the gold-plated pension schemes, and things like that. Now they’ve gone, or aren’t what they were, it has unleashed young people to want to be entrepreneurs,” she says. Jenny actively encourages the development of new business. She describes how younger generations “don’t want to be locked into 30-year corporate careers. I want to encourage that, it’s helpful for the UK to have that level of entrepreneurship.” With entrepreneurship as a viable career choice for many young people in 2019, who better to pave the way for budding business owners than successful investor and entrepreneur, Jenny Campbell. 15
Kanya King CBE
Restoring the Balance Since 1996 the annual MOBO (music of black origin) Awards has made household names of the likes of Stormzy, Emeli Sandé and Skepta, 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 one woman – Kanya King CBE – 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 a blur of cool Britannia, 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 MOBOs becoming a regular fixture on the global A-lister’s calendar. But with no background or education in enterprise, how did she manage it? Kanya explains: “There is a saying: ‘You don’t know 16
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.” “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.” 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 the organisation that would define her career. “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 over two subsequent decades 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 the philosophy 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. Agility is the ability to escape traps in the market 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.”
A making of a business icon Success has brought Kanya numerous academic titles, and she was named one of London’s Most Influential People by the London Evening Standard in 2011, among other accolades. But only an MBE, now made a 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 address 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 win-win opportunities.” Lessons for future entrepreneurs 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.” The NEF is a not-for-profit organisation that operates development programmes for aspiring entrepreneurs, designed to support the next generation. 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.” 17
Driving Innovation Many entrepreneurs feel almost destined to become one, whether through a long line of family entrepreneurs or frugal time spent setting up mini ventures as a youngster. Perhaps the type of path you don’t hear of too often is that of Matt Smith, founder of the Centre for Entrepreneurs. Unlike a lot of his peers, Matt didn’t grow up with entrepreneurship flowing through his veins. Instead, it was his education that turned his head. Taking part in Young Enterprise at school first sparked Matt’s interest in the entrepreneurial world - a spark that burst into a flame as he progressed through college and university. Instead of finding a passion for profit, Matt discovered a love of helping others to thrive. Whilst studying at university he launched Nacue (National Association of College & University Entrepreneurs), the student enterprise charity. And it was just a year after graduation that he would find the idea that would establish him as an influential figure and a leading champion of entrepreneurship in the UK. Serial entrepreneur and columnist for The Times, Luke Johnson, brought the idea of Centre for Entrepreneurs to Matt, and it didn’t take long for Matt to accept the offer, becoming the organisation’s co-founder. Matt was tasked with designing, launching and running the Centre for Entrepreneurs. “I was invited to coffee with Luke, who pitched the idea of Centre for Entrepreneurs to me,” Matt recalls. “I 18
was immediately taken with the idea to create a researchbacked campaign organisation to bring substance to the entrepreneurial world.” He believed entrepreneurship was struggling at the time, and Centre for Entrepreneurs would be at the heart of changing that. Matt explains: “In 2012-2013, entrepreneurship was active but I think it could be suggested that it was more style over substance. There was a lack of understanding around entrepreneurship itself, and we wanted to change that.” Of course, fundraising for a new non-profit was problematic for Matt. But he highlights credibility as his biggest challenge in the early days.
“IN 2012-2013, ENTREPRENEURSHIP WAS ACTIVE BUT I THINK IT COULD BE SUGGESTED THAT IT WAS MORE STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE”. “I was a year out of university, trying to influence government and other universities. It was hard to get investment, but the main issue was credibility. The only way I could overcome it was to outperform and deliver above expectations to exceptional standards. I had to work hard, put in the hours and do bigger and better things than anyone would expect of someone that age.” Matt takes his inspiration from entrepreneurs who seek to do good, and applies their business knowhow to help deliver success. He explains: “Like many people, I looked to a lot of American entrepreneurs - the Bill Gates of the world. What appealed to me is not only the sharply tuned
entrepreneurial drive that made these people successful, but their philanthropic perspective and approach.” Matt also took a great amount of inspiration from the Irish-American billionaire Chuck Feeney, who built his fortune as a pioneer of the duty free concept. The book ‘The Billionaire Who Wasn’t’ recounts Chuck’s life and tells the story of how he made his billions, but also famously gave away $10 billion and prompted the ‘giving while living’ movement. And Matt says it had a hugely influential impact on his life.
“I think the least expected but most interesting aspect is our work with teaching entrepreneurship in prisons. These are highly excluded individuals that are often phenomenally entrepreneurial. Our research and campaigning around it has led to more prisoners and ex-prisoners having the opportunity to explore entrepreneurship, and the support they need.”
LIKE MANY PEOPLE, I LOOKED TO A LOT OF AMERICAN ENTREPRENEURS - THE BILL GATES OF THE WORLD. WHAT APPEALED TO ME IS NOT ONLY THE SHARPLY TURNED ENTREPRENEURIAL DRIVE THAT MADE THESE PEOPLE SUCCESSFUL, BUT THEIR PHILANTHROPIC PERSPECTIVE AND APPROACH.”
He may not have billions to give away, but it’s fair to say Matt has followed these ethos since launching Centre for Entrepreneurs in 2012, and he’s now shifting his focus to have a stronger social impact.
With six years under his belt, Matt has no plans to deviate the course, placing the Centre for Entrepreneurs right at the heart of his future plans. “It’s entrepreneurs that drive innovation, create jobs and bring the country forward. We need both of those across the UK. We’re entering into a new phase of Centre for Entrepreneurs, where we are doing a lot more research and building networks to support refugees, prisoners and exprisoners, and graduates.”
Mel Young Creating Social Good In 2019, more and more businesses are placing social responsibility at the very core of their values. But it hasn’t always been this way. A decade or so ago, businesses were developing Corporate Social Responsibility policies, and before that, few were thinking about how they could enact positive social change. One man, however, has dedicated his entire entrepreneurial journey to positive social impact, Mel Young. Mel is the man who helped bring The Big Issue into Scotland, before going on to create the Homeless World Cup in 2003. Mel didn’t set out to become even a social entrepreneur, let alone a profit-seeking entrepreneur. “I’ve always been driven by fairness,” he explains. “Then the entrepreneur bit came in afterwards. I’ve always been practically driven as well, so it was about looking at how I could apply this change through entrepreneurship.” When recalling the biggest challenges they face when starting a business, entrepreneurs often highlight things like fundraising and recruitment. But when Mel started, his biggest challenge was convincing people he was “actually sane”. Are you mad? “We were pioneers [in this social entrepreneur space]. A lot of people thought what we were doing was crazy. We 20
were saying ‘Look, we’re trying to do something here that is constructive and adds up’. “When I started the Big Issue in Scotland, I had people questioning the idea. They looked at me and actually said ‘Are you mad?’.” In establishing Big Issue in Scotland, Mel had developed a track record of starting and building a successful nonprofit business that brought positive social change. And yet, he was still faced with the same questions when he launched the Homeless World Cup. Sixteen years on from the first Homeless World Cup, Mel says he doesn’t hear those questions anymore. Although quite common now, Mel didn’t realise he was a social entrepreneur for quite some time. “I’d never been able to fit the fold, because I wasn’t what everyone thought an entrepreneur was. I was bringing business concepts into the social sector and marrying the two together. “The sector was emerging and in many ways I was always being entrepreneurial without realising it.”
“WHEN I STARTED THE BIG ISSUE IN SCOTLAND, I HAD PEOPLE QUESTIONING THE IDEA. THEY LOOKED AT ME AND ACTUALLY SAID ‘ARE YOU MAD?’.” Like so many great start-up stories, the idea for the Homeless World Cup came in a bar over a beer. In fact, it was after the International Network of Street Papers annual conference, where a large group of attendees were having a drink and talking about how inspired they were. There was one, big issue though. There were no homeless people there.
“We were talking in the bar until 3am about how we were going to change the world. We were talking about how we could get homeless people to experience what we were experiencing at the conference,” Mel recalls. “A colleague of mine from Austria and I were trying to come up with ideas, but we didn’t think a conference would work. Homeless people might get bored, then there would’ve been issues with visas and even the language barrier.” Then it clicked. Both big football fans, Mel and his colleague realised there was an international language called football, and just how powerful that language can be. “Some of the [street paper] sellers we knew had formed little football teams, and we thought we could build on that. We talked about staging a match between Scotland and Austria; I’d put a team of Scottish homeless people together, and he’d put together one from Austria.” There it was, the very foundations of an idea for a football World Cup, not made up of the most decorated and skilled players on the planet, but of the most underprivileged. Mel adds: “The next morning we met for breakfast, talked about how great our conversation was, and questioned whether or not we should actually do it. You can have these amazing discussions, but they often stay in the bar. The critical thing was in that second conversation, we simply said ‘let’s make it happen’.” Breaking the rules Sometimes businesses have the luxury of starting slow, getting things wrong and making changes. That wasn’t the case for Mel and the Homeless World Cup, however.
“The Homeless World Cup broke the rules in that sense. We had to get the first one absolutely right to get people to listen to us,” Mel explains. A standout first event was the big breakthrough, without which Mel admits it may not have been able to garner the support it has in the years since. “We were able to convince big corporates to come on
board. We kept banging on doors and people again thought we were nuts, but we kept going. Eventually someone said they liked our passion and said the idea was ‘off the wall, but it might work’. Once we got that first deal, it opened more doors.” Just three years later, the Homeless World Cup in Cape Town in 2006 saw the number of teams taking part double, and there was a jump in media coverage, as well. “We jumped from this peripheral concept into a serious and impactful force,” Mel says.
“WE WERE ABLE TO CONVINCE BIG CORPORATES TO COME ON BOARD. WE KEPT BANGING ON DOORS AND PEOPLE AGAIN THOUGHT WE WERE NUTS, BUT WE KEPT GOING. EVENTUALLY SOMEONE SAID THEY LIKED OUR PASSION AND SAID THE IDEA WAS ‘OFF THE WALL, BUT IT MIGHT WORK’.” Now in 2019, the 17th Homeless World Cup in Cardiff will see over 500 players come together to represent 50 countries, resulting in real and positive social change. Since launch, the Homeless World Cup Foundation has impacted the lives of more than 1.2 million people around the world. ENTREPRENEURS TAKING THE LEAD Mel has no plans to slow down. In fact, he is adamant he’ll never retire. “As long as there is homelessness in the world, the Homeless World Cup will keep going,” he says. “I want to get to a position where there is no need for us because there is no homelessness. Sadly, I think it will be around for a while.” Realising that the need for social entrepreneurs will go on for quite some time, Mel now attributes much of his time to championing the next generation. “It’s incredibly important in this day and age that you have people who are prepared to do things. “I’m inspired by entrepreneurs because they always have great ideas, and what they need is support to get these ideas into practical action.” What’s clear to see is Mel’s passion for helping young entrepreneurs with social values, in particular. He says “I love it. I love listening to their ideas and want to support them the best I can. Reading about people who have these ideas to change the world is inspiring for me. It’s very encouraging to see them thrive. “They have a very important role in the future. There’s a huge discussion surrounding what we’re doing about the climate, about the planet. The role of governments and individuals is obviously important, but the roles of business in the future of the planet is crucial. “That’s where entrepreneurs will take the lead. We’re seeing people take simple concepts that already exist and change them for the better.” 21
Oli Barrett MBE
The most connected man in Britain
Oli Barrett MBE is a rare breed of entrepreneur whose passion for connecting people is as strong as his love of business. Widely known as the ‘most connected person in Britain’, and as a serial entrepreneur with a range of advisory positions, he is one of the most influential champions of entrepreneurs. Chief among Oli’s repertoire of skills is his standing as an event host across the tech and entrepreneurial spaces. It’s his charisma and connection that has ingrained Oli into the journey of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, having been our first since the very first event in 2013. The journey to where he is now is an unusual one, taking in many twists and turns in the early years. Having finished his school education, a teenage Oli took himself to Florida for six months to work at Walt Disney World Resort in 1997. While many would see it as a simple job to fund a longer exploration of one of the US’ most attractive states, it’s here that Oli credits as the start of his journey to the master networker and connector he is today. “It sparked in me a love for meeting people and enjoying work,” he recalls. Oli returned to convention once his time in Florida was up, attending Edinburgh University to study French and Spanish. His love of the city was not matched by a love for 22
his course, however, and he left after just one term. “In the spirit of taking a few unusual decisions, I went to be a Butlins Redcoat,” Oli adds. “I then went to Leeds University on a far more practical course in Broadcasting.” It was at Leeds University that Oli really discovered his bug for starting things. While he wasn’t studying, he was producing and appearing in stage shows and spoken-word radio. And he would even launch his very first business - an alternative careers fair organised by students, for students, which would even gain support from Saatchi and Saatchi. Oli says: “We ran events in nine cities. Ultimately, the business didn’t work out. However, by that time I had met Ben Way, who I would go on to founder several projects with.” London calling A move to London saw Oli exercise an incredible trait which has been pivotal in his success. He read about a national enterprise campaign and offered his help. He saw an intriguing idea and saw ways he could support and add value. Oli was already running speed-networking events for fun, and teamed up with Enterprise UK to roll it to a national and international level - a move that saw Oli credited as the man who brought speed-networking to the UK.
“IN THE SPIRIT OF TAKING A FEW UNUSUAL DECISIONS, I WENT TO BE A BUTLINS REDCOAT, I THEN WENT TO LEEDS UNIVERSITY ON A FAR MORE PRACTICAL COURSE.” “It helped me to meet literally thousands of interesting people, and little by little people started approaching me
to get involved in a range of projects and opportunities,” Oli says. “By this time, I had been asked to speak in a few schools about what it was like to start something.” Although he was being asked to speak at schools and events more and more, Oli was becoming increasingly frustrated by how passive the ‘speaker-audience’ had become. He decided to do something about it. “I read about a vicar who had handed his congregation £10 each, and encouraged them to see what they could turn it into. It gave me the idea for what became Make Your Mark with a Tenner, which launched by handing 10,000 school pupils a tenner.” Make Your Mark with a Tenner would go on to become simply Tenner, and is still going today, these days run by Young Enterprise. It is the largest schools enterprise challenge in the UK and has reached over 250,000 young people since it started in 2007.
enterprise across the UK. In 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron’s entrepreneurial advisory, Lord Young, resigned. Oli contacted a select few of his most esteemed entrepreneurial connections and recommended they meet with Lord Young. “The eight attendees at that meeting became the founders of StartUp Britain. Lord Young suggested in that first meeting that we meet his former colleagues in Downing Street, and less than a month later we were presenting our ideas inside Number 10.” Such is the length and quality of Oli’s entrepreneurial CV, a profile of the man simply can’t go into detail on each of them.
Starting and connecting Tenner was just the first in a long line of ventures Oli would go on to start, or help start, that would see him invited to join a number organisations as an advisor. Following Tenner’s success, he joined the Council on Social Action from 2007 to 2009 which was chaired by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Oli explains: “It was about the idea that governments can’t solve problems on their own, and neither can companies or charities. The group brought together a diverse cast of characters, from Tim Smith, the creator of the Eden Project, to the managing partner of Accenture.
“The experience convinced me that this bringing together of unlikely alliances was both exciting and important.” It was this thinking that prompted the creation of StartUp Britain, the national campaign which aims to encourage
“IT WAS ABOUT THE IDEA THAT GOVERNMENTS CAN’T SOLVE PROBLEMS ON THEIR OWN, AND NEITHER CAN COMPANIES OR CHARITIES.” In addition to Tenner, Oli is the co-founder of Volunteer It Yourself (VIY), a social enterprise that helps and encourages young people to renovate and repair their own young clubs. He is also the founder of TOTS (Turn on the Subtitles), a children’s literacy campaign. From 2008, Oli co-created and led several international trade missions designed to help businesses expand and succeed overseas. Oli also holds advisory positions on the boards of Tech London Advocates, One Million Mentors and Troubadour Theatres and is a Fellow of impact business builder Zinc. In 2016 he stepped back from Cospa, the cross-sector partnership agency he co-founded. Among his main focuses now are The Connector Unit, making impactful introductions between small and large companies, and presenting The Lens, a Business in the Community podcast exploring responsible business the in the digital age. But what is it about everything that Oli does that he finds so engrossing? “I love making useful introductions. I believe that creativity and problem solving are fuelled by connections between often wildly different people and ideas, and I was to help create projects which embrace this. “Typically, I’m in my element at either end of the creative process. Either right at the start, bringing people and ideas together, or on delivery day, seeing good ideas put into action. “Although I need to get better at keeping in touch, I love meeting new people, especially those who believe, like me, that life is short, that business can make a difference and that work can be great fun.”
pound company that now designs, produces and installs signage for clients across the UK. Chris knows that with a bigger company can come bigger cash flow challenges; something which he always makes sure he plans for in advance. “We’re trying to grow all the time. As we’re taking on more clients and bringing in a bigger turnover, we need to keep on top of our cash flow and make sure we’ve got the stock to deliver on clients’ orders when they need it.” For GK Signs, Esme’s quick and simple process has helped the company to keep expanding, taking on new business and more orders. Talking about his experience of using Esme, Chris said: “The whole online process was so intuitive and straightforward; we had the money in just ten minutes from being approved. It was great that there were no setup fees or early repayment fees because it has given us the flexibility to pay it off early, which is really helpful with a seasonal business”
REMOVING THE ROAD BLOCKS By Richard Kerton Exeter-based Great British Entrepreneur Award winner, GK Signs, is one of the businesses that are continuing to scale in this time of economic uncertainty. Having secured a loan for £100,000 from Esme Loans earlier this year, GK Signs was able to chase more growth and widen its revenue streams. So, who are Esme Loans?
GK Signs was bought in 2011 by then 16-year old schoolleaver Chris Rundle who was determined to see his business succeed. A determination that saw Chris bring home the award for Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Wales and the South West at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2018. Since buying GK Signs, he’s taken the business from strength-to-strength. From making and delivering orders himself by moped, GK Signs has scaled to a multi-million
Esme Loans is the digital lending platform where SMEs can quickly obtain unsecured loans between £10k-150k, which can be borrowed for up to five years. They think giving businesses the cash they need quickly is really important, which is why they give customers a quick decision on their loan application. If successful, businesses can have access to the money within the hour. The fastest loan from application through to money in their account currently stands at 29 minutes, something unheard of in traditional business lending Having successfully taken Esme from start-up to scale up, the founders fully understand the pain points of running a business, and have drawn upon our own experiences of scaling to develop a product that addresses the needs of growing businesses. Whether a company is in need of capital to meet the demands of rapidly expanding business, or they simply need a short-term loan to effectively manage cash flow, Esme’s aim is to make the process as quick and easy as possible, allowing businesses to get on with what they do best. 25
Paul Lees Mastering the art of spotting the gap Paul Lees is a moth to a flame when seeking an opportunity for business. With two successful companies in differing sectors, Paul is going from strength to strength. Undeterred by competitors and ‘holes in the business,’ he strives to succeed in the big market. And, despite being a serial entrepreneur, he remembers the initial lessons learnt from other business owners and believes they are paramount in running your own company. Paul’s father was an engineer, and his mother was in sales. He believes you need to be an amalgamation of both to be an entrepreneur. His genetics, combined with his schooling - which was technical rather than academic – equipped him with the intrigue and skillset to develop and construct. He followed school with a degree in philosophy and politics – effectively working things out from basics and learning the art of the possible. He suspects that all of these factors contributed to moulding him into the entrepreneur he is today, but he believes there “is another part which is selfconfidence and willingness to back your own instincts, which are probably more nature than nurture.” The biggest challenges Unlike many others, he did not experience financial issues during the companies’ infancy as he was fortunate that both he and Andy (Andrew Pearce, co-founder of both Powwownow and thortful) had some money from the sale of 26
previous businesses. However, Paul stresses that “it does not remove the need to get unit economics right from the very start. Both businesses generated revenue from very early on – most of the journey has involved working out how to get more customers and how to improve unit economics.” Paul also emphasises the importance of surrounding yourself with a loyal and talented team. He says that “no one individual can run a company of any scale alone. As a leader you set the tone but you must let people do their jobs.” Sometimes, however, you fail to select the right individuals. Paul advises that you should act quickly to remove the people who are not contributing to the collective effort. “It is better to have a hole in your business than to have an arsehole in your business. It is surprising how often the rest of the team realises the problems that the individual creates, and after the removal of that person, it turns out that morale goes up rather than down.” Choosing entrepreneurship Before running his own companies, most of Paul’s career was spent within big organisations, including BT and TNT, first as a systems analyst then as a project manager. He also worked in two start-ups which proved to be unsuccessful. This allowed him to gain an understanding of the processes of organisations, from sales and billing to the elaborate operations of both large and small companies. Equipped with business insight, Paul “understood what it took to run a business. It turns out my first business was not a success (because of team and unit economics). I was able to exit with enough money to start Powwownow. I probably learnt more from that company about what not to do in business than I had in the previous ones.”
The inspiration Paul has worked with many talented technicians and managers but had never considered working for himself until he was in his late 30s. A factor of the times, there was not much of a start-up culture in London in the 80’s and 90s. He looked to the tech industry in Silicon Valley for inspiration at that time: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell … but they were so remote. Paul felt a world away. Powwownow evolved from Paul’s considerable experience of working for both large and small companies. Big companies working on sizeable projects required a lot of time on conference calls. Paul’s involvement with smaller companies made him realise how expensive these calls really were. He looked at how it was being done in America, where there were ‘free conference call’ companies. This inspired him to work out how this would be possible in the UK, using 0844 numbers.
“IT IS BETTER TO HAVE A HOLE IN YOUR BUSINESS THAN TO HAVE AN ARSEHOLE IN YOUR BUSINESS. IT
once you see the million you know you are on your way.” The journey of Powwownow, from start-up to sale, was very satisfying. Of that journey, the last part, preparing the company for sale and executing the sale, were the most challenging and ultimately the most rewarding.” Entrepreneurship as a career path Paul stresses the importance of having the necessary experience in business before making the big decision to start your own. It’s easier to manage things if you’ve been under someone else’s guidance, learning the ins and outs of the running of a business. He adds “it is also the case that you should never start a company on your own. It takes a group of people with different skills and experience to run a business. Entrepreneurship is difficult enough without the many barriers that you encounter: government red tape, difficulties with landlords, banks, payment gateways etc. I think it is incumbent on those who have successfully navigated the minefield to speak about the issues and to offer help and support to those going through it for the first time.”
IS SURPRISING HOW OFTEN THE REST OF THE TEAM REALISES THE PROBLEMS THAT THE INDIVIDUAL CREATES.” In the case of thortful, a greetings card market-place – think ‘Esty meets Moonpig’ - Paul specifically looked for a sector which had a big market (£1.6bn p.a. in the UK) where tech could make a difference, where a brand mattered, and in an area which was relatively undisrupted. Paul says that “in both cases, although there is a great deal of tech to make the products work and to sell the products, the main thrust of both companies is marketing.”
“YOU SHOULD NEVER START A COMPANY ON YOUR OWN. IT TAKES A GROUP OF PEOPLE WITH DIFFERENT SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE TO RUN A BUSINESS.” The future
The breakthrough moment Paul pinpoints the moment when Powwownow hit success, when the company stopped doing direct response advertising and started doing brand advertising. At that point they had cracked the model and were starting the process of scaling the company. He says that “the first million is the hardest (it does not matter what the million is: web site UV’s, API transactions, revenue, gross profit),
Paul is also involved with a number of businesses as an advisor. Looking ahead, he’d like to make it more local, involving himself with businesses around Bournemouth and Southampton. “I don’t expect to run another company – but never say never,” he says. For now, it’s all about thortful, the creative card market-place supporting a community of designers, illustrators and photographers who create beautiful, unique greetings cards (most of which you won’t find on the high street!) With the company about to kickstart into scaling up, the future of greetings cards sits firmly with the aspirations of Paul Lees. 27
What gets me out of bed every day!
When you’ve had as much success in your entrepreneurial journey as Peter Roberts has, you could probably imagine a plethora of reasons why you might get out of bed every day. For the PureGym founder and former CEO, his biggest reason is the excitement of supporting young entrepreneurs and helping them on the path to their own success. It has been a long path to where Peter is today. Often bottom of his classes at school as a child, he says it spurred him to do better and strive for success in adulthood. But entrepreneurship is something he feels he was destined for. “My father and uncle were great entrepreneurs themselves, so I thought it was a bit more in the genes,” Peter explains. “Sadly they both died when I still quite young. I was left on my own and it was sink or swim. I suppose they are the main reasons that I was determined to get on and do things.” With Peter’s entrepreneurial father and uncle no longer around to inspire and guide him, he is very thankful to have had a “great mentor”, “a man who mentored me socially and financially and was very keen to help young people and young businesses.” It was quite some time before Peter started his entrepreneurial endeavours, though. He recalls: “I qualified 28
as a chartered surveyor and got a good and steady job, becoming a senior partner of the surveying firm before I left and went on my own doing entrepreneurial things.” Unlike many entrepreneurs today, Peter looks back fondly at his employment as a young adult. “I think it’s really important to get that grounding. It can be tough [as an entrepreneur] and you can make mistakes, but if you have a qualification to fall back on, it’s certainly safer.” Peter has spent most of his entrepreneurial career in the leisure industry, running hotels, pubs, restaurants, resorts, and nightclubs, starting up and selling eight different businesses. Looking back, he says finance and naivety about running a business were his biggest challenges. “When I started in the 70s, getting funding was very difficult indeed. And I think naivety and a lack of knowledge working in business [was a problem]. I had to do a lot off my own back - just the fact that I hadn’t worked in business [was a challenge]. What I find now, as well, is that entrepreneurs probably know their subject very well, but haven’t had the benefit of knowledge of running and setting up a business.”
“I THINK IT’S REALLY IMPORTANT TO GET THAT GROUNDING. IT CAN BE TOUGH [AS AN ENTREPRENEUR] AND YOU CAN MAKE MISTAKES, BUT IF YOU HAVE A QUALIFICATION TO FALL BACK ON, IT’S SAFER.” Fast forward to 2008 and a single drink in the pub led to the creation of what is seen as the biggest disrupter of the gym market, PureGym. Peter explains: “I met someone in a
pub who asked if I’d heard of low-cost gyms. I’d been in the gym market before as a director of a mid-mark company, so I was intrigued.” Requiring very few employees and no cash handling, Peter thought the concept of a low-cost gym was too good to be true. Having just exited his business at the time, Peter had the freedom to jump on a plane to Germany and the US to do his own research on the idea. “I spent the next few months doing my research. I assembled a team and wrote a business plan, got some shareholders - I was fortunate enough to have done that process before - and I was able to get some pure start-up money,” Peter says. That meeting in a pub took place in early 2008, and within a year Peter and his team were opening the first gyms. Having secured start-up funding, PureGym was able to open with four gyms in four different areas; residential, city centre, retail park and in a business area. They didn’t know which would be best suited to this type of gym, and “all four of them worked, much to my surprise”, Peter says. A decade on, PureGym has more than 240 locations across the UK and more than one million members - 50% more than its nearest competitor.
so I know the potential bear traps, and hopefully I can guide these young entrepreneurs in areas they have no experience in.”
“I SPENT THE NEXT FEW MONTHS DOING MY RESEARCH. I ASSEMBLED A TEAM AND WROTE A BUSINESS PLAN, GOT SOME SHAREHOLDERS - I WAS FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO HAVE DONE THAT PROCESS BEFORE - AND I WAS ABLE TO GET SOME PURE START-UP MONEY.” And it’s here that Peter’s passion lies. After decades of success with several different ventures, he finds the most energy from supporting others: “It excites me and gives me a reason to get out of bed every morning.” “I have some board positions, and I’ve invested in around 90% of them. It’s a combination which actually excites me a lot. I love working with these young entrepreneurs who have great ideas. They know a lot about their subject, but what they don’t have is the benefit of what else goes on outside their direct business, where they have to be careful and where they can take risks. “On a personal basis, so many people helped me when I was in that position, they helped to shape my career and the success that I’ve had. On a wider note, the growth and spirit of this country is being developed by these young entrepreneurs running businesses. I see the enthusiasm of the young to succeed and to develop their business and it’s absolutely amazing.”
Peter stepped down as PureGym CEO before it was sold to US private equity fund Leonard Green & Partners for £600 million in 2017. In a previous interview with clic.co.uk, he explained that running a large organisation “does not marry up to suit his expertise”. It seems, then, that Peter feels most at home during the start-up phase; researching an idea and building it from scratch. Perhaps that is why his time is now focused on the next generation. A core group of 13 different young entrepreneurs receive a combination of individual mentoring, investment and Peter’s expertise as a board member. Peter explains: “My own focus now is a business called Gymfinity Kids, with my old PureGym team. I’m a nonexecutive, but the team is there and I’m certainly involved.” Peter’s core group of young entrepreneurs involve him on a regular basis. He continues: “I think where I can add value is that I’ve been over the jumps quite a few times, 29
Stephen Fear Seeing Through Barriers to Business An entrepreneur once told Stephen Fear that they wanted to buy a BMW to impress clients and customers. Stephen told them to forget about the car; go to BMW instead and pay a few hundred pounds for a branded blank key. “Put that down on the table at a business meeting and they’ll think you have a BMW. Buy a banger and if that breaks down, get it repaired,” he said. Maybe not the answer the would-be highflyer was hoping for, but it reveals an element of Fear’s character that has been crucial to his success: the ability to see through what’s not important. Stephen had no flashy motor when he started out in business; he couldn’t even drive. Money, knowledge and basic home furnishings were in similarly short supply. “I was brought up in a one-bedroom flat in Bristol with my dad. He never had a bank account; I didn’t know anyone with a bank account until I was 17. There was never any chance of borrowing money and there were no credit cards. We had no car, phone, carpet or fridge.” What Stephen did have were tenacity and acumen beyond his years, and while other 14-year-olds were following lessons at school, he was forging educational paths of his own. “I used to buy colouring books. There were two girls on my estate who were really artistic, so I’d get them to colour in the pictures and sign them. I’d cut the pages out, put them in frames and I’d have 49 pictures to sell. I made a terrific amount of money out of it.” 30
Opportunity Through his teenage years, Stephen saw opportunities all around him. “I felt that if you have something of value that the market wants, and you can deliver the product, then you can find a way,” he says. The ‘way’ appeared in the pages of Exchange & Mart that Stephen would avidly scan, and an advert for oven-cleaning fluid which could be used on ovens without switching them off or waiting for them to cool – a great product to sell door-to-door, he thought. Stephen – 15 at the time – headed to the phone box at the end of his dad’s street to make his first business call. The operator, Joyce Thompson, told him the number he wanted to call was from the US before connecting him to a firm in New Jersey, where bosses assumed the operator was Stephen’s secretary. With an ‘out-of- order’ sign on the door, Stephen would sit outside his commandeered office waiting for incoming calls. Having set up his business as Easy Clean, Stephen took three months to persuade the cleaning agent manufacturers to let him create their product in his factory – “a series of derelict tool sheds” – on the council estate where he lived. Soon he was trading with a number of industrial companies, and he sold Easy Clean four years later for £100,000. “They had done one ad from the States and put their phone number on it. They never expected a scruffy kid from a council estate in Bristol to end up being their agent here,” Stephen reflects. But all along he’d kept the important things in focus. Believe in yourself It’s this tried-and-tested success that informs his advice for budding entrepreneurs. “I always tell people not to worry about where you’re working from, whether that’s from home,
meeting people in a café or a hotel; it’s cheaper and it’s flexible. You’re better off spending your money on marketing, maybe limited PR. Work out how you can get more exposure for your business and get to your customers. It boils down to the fact that with no sales, you don’t have a business. “Believe in yourself, don’t listen to the moaners and groaners. Mix with positive people who give you an uplifting feeling; don’t mix with people who drag you down because they’re a pain. “In my day someone told me that to want to get rich was ridiculous. You had to win the football pools to get rich quick. I always believed that if you had a good idea and you could sell enough of it, it was inevitable that you were going to become rich. I still believe that profoundly. My overriding advice is ‘just go for it’.” There is something of Stephen’s past in this. “My mum used to say that you’re as good as anyone, but remember you’re not better than everyone. I’ve lived by that throughout my life,” he recalls. By contrast, his father wasn’t so supportive, and always asked when his son was going to get a proper job. “Even the Bentley I was driving years later was ‘a bit big’ to my dad,” he says. Keen to keep up momentum after the sale of Easy Clean, Stephen bought a five storey Georgian property and rented out ten of its rooms while running his business from the basement flat. By the age of 27, the boy who began with nothing was worth several million pounds thanks to a number of firms and an ever-expanding portfolio of properties. Today, the Fear Group has an annual turnover of
over £100m through interests in hotels, key worker accommodation and affordable housing. If tireless hard work and talent have created great wealth for Stephen, then this success has also been used to help break down barriers for others in society. “Entrepreneurs should never be ashamed of making money and wanting good things for themselves, but we owe it to society to give something back to allow others to come through, so that wealth benefits more people,” Stephen says. He is Patron of Lucy Air Ambulance for Children, a charity dedicated to delivering air transfers for seriously ill babies and children in Britain, and is a former patron of Heropreneurs, a support service for Armed Services personnel and their partners aiming to set up themselves up in business after leaving the armed forces. In 2014, Stephen became Patron of Emmaus, a charity that has established 24 homes nationwide where the homeless can find sanctuary, community and employment. “I also think we live in a more thoughtful business era, and I hope this will continue. I believe that we need to create wealth as a society,” he says. Stephen is often introduced these days as the Phone Box Millionaire, in tribute to the way he accessed customers in those spartan early days. The moniker stands out against today’s complex business landscape in bright testament to just how much you don’t need in order to succeed, so long as you are willing to roll up your sleeves.
Looking up and down the High Street, few have a more humble beginning than Poundland and its founder, Steven Smith. Business and entrepreneurship has been the very fabric of Steven’s life from an early age, almost from birth. So it was only natural that he followed what he knew. “I was on my parents’ market stall from the age of two, so I’ve always been around business - learning to buy, learning to sell, learning to work with customers,” Steven explains. “From an early age, I was taking money on the market stall. I used to go to school in the morning, come back at 3:30 to do my homework on the floor and head to the warehouse to serve customers and help out.” Steven identifies his father as his entrepreneurial inspiration: “I learned almost everything from my dad.” “My dad was living with his parents and wanted to get a place for him and my mum, who was pregnant with me at the time,” he adds. Steven’s father was a draftsman but secured a license to trade on a market stall on the weekend. “He soon found that he could make more money from the stall on a Saturday than he could all week working as a draftsman.” It wasn’t long before he quit his job, with Steven’s mum joining him on the stall shortly after. “They couldn’t afford a babysitter, so they took me with them in my pushchair,” Steven recalls. “I grew up alongside the business. My dad taught me how to buy, how to sell, where to get products 32
from - everything from displaying products to which suppliers to go to, and making new friends and customers.” More than the inspiration to run a business in the future, Stephen’s father unknowingly provided the inspiration for what would be one of the most well-known High Street stores and the start of a £5 billion industry. “The idea for Poundland came from working on the market stall,” Steven says. “Anything that came in its original packaging was thrown into a cardboard box and sold for 10p. This box took more money than anything else.” Steven’s father sold his business in 1989, right around the time the new £1 coin was redesigned. “It was perfect because we had this idea of selling everything for one price and the new £1 coin was coming, so we put two and two together. We came up with a few ideas for a name but settled on Poundland and opened our first store in Burtonon-Trent in 1990.
“THE IDEA FOR POUNDLAND CAME FROM WORKING ON THE MARKET STALL. ANYTHING THAT CAME IN ITS ORIGINAL PACKAGING WAS THROWN INTO A CARDBOARD BOX AND SOLD FOR 10P. THIS BOX TOOK MORE MONEY THAN ANYTHING ELSE.” Although it only stocked 48 products, Poundland took £13,000 on its very first day. It wasn’t plain sailing, though. Steven initially had difficulty convincing people on the concept of selling everything for £1 and having the best position on the High Street or in a shopping centre. In fact,
he describes it as his “biggest challenge”, explaining that people “just didn’t believe me”. His strategy to overcome this hurdle was bold. First, identify the most prestigious shopping centre in the country, which turned out to be Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield. Second, get a meeting with the owner. Steven recalls: “I found out who the owner was and picked up the phone, turned up to speak to him and he eventually agreed to meet with me. I did a presentation on Poundland and he said ‘I love the concept, but I don’t have any free shops at the moment’.” Undeterred and ever positive, Steven saw ‘I love the concept’ as an opportunity rather than focusing on the negative of ‘I don’t have any free shops’. The previous night, without enough money to get a hotel room, Steven slept in his car nearby. Before settling down, however, he took a walk around the shopping centre to identify the prime locations. His favourite was occupied by a popular video store. With videos moving to DVD and online, Steven didn’t see the store having a long-term future. “I said to the owner of the shopping centre, that if that unit became available, I wanted it,” Steven says. “He agreed and three months later it went bankrupt so we took the store and took nearly £140,000 in the first week.” It was that moment that Steven identifies as the breakthrough for him as an entrepreneur and Poundland: “It allowed me to go to landlords and say ‘If Poundland is good enough for Meadowhall, it’s good enough for your shopping centre’.”
Further evidence of Steven’s character is how he reflects on his entrepreneurial career and how it shapes his time now. “If I look back on my life, I have a few regrets. You have to get the balance right, which I didn’t. I didn’t see my daughter grow up. She’d be asleep when I left and asleep when I got home.” Offering advice to younger entrepreneurs, he continued: “Not only have you got to be a great entrepreneur, you need to be a great parent, a great partner and a great person. If you can get that work-life balance right, you’ll be happier.” In fact, family absolutely comes first for Steven now. He says: “In January every year, I sit down for a full day with my wife and we put in the diary all the things she wants to do, all the things I want to do, and the business has to fit around it. Thankfully, I’m fortunate enough now to be able to fit it all in. Get the balance right would be my advice.” Nearly two decades after selling Poundland, Steven’s goal is to support young entrepreneurs. “Championing and supporting entrepreneurs is important to me, because if my father hadn’t have given me £50,000, Poundland wouldn’t be here today. I have created tens of thousands of jobs and created a £5 billion market.”
“NOT ONLY HAVE YOU GOT TO BE A GREAT ENTREPRENEUR, YOU NEED TO BE A GREAT PARENT, A GREAT PARTNER AND A GREAT PERSON. IF YOU CAN GET THAT WORK-LIFE BALANCE RIGHT, YOU’LL BE HAPPIER.”
He sold Poundland in 2000 for £50 million. And in 2014, it listed on the stock market with a capitalisation of £750m. Evidently, Steven is a hugely successful businessman, but what makes him really stand out from the crowd is how he identifies his success and what is important to him. It is not the many millions he earned selling the business, or the many more the company has generated. Instead, it is the time spent working with “fantastic people”. He explains: “Over the years, I’ve learned that you meet somebody and you weigh them up as to whether or not they’re good or bad. We employed people based on their attitude and ability, rather than exam results. It wasn’t me that built Poundland, it was my team. I’ve been incredibly fortunate enough to work with some fantastic people, so I think that’s my biggest success.”
That’s not to say support is all about funding, however. Far from it, in fact. “It’s about your contacts,” Steven explains. “It’s taken a lifetime to build those up, so people like myself can really work to help young entrepreneurs to find that break. There are so many entrepreneurs who have great ideas, and people who want to invest. I try to put those people together and if I can help get their big break, that’s amazing.” What really comes across from speaking to Steven, even if just for a short while, is his energy and enthusiasm for passing on his knowledge and support to others earlier on in their journey. And that is summed up perfectly by this final quote: “I just love working with like-minded people who have a passion to grow something. It’s all about attitude, wanting to make it happen and that’s my slogan - ‘let’s make it happen’. I love working with people who want to grow something and make a difference in the world.”
Do it for the Love Many have the drive, determination and desire to become an entrepreneur from an early age, often exhibiting the skills in the playground or as an after-school hobby. Not everyone follows this path, however, some find their passion for entrepreneurship later in life, almost by accident. Enter Will King, the founder of King of Shaves. Will grew up in Lowestoft in Suffolk with what he describes as a “relatively normal upbringing for the 60s and 70s”. While recalling that the area was particularly deprived, a young Will and his parents, both teachers, would go on camping holidays every summer. Naturally, his parents were big champions of education and always encouraged him to be curious about why things are the way they and how things happen.
“THEY TAUGHT ME THAT IF I WORKED REALLY HARD, WAS KIND TO PEOPLE AND HAD A PASSION FOR WHAT I DID, I WOULD GET SOMEWHERE.” “They backed me,” Will says. “They taught me that if I worked really hard, was kind to people and had a passion for what I did, I would get somewhere. If you have a family that is supportive of what you’re trying to do, irrespective of what it is, it’s going to be helpful in having success.” 34
Struggling through school and later university, Will was very happy working as a marketer in conference and event production. But economic issues in the early 90s saw him made redundant. Will says: “I doubt I would’ve become an entrepreneur had I not been made redundant. I didn’t lose my job because of my performance and I wanted to back myself, because if I’d got it wrong I would only have myself to blame. “I wasn’t what I’d call a ‘natural’ entrepreneur, I wasn’t selling sweets on the playground at school, I didn’t shift stuff for my mates in the hope of making some dollar,” he explains. “I decided to go into a market I knew nothing about and take on a company that had delivered massive profits and a strange-hold on the market in Gillette. I hated shaving and I had acne prone skin. My parents bought me an electric shaver for my 17th birthday, which I hated, but at least I didn’t have the pain.” Having studied mechanical engineering, Will thought he might be able to come up with a product that would work for his skin. The Body Shop was arguably hitting its peak popularity on the High Street and natural oils were growing, so that seemed like the ideal avenue. Will explains: “99% of people said ‘it’s great, but I don’t have a problem with shaving’. But I guess the 1% did have a problem, and it’s that 1% that allowed us to build a brand which had a reach in terms of being a substantial brand in skincare. There wasn’t an epiphany. It just worked for me.” Initially called Sunrise as a throwback to the sunlit mornings of Lowestoft, Will changed the name to King of Shaves and purchased the domain shave.com in 1995. Over the next five years, King of Shaves would secure shelf space in Boots and Tesco, becoming the first mass men’s shaving and skincare range to challenge Gillette. However, Will
attributes his breakthrough moment to a fax he sent to one Mohamed Al-Fayed, then the owner of Harrods. The next day, he received an order for 25 King of Shaves products. “That gave me the genuine confidence to go up and down the motorway in search of new stockists”, Will says. His rationale was that if King of Shaves was good enough for Harrods, it was good enough for other retailers to take a punt on. “Boots put it on the bottom shelf in 250 stores, which kicked our sales from £300 pounds to £59,000. As soon as we were in Boots, other retailers took notice.” A quarter of a century later and the King of Shaves brand is still going strong. But Will has set his sights on a more sustainable future for both his business and the industry. In April 2019, the entrepreneur launched the Code Zero range - a ‘lifetime use refillable’ range of men’s skin products. It is part of a transition for the whole King of Shaves brand to be free of single-use plastics within four years. While clearly caring and concerned about his business’ impact on the environment, Will believes that a product or idea that has purpose will beat one without, as long as it has a passionate, persistent and hard working entrepreneur behind it. As someone who has supported the Great British Entrepreneur Awards for a number of years, as well as other initiatives, Will initially claimed he wasn’t a role model for young entrepreneurs. However, further reflection humbly altered his thinking: “If a guy, born in Lowestoft who didn’t do great at school, toughed it out at university to get a 2:2 and his first job was selling ad space over the phone,
making 200 cold calls a day, then lost his job and got off his butt and got on with it, kept at it for more than quarter of a century, then I’d like to ‘yes, I could be a role model’.” Will is someone who stresses the value of launching and running businesses for the right reasons, and money, he says, is never the right reason. “I see a lot of young entrepreneurs setting up their businesses in the ‘burn not earn’ phase - they raise money and burn it in the hope they might be able to scale it and get more out. But the fact they’re looking to sell the business usually means they’re only looking at money coming in. Most companies don’t start off with a mission to get bought out, they start to solve a problem. Working to scale it to a profitable solution is a by-product. “I have a love for my brand. But the fact that I touch millions of people’s faces each day is amazing. I also love what people think about the brand, and more importantly, what we’re doing with Code Zero. Hopefully, when someone loves something they will do it all their life. Do it for love and you never know how much money comes out the other end.” Will finished by adding to his stark message to young entrepreneurs: “Believe in yourself and don’t suffer from imposter syndrome. Impossible is nothing. Just do it. It’s got to be great, whatever you do has to be great. It can’t be okay or not too bad. Do it for the passion and do it for the love. Who knows, the money might come along for the ride too.”
HAM NATIONAL WINNER OF CREATIVE INDUSTRIES ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR AWARD Throughout March, Jo Ham and the creative team at Mini HQ worked together on an exclusive car wrap, adapting HAM’s Rabbit designs to fit Mini’s Countryman model. Meanwhile in the Netherlands, the HAM car was being made by their production team and like all Minis, built to order. Once in the UK, both car and rabbits were sent to MINI’s fitting team who artfully applied an intricate laser cut vinyl by hand to its bodywork. FIND OUT MORE IN THE NEXT ISSUE OF GB ENTREPRENEURS MAGAZINE
THE GBEA ALUMNI SHOWCASE
Over the last seven years, NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards has celebrated many amazing entrepreneurs who have been disrupting status quo, and changing the way we live and work. The GBEA alumni showcase is a collection of some of our high-standard finalists and winners from previous programmes.
MESOA FOR MEN
ALISON SHADRACK - ADIA PR to launch the successful consumer business and expand it into a trade business too, supplying some of the top hotels, restaurants and foodhalls in the country. PR was essential to the launch and growth of the business, and whilst there are many different roles Alison had to play in running her business, it was the PR side that she enjoyed the most. This inspired her to launch Adia PR as her next business. She really wanted to help other companies, and see how PR could accelerate their growth and visibility, helping them stand out in a crowded market.
ALISON SHADRACK ADIA PR
Founded in November 2013, Adia PR has fast become known as ‘The PR Agency for Entrepreneurs.’ Adia is made up of an expert team of PR professionals dedicated to getting their clients noticed. As their motto goes, they help you to ‘Be Heard, Be Seen and Be A Success.’ They secure the media attention their clients deserve, to ensure maximum visibility for them as an entrepreneur. Their clients are trailblazing entrepreneurs who are looking to disrupt the status quo and make a difference in their market sector. Adia helps them to raise awareness about their brand and activities in front of their ideal target audience, including but not limited to; the launch of innovative products or services to market, a crowdfunding campaign or raising their personal profiles as ‘the’ go-to experts in their field. Good PR is the difference between getting your name out there and getting lost in the crowd. It’s also about adding results to your bottom line – Adia knows that good PR is about good business, they always aim for measurable results, and in doing so, help their clients avoid being the best kept secret in their industry.
Alison Shadrack is the founder of Adia PR and the torchbearer behind some of the UK’s most disruptive and trailblazing entrepreneurs. Her clients are regularly featured by international media outlets including The Times, Forbes, and the BBC, and they’re frequently winners of coveted industry awards. Her first step into the entrepreneurial world was helping to launch an Italian food business into the UK. Having successfully completed that task, she decided to launch her own Italian food e-commerce business. With zero marketing budget, Alison used her PR skills
Alison started off working by herself, but within six months had too much work to handle, which resulted in her first team member coming on board. Adia PR is now a team of six and are growing rapidly, so will no doubt be more by the end of the year. They are proud of the results they have achieved for their clients, and because of this, have an excellent retention rate. Adia looks forward to attracting more exciting entrepreneurs from across the UK and internationally this year. 41
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THE COMPANY The SME CofE aims to be the leading small-tomedium enterprise support hub. A truly collaborative and ethical approach that will provide a one stop high quality centre of excellence for all support needs, helping SMEs to start, survive and thrive. Ammar wants to bring together credible enterprise support and service delivery partners with the single goal of providing the right support, at the right time, for the right price for all SMEs to grow. Two driving forces behindof SME CofE include:
AMMAR MIRZA CBE SME CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE
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Achievement orientated - being results driven with a laser eye focus on achieving our personal and professional goals. Creating an environment where we Ammar Mirza CBE is a sought after leadership have fun and are focused on continuous improvement. and business management consultant, and a serial entrepreneur, with interests and investments across a number of sectors. Over a 20-year period he has helped THE FUTURE establish several hundred new businesses within the North East. As chairman and founder of Asian Business Currently Ammar is helping forge international b-lateral Connexions, a not-for-profit social enterprise that trade links working with Turkey and Indian based aims to connect, support and promote the Asian wider businesses. He has also aims to make the SME CofE the community, Ammar has helped make a significant go-to-centre for all business support across the North of England, and to tackle the North/South divide. social and economic impact across the globe. In 2014, Ammar was appointed a CBE for Outstanding
ANDREW WEBBER - WHITESPACE
ANDREW WEBBER WHITESPACE THE ENTREPRENEURS
growing community of corporate innovators and fast-growing smaller businesses, join the Colinked community today at www.colinked.io Colinked Capital enables high-quality tech scale-ups and growth companies to raise equity finance from a network of professional investors. The platform has also been built to help founders get investment ready quicker with a sufficient level of due diligence in place. Eamli is a tool used by SMEs to significantly drive down the cost and time required to complete financial forecasts, financial due diligence, and company valuations. Using the power of cloud computing and machine learning, eamli is targeted at both founders as well as a white label product for financial firms.
Whitespace started as a VC firm founded by a team of former hackers and financial advisors. We would invest exclusively into start-ups who were able to address the challenges our corporate partners faced. Through working with our start-ups to make their technology enterprise friendly, we developed a worldclass tech team able to build scalable products used by global clients. “We’ve kept our strong corporate partnerships alive through our communities and are currently working THE FUTURE with over 120 of the world’s largest corporates, helping them find innovative start-ups that can address real Our goal is to increase the number of corporates we work with globally and grow the number of market market opportunities.” – Paul Jenkinson, CFO opportunities our start-ups can address. Our services, investment expertise and range of bespoke products help THE COMPANY us drive each of these outcomes and ensure we are at the forefront of both corporate and start-up innovation. Colinked by Whitespace is a free, easy to use online global community of corporate innovators and startups focused on B2B and B2B2C markets. Join this 45
Publishing company representing director and author Christina Gabbitas and other selected authors. Christina provides school visits using her own books, which teach children about the world around them with fun. She is also the founder of an annual national poetry competition, which has encouraged over 25,000 children in the UK and UAE to write a poem.
Event company delivering conferences and awards ceremonies. Host of a successful annual safeguarding conference, Reach out, Speak Out, attracting high-prole speakers in the eld, including Jim Gamble QPM, Chair of the Association of Police & Crime Commissioners Mark Burns-Williamson OBE, Anne Fine OBE and the NSPCC Founder and host of the inaugural Yorkshire Women Volunteer Awards.
VOLUNTEER WOMEN AWARDS
www.yorkshirewomenvolunteerawards.com The Children’s Literature Festivals charity has as its mission to give children and families from less privileged backgrounds a better opportunity to access free literature festivals and books. The anuual festivals help to bring communities together and help to educate parents on the benets of reading and books. They are free to attend and help to bring people into towns and areas that don't ordinarily get this type of opportunity, utilising building such as town halls, libraries and community centres. Charity Number England & Wales 1182143
CHRISTINA GABBITAS - READING FESTIVALS CIC children to speak out about abuse. This has been endorsed by charities such as Banardos and the NSPCC, who stock it in their library, as well as safeguarding experts and Police and Crime Commissioners, and testimonials have flooded in from teachers and professors. The book has also been shortlisted in a Best Achievement Award at the Peoples Book Prize.
CHRISTINA GABBITAS READING FESTIVALS CIC THE ENTREPRENEUR A passionate entrepreneur championing the causes of safeguarding and literacy Christina has two companies and a charity (formerly a CIC) to her name. Having written stories for her children that she had since filed away, in 2012 Christina started Poems & Pictures Ltd to publish her work. She started with a series of books about a character called Felicity Fly and has gone on to write about a variety of topics. Each story focuses on one topic in particular making it both educational and fun. In 2014 Christina published arguably her most important book Share Some Secrets, which encourages
As an author Christina visits many schools to talk about her books and run poetry workshops. As a result of this she set up a national poetry initiative in 2013, which got the backing of the then Education Secretary. The initiative takes the form of a yearly competition with children of primary school age encouraged to write an eight line rhyme on a particular topic. These are then judged by a panel of expert judges. Christina’s work in schools also led to her setting up the Children’s Literature Festivals charity. Originally a CIC, it was officially set up as a charity with the Charities Commission in February 2019. The mission of the charity is to give children and families from less privileged backgrounds a better opportunity to access free literature festivals and books. Not content with just promoting literacy, Christina’s research for Share Some Secrets and the press coverage of child abuse in Rotherham and Rochdale had highlighted to her the need for even greater promotion of safeguarding, and in 2017 she set up Eliziam Events Ltd. With 15 years’ experience of event planning, project management and delivery she was able to start an annual Reach Out, Speak Out conference that has recently been held for the second time.
THE FUTURE This year has seen Christina found the Yorkshire Women Volunteer Awards, which will be run by Eliziam Events. These awards will recognise volunteers who go above and beyond to help others. There are many awards recognising women in business, but nobody holds regional volunteer awards. The awards have three key objectives: to shine a light on volunteers, promoting volunteering and raise funds for charities in the process.
CLARE VILLAR - CLARE VILLAR MILITARY ART ago to depict the fallen soldiers during the wars, they decided to update this old art form depict our current serving soldiers. It took six months to design, and another three months to complete the artwork. It was presented to the Regiment and proudly hung in their barracks in Telford, Shropshire. In 2014 it was spotted by the Colonel of the Royal Wessex Yeomanry, so Clare was asked to produce their Roll of Honour to commemorate their centenary and present the artwork to HRH Prince Edward. This ceremony triggered the commissioning of Clare’s artwork, by the King’s Royal Hussars, to present to HRH Princess Anne, their Regimental Colonel in Chief.
THE COMPANY This was her light bulb moment. After some extensive research, she realised that she had discovered a completely niche and unique market that had been undiscovered by artists not just in the UK but worldwide. In three years her business has snowballed. Her artwork has been presented to Her Majesty The Queen, the Colonel in Chief of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and HRH Prince Charles. Clare was a finalist of the NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards in 2018, which has lead her onto being selected by NatWest Bank to represent Women in Business, where the business is being showcased for its nationwide advertising campaign.
CLARE VILLAR CLARE VILLAR MILITARY ART THE ENTREPRENEUR Clare started her business in 2014 when she made the huge leap of faith to take voluntary redundancy from her full-time job working for Shropshire Council, to follow her dream to be a full time artist. Twelve years previous to that, she was commissioned by the Colonel of the Royal Lancashire and Mercian Yeomanry, who wanted to present a gift to his Regiment upon leaving, and also to commemorate the Queen’s Jubilee Year in 2002. Clare came up with an idea that was based on the very old concept of Rolls of Honour. These were done hundreds of years
THE FUTURE Clare counts herself as lucky, to have found a unique, untouched market. But it’s her passion and belief in her product, coupled with the hard work and selfdetermination that has made her business succeed. Clare’s military artwork is reaching out into the armed forces across the world. 49
time2dine for restaurants We offer a point of sale system with an integrated booking platform, which allows diners to pre-order and pre-pay for a dine-in meal.
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Clever POS management tools, fewer no-shows and higher table turnaround means more profit. With Time2Dine, restaurants can offer something new and hugely beneficial for their customers. With hardware and software packages starting at ÂŁ60/month*, time2dine is the ideal, straightforward solution for any restaurant. *excluding the cost of equipment and installation
time2dine for customers Restless children? - pre-book and pre-pay for less wait time and more family time. Short lunch break? - beat the queues by booking and paying ahead of time. Going to an event? - book and pay in advance to ensure you donâ€™t miss the show. Time2dine offers restaurant experience at your convenience. Using our website or smartphone app, customers can enjoy a stress-free dining eperience, just: 1. Pre-order and pre-pay for your restaurant meal 2. Enjoy your meal at the booked time 3. Get on with the rest of your day
FLORIN & CAROLYN MANDACHE - TIME2DINE
FLORIN & CAROLYN MANDACHE TIME2DINE THE ENTREPRENEURS The inspiration for time2dine came from personal experience. Founders Carolyn and Florin Mandache were dining out with their four children, and were frustrated by the wait time. By allowing diners to book a table, pre-order and pre-pay for a dine in meal, time2dine offers restaurant experience at the customer’s convenience; an ‘Uber for the restaurant industry.’ As a small team moving from start-up to scale-up, the contributions everyone has made are valued, often taking on tasks above and beyond job roles. Florin and Carolyn believe they could not have reached the point they are at today without the support of everyone involved.
THE COMPANY Time2dine, is an innovative new POS system with an integrated booking platform for restaurants. The concept appeals not only to families, but also those with an hour for lunch and pre-event diners. Restaurant
owners can offer something new to customers without having to invest in expensive touch screen technology. The in-house developers have worked closely with early adopters to ensure the creation of a point of sale system which is adaptable, improves efficiency and is user friendly for restaurant clients. Well respected restaurants are recommending time2dine to other venues, and they are now working with takeaways due to the demand for their POS. The Glasgow-based software development company has plenty of ambition and drive. As alumni of both Entrepreneurial Spark and RBS Business Accelerator programs, they are a focused and growing team, with plans for expanding globally. The company has achieved recognition through GBEA and BMWi UK Tech Founder Awards shortlisting.
THE FUTURE Future plans include expansion to other UK cities and abroad, as well as offering their services to hotels, who can offer convenience to business travellers. It will also be available in multiple languages. Following on from a successful trade visit to Spain with Scottish Development International, a Spanish launch for time2dine is in their pipeline. 51
Helping SMBs Buy Cybersecurity Quickly, Simply & Affordably By Building Trust
BUY (/SELL) www.protectbox.com EMAIL email@example.com FOLLOW US @ProtectBoxLtd
KIRAN BHAGOTRA - PROTECTBOX such as CyberEssentials, and the #WeProtect (children online) Summit. As well as constructing ministerial reviews on critical national infrastructure resilience and machine learning digital redaction. Kiran never really imagined herself as a cybersecurity entrepreneur, she is not a coder, and her background is in selling debt on UK investment banking trading floors, international metals mining and raising private equity.
KIRAN BHAGOTRA PROTECTBOX THE ENTREPRENEUR All of Kiran Bhagotra’s career has been about changing “hearts & minds”. She is founder and CEO of cybersecurity comparison website ProtectBox, making cybersecurity easy for small and medium businesses. She is not only making buying quick, simple and affordable but challenging the norms of how businesses engage with cybersecurity – trusting it. Prior to this she has held various careers across government, industry, not-for-profits and has consulted for several start-ups. This included promoting the UK’s cybersecurity strategy globally,
She fell into cybersecurity a few years ago whilst contracting for the UK government’s Cabinet Office, and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, managing international cyber relations. Kiran left the UK government, where she promoted UK cybersecurity globally, put her ‘little money’ where her ‘big mouth’ is, and ProtectBox was born. Although she had never run a company herself before, she had helped friends with theirs. Kiran has made cybersecurity an ease for SME’s, saving them time and money by developing a system which takes out the need for paying over the odds for technology, or consultants. ProtectBox is online and will only take an hour to fill out a simple questionnaire with customer services only a call/chat away. You will receive six comparisons of technology, training and processes that can be personalised using filters and sliders, before buying with a single click. There are also lots of ways to pay, including spreading the cost over a year, or with subsidies from governments. Other features, such as ‘info’ icons on questions, explain the jargon, letting you delegate questions to your team, inside or outside the company. All of this can be managed through your account.
THE FUTURE ProtectBox are all about making cybersecurity simple, quick and affordable (fun too)! In the near future, they plan to launch ProtectBox as an internationally successful product that helps businesses throughout the world. In the same way that banks sell insurance as an add-on, they can be sold/joint-marketed as an all-in-one cyber add-on. They’ve signed with four partners, with another ten across the Middle East, Africa & Americas in the pipeline for the next year. 53
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LAURA JONES & HEATHER MCDAID - 404 INK
LAURA JONES & HEATHER MCDAID 404 INK THE ENTREPRENEURS 404 Ink is the alternative independent book publisher based in Edinburgh, run by publishing freelancers Laura Jones and Heather McDaid, whose backgrounds are in publishing and journalism respectively. In their first two years of trading, 404 Ink has published bestselling books, received international press, and numerous accolades across business and culture.
THE COMPANY 404 Ink lives by the slogan ‘publishing loudly,’ and does just that. They publish essential new voices in books and magazines, to a market that is often monopolised by already famous authors published by huge companies. They publish around six books and two magazines a year to very different, niche audiences, and have come to be known as the ‘alternative’ publisher in Scotland. Laura and Heather had been flirting with the idea of starting their own publishing companies separately
for a while and realised that they both had the same frustrations regarding publishing. Books weren’t marketed in different, engaging ways; brands weren’t developed, social media wasn’t used to its full potential, and it was impossible to get a job. Publishing is known for its tight margins, but 404 Ink wanted to prove that you could start with very little money and turn it into something profitable, sustainable and exciting. They went straight into profit, which allowed them to continue their work publishing fantastic titles. Amongst 404’s accolades, they are the only publishers to date to win a Scottish EDGE award, and top The List’s Hot 100 for those shaping culture. After a whirlwind first couple of years, they’re still shouting about their books and are looking to the future with a lot of excitement (and a sore throat).
THE FUTURE Despite their shouty, slightly antagonistic way of marketing themselves, when they arrived on the literary scene, their future plans were fairly traditional: expansion and stability. In 2020 they’d like to be actively seeking investment, so will be spending 2019 preparing for that, and strengthening their list with yet more stand out, important voices. 55
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MARK WRIGHT - CLIMB ONLINE wanted to increase his sales online, and as a result Mark taught himself digital marketing. In a matter of months, the business grew rapidly from making 2,000 Aus. Dollars per month in sales to 240,000 Aus. Dollars. From here Mark knew that he boasted a natural flare for digital marketing and wanted to help other businesses achieve a similar level of growth and success. At the end of 2013 he developed his own business plan for a digital marketing agency that would focus on customer service and results and applied for The Apprentice in hope to win the investment. Climb Online officially launched in January 2015 and since this date, the agency has developed into one of the UK’s leading providers of digital marketing services, working with a host of incredible businesses and brands globally. Aged just 29, Mark’s proven success in business has earnt him credentials as an ambitious influencer on lead generation, profitability and growth, where his journey to success has inspired entrepreneurs globally, who regularly attend his public speaking engagements and motivational talks both across the UK and overseas.
MARK WRIGHT CLIMB ONLINE
Working to the mantra ‘if you grow, we grow,’ the agency services businesses and brands from across the UK and overseas, setting itself aside from industry competitors, by demonstrating to business owners THE ENTREPRENEUR exactly how their digital marketing can be done Mark Wright is an award-winning, influential entrepreneur differently, delivered with a high standard in customer and self-taught digital marketing specialist, renowned for service, combined with incredible results and a positive return on investment. his success in winning BBC’s The Apprentice. In securing the winners title, Mark went on to find and develop one of the UK’s fastest growing digital THE FUTURE marketing agencies, Climb Online, in partnership with Lord Sugar. Renowned for its disruptive approach to In June 2019, Wright will welcome hundreds of business digital marketing, the company works with household owners and aspiring entrepreneurs to Climb Con, brands to generate profit and scale growth. his first UK business conference dedicated to helping Where it all began... The owner of a small personal entrepreneurs accelerate business growth, with headline training college in Australia, where Mark was enrolled, speakers including Lord Sugar and Piers Morgan. 57
learning without limits
MATT JONES - OXBRIDGE HOME LEARNING a recession. The tough climate made him realise people came from all backgrounds, and he wanted to create a platform that made learning easy for them..
THE COMPANY With the sector on the cusp of a technological breakthrough, and eLearning becoming a trendy buzzword for corporates, Matt had already been there, done that. His eyes were focussed on something far more important: creating a more human experience that makes distance learning fun and creates superstars. The difference to our competitors is that Oxbridge IS the most human learning platform online today. Much like social giants YouTube and Instagram, Oxbridge create relatable community experiences. You don’t get seven industry awards for nothing, and the college’s ambition, innovation and consumer relations are fuelled by an uber strong culture and a team of stars who bend over backwards for the college and its learners. Rapid growth during this period led to a rebrand that bridges the gap to Matt’s vision for the future of distance learning. The changes have enabled Oxbridge to amplify its reach and deliver the tools needed for success: award-winning course materials, unlimited tutor support and tons of human encouragement. The college is on a mission to positively disrupt the education sector for learners and businesses, which is why it’s expanded its activities, adding a whole new dimension to learning with Oxbridge for Business.
MATT JONES OXBRIDGE HOME LEARNING THE ENTREPRENEUR Oxbridge is a distance learning college with a crystalclear vision: save the world from boring learning. Starting from a little shed, the college has gone to empower over 10,000 students to learn without limits. From that success, and in just four years, Oxbridge has outgrown its suburban roots to shine as one of the UK’s top distance learning colleges currently operating in the heart of Birmingham’s vibrant EdTech scene. The brainchild of award-winning entrepreneur Matt Jones, Oxbridge’s ‘ultra-personalised learning’ concept emerged as he guided his first EdTech business through
THE FUTURE It’s Oxbridge working with businesses to upskill employees in all areas, such as Project Management, Business Administration and Bookkeeping, to improve their internal processes and organisational efficiency.
MICK LINDSAY - MOCEAN Mick set up Mocean in 2004 and soon after, gained a place on the NatWest Accelerator Programme in Bristol. This would prove seminal to the future of the business, as he developed quickly into a confident entrepreneurial leader during a two year stint there. Mick spent a lot of time working ‘on’ the business rather than ‘in’ the business and this has helped him shape Mocean into the success it is today. As part of the initial development work, Mick prioritised defining the company’s ‘why’ by developing a robust value proposition. This ultimately has helped create a story that is being well received by the corporate market.
MICK LINDSAY MOCEAN
Mocean provides employee engagement experiences that are designed to improve business relationships and efficiencies amongst employees. These carefully crafted programmes include events, activities and internal comms, and are delivered for large corporate clients across the UK and globally. The values of the business reflect Mick’s own beliefs in fairness, equality and respect for the environment. This has led the company to launch the #DoSomethingToday campaign where they have used their marketing budget to promote simple acts of kindness towards the environment. Mocean have also launched a series of team building packages with social purpose where corporate clients have a brilliant team experience whilst benefitting the environment and/or the communities in which they operate.
THE ENTREPRENEUR Mick’s first job was at a small marketing design studio, where he learned his craft as a newly qualified graphic designer. This led onto a role as an art director with a global advertising agency. However, despite his career successes, he took the curious decision to leave behind the industry he knew so well, and started his own events company. Mick had no experience of working in events so, unsurprisingly, it was a difficult journey. However, the experience introduced him to the wonderful world of entrepreneurship.
THE FUTURE Mocean has achieved sustained growth since formation, and this trend is set to continue thanks to their wonderful team, which also continues to grow. They have doubled turnover and profitability year on year, and have been on-boarded as preferred suppliers to Microsoft, RBS and BNP Paribas. The plan is to increase this roster to 10 top FTSE 100 companies by 2022. It’s been an exciting and rewarding journey that shows no signs of slowing down - the future is bright for Mocean. 61
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PETER KELLY & KIERON YEOMAN - IMPLOYABLE
PETER KELLY & KIERON YEOMAN IMPLOYABLE THE ENTREPRENEURS Founded by two former Royal Marines, Imployable is an innovative new app-based platform that is specifically designed to bridge the gap in unemployment and facilitate career tracking. They are working hard to become the UKâ€™s No.1 career and job finder app. In 2015, Peter Kelly left the Royal Marines after 10 years of service, despite his invaluable experience and training, he found himself unemployed. With his friend and fellow Royal Marine, Kieron Yeoman, they decided they had to do something to help other people in the same situation.
THE COMPANY The business was founded in 2017 and has grown from Peter and Kieron around a kitchen table, to an office of nine and a development team in the Ukraine. Whilst the app started with a focus on getting veterans into work, it became clear that they were not
the only people struggling with unemployment. The app has developed into a platform for everyone from school age, and onwards, to identify, map, and track their careers. Imployable users will be able to see how their qualifications and experience compare to any job by a percentage match. With a focus on the user, there are help and support sections, with tips and tricks for CV writing, training, work experience and interviews. Plus, there are a number of links to charities to support veterans, mental health and even bullying in school. The app only launched in March 2019, but Imployable have already confirmed partnerships with Google, The Ministry of Justice, Department of Education, Job Centre Plus and Sodexo, among others.
THE FUTURE They have a number of key milestones for this year. At launch, Imployable will be rolling out to 22 Job Centres in the South West, and will be used as one of the Department for Work and Pensions primary career identification and tracking tools. In March, they launched their pilot with The Ministry of Justice, this will act as a tool to rehabilitate and reintegrate into society. 63
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ROSS DAVIES & PATRICK DOLAN - STRAFE CREATIVE Ross Davies and creative director Patrick Dolan. The agency’s services include web & digital design, brand development, and app design and development. Through the ethos of “client success through great design,” Strafe Creative is dedicated to creating solutions that are tailored not just to the client, but to the wants and needs of those who will be interacting with the website most - their customer - with a focus on high ROI. Strafe Creative was set up in 2010, at a time when the luxury services of branding and digital design were not highly sought after. The agency was born from Ross and Patrick’s desire, and drive, to create designs and websites that do more than just look good. By integrating their understanding of user behavior data and web conversion with great design, Strafe Creative creates websites that actively engage users with their content. This approach improves customer interaction, and increases conversion rates by over 330% on average, with some increasing by over 1000%. This conversion-led approach to design is unique to Strafe Creative, and as such, is something that they pride themselves on.
ROSS DAVIES & PATRICK DOLAN STRAFE CREATIVE THE ENTREPRENEUR Ross and Patrick are the creative and technicallyminded director’s of Strafe Creative. By combining creative spark with a unique emphasis on user behaviour data, the directors and their team design powerful brand identities and digital experiences that help businesses develop and grow.
Ross and Patrick aim to continue with the current growth of Strafe Creative, following the trend set in previous years. In the long term, Ross’s goals are to expand to a London office, which Patrick is to head, and a Leamington Spa office, in addition to continuing to work in Nottingham with a 24-strong team. They THE COMPANY intend to expand their client base to include larger clients with more adventurous web design projects, Strafe Creative is an award-winning creative design and branch out further into other areas of design, such agency in Nottingham, run by managing director as game UX design. 65
Sarah’s personal branding work has evolved from a frustration of seeing women selling themselves short and not owning their true character within their business. She is passionate about working with them to help visualise their personalities and to help differentiate her clients in crowded marketplaces. From ‘Master Your Message’ programmes to personal branding shoots she brings brands to life, helping raise the value of brands and also the confidence of the women behind them. An entrepreneur who always follows her passion in every business venture, Sarah, who left school at 15 to work has always been about ‘practical learning’ and keeps learning and development at the core of all she does, as she sets out to empower and inspire her clients through teaching them life long skills.
Having struggled in her early career with self-belief and self-worth, Sarah has undertaken a wide variety of personal development training too and connects strongly with her clients who often suffer imposter syndrome - supporting them and motivating them through their own visibility challenges. Having worked in the online space of personal branding for over 5 years, and with women in business through Female Success Network for the last 2 years Sarah has helped thousands of women create their roadmap for success, focusing heavily on creating strong customer experiences. She has proven how this helps achieve both a more profitable business and a more enjoyable work life. The future for her now is in mentoring others, creating beautiful brands globally and aligning herself with more independent brands she knows she can help fly. www.sarahstone.online/gbea
SARAH STONE - FEMALE SUCCESS NETWORK role as co-founder of Female Success Network and creative director at Moments Candles Co, she is now championing entrepreneurship on a international scale.
SARAH STONE FEMALE SUCCESS NETWORK THE ENTREPRENEUR A recognised champion for female entrepreneurs, Sarah Stone is a best-selling author and heart-centered mentor. Having been in business herself for nearly 15 years, she is now supporting other ambitious women, helping skyrocket their businesses globally through nailing their personal brand and helping them communicate their message. An award-winning photographer whose photos have featured in Forbes, OK! Magazine and many other popular publications, Sarah combines her creative talents with her business acumen and within her
Most recently she has put her money where her mouth is by investing her hard earned cash into one of her client’s businesses to help the brand launch on a much larger scale. Her passion for being the ‘secret weapon’ of many women in business grows daily. Sarah’s personal branding work has evolved from a frustration of seeing women selling themselves short and not owning their true character within their business. She is passionate about working with them to help visualise their personalities and to help differentiate her clients in crowded marketplaces. From ‘Master Your Message’ programmes to personal branding shoots she brings brands to life, helping raise the value of brands and also the confidence of the women behind them. An entrepreneur who always follows her passion in every business venture, Sarah, who left school at 15 to work has always been about ‘practical learning’ and keeps learning and development at the core of all she does, as she sets out to empower and inspire her clients through teaching them life-long skills. Having struggled in her early career with self-belief and self-worth, Sarah has undertaken a wide variety of personal development training and connects strongly with her clients who often suffer imposter syndrome - supporting them and motivating them through their own visibility challenges.
THE FUTURE Having worked in the online space of personal branding for several years, and with women in business through Female Success Network for the last two years, Sarah has helped thousands of women create their roadmap for success, focusing heavily on creating strong customer experiences. She has proven how this helps achieve both a more profitable business and a more enjoyable work life. The future for her now is in mentoring others, creating beautiful brands globally and aligning herself with more independent brands she knows she can help fly.
give considered, balanced views. I challenge Antonia where needed and try to bring clarity of thought and strategy, but not take over. I take her up in my ‘virtual helicopter’ to see the bigger picture. What we get from it
The Value of Cross Generational Mentoring Championing cross-generational mentoring is Jo Dalton, long-time Great British Entrepreneur Awards judge and the founder & CEO of specialist exec search, people and advisory firm, JD & Co. Jo is the experienced entrepreneur in a ‘cross-gen’ mentoring relationship with Antonia Timpany, the founder of Timpany’s, an online marketplace for pre-loved designer bags, clothes and shoes. In this article, Jo dives into the benefits and shares her experience of their mentoring partnership. What I’ve discovered in recent years is that the mentoring relationship has changed. It’s no longer a case of passing on what I’ve learnt during my career as an entrepreneur. Through my experiences working with Antonia and other young entrepreneurs I’ve found that they’re just as willing to challenge me as their mentor which has significantly helped evolve both of our skillsets. How does it work? Antonia and I have been working together since 2016, we meet up regularly to go through revenue, numbers and upcoming marketing and PR campaigns. We look at what has worked in the past and plan for the future, considering sustainability as well as fashion. I try to hold up the mirror and challenge Antonia, but in a way that is not too directive. Being a CEO requires me to make decisions daily, if not hourly, so I try to
One of the greatest things about mentoring is its ability to give both tangible and mental benefits. Antonia is committed to vlogging and her passion for it inspired me to take it up. She helped me to grasp the technical elements of creating video content for myself and the business. It’s a perfect opportunity to learn the key details you need to stand out. I’ve also benefitted from a change in mentality. Working with someone so positive, enthusiastic and motivated, it’s impossible not to be infected by that same mindset. Video content is not something I’d considered before, or something I was comfortable with at the time. Antonia’s passion inspired me to step outside of my comfort zone and to explore a new avenue for myself. I’m incredibly grateful to her for that. I’m someone who has gained quite a few ‘battle scars’ over the years and they’re so often valuable to me in my business, but it’s important to see the world through fresh eyes. That’s what Antonia gives me. In turn, Antonia would say that while she has a better understanding of these things, she could do with a few more battle scars, so that is where we complement each other perfectly. Challenges Thankfully, Antonia and I are lucky enough to have such a great working relationship and shared vision about Timpanys and its long-term place in the market. We bounce off each other’s energy and are constantly striving to improve. It can be easy to put your own business first, but when you mentor you have to be prepared to give your time to someone else’s business. It requires patience, but the buzz of supporting someone relatively early on in their entrepreneurial journey is hugely satisfying. You can’t buy that feeling. The challenge is far outweighed by the benefits that we both gain. It’s important, however, to seek out a relationship with someone based on the value it can deliver. If you work with someone similar to yourself, the value you gain from it will be severely limited. It’s not always easy, but if you’re open to someone challenging your thinking and changing your outlook, ‘cross-gen’ mentoring can be transformational to you personally and professionally. If you’ve previously thought about mentoring someone, or are looking for some steer or guidance along your entrepreneurial journey….don’t wait, do it! 69
SOCIAL MEDIA IN NUMBERS
BUILDING A CULT FOLLOWING 3.196 billion active social media users DIGITAL AROUND THE WORLD IN 2018
NUMBER OF USERS IN MILLIONS
unique mobile users
BRAND ACTIONS ON SOCIAL THAT PROMPT CONSUMERS TO PURCHASE
INTERESTING VISUALS BEING FUNNY
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT BEHIND THE SCENES
HOW TO DO IT...
active mobile social media users
Source: SmartInsights Global social media research summary 2018
For some, social media is an essential marketing tool. For others, it’s the main focus of their business; working with brands to harness their large following. Entrepreneurs are building a cult following on social media – a group of dedicated, highly-engaged customers who could just as easily call themselves “fans”. With so many individuals and companies on social media, how do you rise above the noise to be heard and seen? Three NatWest Great British Entrepreneur Awards winners; Spectrum Collections, Cambridge Satchel Co. and Tangle Teezer tell us how they built their cult following.
SPECTRUM COLLECTIONS - HANNAH & SOPHIE PYCROFT We’ve always described Spectrum as an ‘Instabrand’ and Instagram was our go-to social media when we first started out. Being so heavily image focused, it was the perfect place for Spectrum to gain momentum with our vibrant product range offering ultimate #gridgoals. We started by posting the most ‘instagrammable’ pictures possible, mixing our brushes with interesting textures and colours and hashtagging all the relevant keywords to reach as many users and potential customers as we could. It didn’t take long for people to start noticing the brand. We didn’t sell anything for the first six months…BUT when we finally started selling, we included a hand-written note in each parcel, thanking the customer for trying the brand and asking them to share the brush love on their own social media. Result! Our customers felt really appreciated and posted beautiful photos of their brushes, which we would repost, meaning we had a stream of pre-created content to share whilst reaching new audiences. We started from zero and we’re at 329K followers with not one bot or fake follower – “fake it till you make it” definitely doesn’t apply to social media, users are savvy and can spot spam in an instant. It’s taken four years to get to this point so now the challenge is to maintain and continue to build the following. How? By engaging with our followers, commenting on tagged posts and replying to their comments on our posts. Instagram is a social media after all, so have conversations with customers and build relationships, which leads nicely onto our next top tip; adding personality to your content and brand. We’d already built the illusion that Spectrum was an international brand even when we were packing orders in the garage, so we wanted to maximise that, whilst adding some personality to the brand to make it even more relatable. The handwritten notes were a great way of adding personality and improved the overall experience. We always caption posts as though we’re speaking directly to customers, adding a bit of sass and humour whenever possible. We hate feeling like we’re being ‘sold’ to, so we never pass that onto customers. But ironically, when we did reveal our backstory, that’s what people loved most about the brand. So now we add even more of ourselves, writing personal blogs on our journey so far. Finally, the most important element to building a cult following is perseverance. It doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll need to work tirelessly, spend too much time glued to your phone or computer and you’ll develop an unhealthy obsession with analytics, figures and followers. But, if you love what you do, it’s SO worth it and with each new follower you’ll do a little happy dance and grow your business. Quick boosts, giveaways and competitions are a great, but to build a truly loyal following you do need to stick with it, comment, like, engage and grow your community to reach that cult status.
JULIE DEANE OBE CAMBRIDGE SATCHEL COMPANY From the very outset, we always liked to do things a little differently. Back in those early days, when it was just my mother and I packing and shipping all our orders, we’d do little things like include a dog biscuit for customers we knew were fellow dog owners, or a chocolate bar and a handwritten note where we knew the package would arrive late. I think it was those personal touches and that attention to detail which set us apart. When it came to marketing, our approach was similarly different. We were one of the very first brands to embrace bloggers, and they us. Before long, our bags were being spotted on front rows at international fashion weeks, as well as on runways and A-list stars such as Taylor Swift, Alexa Chung and Lady Gaga. Collaborations with esteemed international designers including Comme des Garçons and Vivienne Westwood, along with interest from serious retailers such Urban Outfitters, helped the business to grow at a phenomenal speed from the early days.
People often ask what the key to our success is. In my mind, a creative business is a successful business. When the world is your competition you can’t afford to be ordinary. It’s creativity that matters, creativity that makes you stand out, creativity that makes you extraordinary. But designing products is only part of that picture; creativity also means generating new ideas all the time; doing more for less, doing more with less, doing old things better, doing new things first. This is what inspires your customers, develops loyalty, and sustains values.
People turn to you for leadership. But who can you turn to, to help manage and grow your business? Our specialist entrepreneurs group works with founders and management teams from vision to exit. We understand the complexities you face, including raising ﬁnance, understanding evolving tax regulations, global expansion and exit strategies. Running a business is a journey. And we’ll be with you all the way. To ﬁnd out more, please contact Guy Rigby, Partner on 020 7131 8213 firstname.lastname@example.org smithandwilliamson.com
© Smith & Williamson Holdings Limited 2018. Smith & Williamson LLP Regulated by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales for a range of investment business activities. A member of Nexia International. Smith & Williamson Corporate Finance Limited authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. A member of the London Stock Exchange. A member of Oaklins International Inc. The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate all of the services referred to here. The word partner is used to refer to a member of Smith & Williamson LLP.
SHAUN PULFREY TANGLE TEEZER I didn’t set out to create a brand that would have a cult following when I launched Tangle Teezer in 2007. There’s never been a specific strategy focused on building a cult brand. It’s all come from inventing products that are amazing and deliver results. You can’t build a brand, let alone one with a dedicated customer base, without a quality product. We’ve benefitted from celebrities using Tangle Teezer, but again, that’s testament to how good the product is. For brand awareness it’s been amazing, helping us to cement our reputation as a global brand. We’ve had Nicole Scherzinger, Victoria Beckham, Cara Delevigne and loads more using it. Salma Hayek has said the brush ‘changed her life’. Don’t imitate other brands, replicating their formula won’t necessarily bring the same success for you. Tangle Teezer looks different from any other hairbrush on the market, but you can still tell it’s a hairbrush. It’s instantly recognisable in a line-up of hairbrushes. Create something that is unique in the market. Don’t exaggerate, it will only come back to bite you. People relate to honesty.
Mental Health in Entrepreneurship Increasing debate on mental health in recent years has yielded some worrying insight into the wellbeing of the UKâ€™s staff, with research stating that one in three employees now struggles with issues such as depression and stress in their working lives. But how do the entrepreneurs themselves feel? Constant messages demanding that we never give up, and the relentlessly competitive nature of running a business, mean business leaders are more likely to work longer hours, take fewer breaks and keep pushing for opportunities to grow. Amid this rather tenacious culture, concern for executivesâ€™ mental wellbeing hardly gets a look in, and this can have fatal implications for how the business teams operate and perform. Our Mental Health in Entrepreneurship survey gauges the experiences of over 100 business leaders around mental health. While weâ€™re not specialists, our aim is to raise a flag on profoundly important issues that often go unnoticed. By doing this, we hope to spark debate on how to create more caring and healthconscious working cultures that will bring sustained benefits for our entrepreneurs, the teams they lead and the businesses they build.
the survey: WE ASKED 100 ENTREPRENEURS the following questions to see how important personal wellbeing is personally, and for their employees:
How important is the mental wellbeing of your employees to the business?
What steps do you take to improve your own mental wellbeing in the workplace?
What steps does your business take to improve the mental wellbeing of your employees?
Do you think running a business has negatively or positively impacted your mental health?
How many hours do you work on the business per day outside of standard office hours?
How would you describe your current mental wellbeing IN GENERAL?
How many hours do you work on an average day INSIDE THE OFFICE AND OUT?
How high are your stress levels on an average working day?
Does your organisation have a dedicated mental health policy?
Do you currently suffer with any of the following mental health problems?
How often should an organisation review its mental health policy?
stress anxiety depression other
Do you consider your own mental wellbeing to be as important as your employees?
OF BUSINESS OWNERS/DIRECTORS/ENTREPRENEURS ASKED, SUFFER WITH MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS
COMPANIES WITH FEWER THAN 10 EMPLOYEES COMPANIES WITH 11-50 EMPLOYEES
Take steps to improve their team’s mental health 75
Take steps to improve their OWN mental health 57
describe their mental health as ‘negative’ or ‘very negative’ 35
more likely to have mental health issues 70
STRESS LEVELS 84
26% of entrepreneurs describe their mental health as ‘positive’ or ‘very positive’
46% describe it as ‘negative’ or ‘very negative’
35% are ‘netural’
OF ENTREPRENEURS ASKED TAKE A FULL AND REGULAR LUNCH BREAK
say running a business has negatively impacted their mental health
71% experience above-average levels of stress in the workplace on a daily basis
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY HOW ENTREPRENEURS CAN HELP THEIR EMPLOYEES “Stress and challenge are always important if one is to grow oneself physically, emotionally or intellectually and so it is important that workplaces offer challenge, and opportunity without this being excessively stressful. If this delicate balance can be achieved, individuals have their mental health promoted through their ability to fulfil life tasks and enjoy their work. Organisations need to think about how to develop a culture that promotes mental health, rather than simply identifying those who are vulnerable, and avoiding the risks associated with highpressure environments.” Dr David Cliff, managing director of Gedanken and former psychiatric social worker “We should be focusing on designing policies that focus on workplace factors that may negatively affect mental wellbeing, policies of prevention rather than treatment. This could be anything from: • • •
Giving employees information to increase their awareness of mental wellbeing, Offering them flexible working arrangements that promote their wellbeing. Establishing a good two-way relationship so that they feel comfortable coming to you for any issues.”
Shaun Bradley, people director at Perkbox
WHAT THE ENTREPRENEURS SAY “Being an entrepreneur is incredibly difficult and stressful, but no-one talks about the impact on your mental health.”
Anonymous survey respondent
HAVE REGULAR ONE-TO-ONE MEETINGS WITH THEIR TEAM TO MONITOR THEIR WELLBEING
51 % OF ENTREPRENEURS TRY TO CREATE A RELAXED WORKING ENVIRONMENT FOR THEIR TEAM
“If I’m not mentally fit enough to run the business, we will have no business.” Anonymous survey respondent “The moment we neglect ourselves and our own health in general, our employees suffer.” Anonymous survey respondent thank you to all the entrepreneurs who took time out of their busy schedules to answer the questions in our survey. If you found the above statistics interesting. www.greatbritishentrepreneurawards.com
(B)lack of Colour Change only happens when individuals in the position of influence and power take a stand A self-proclaimed ‘poor boy done good’ entrepreneur, Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones is The Black Farmer. Having grown up in Birmingham, Wilfred left school without any qualifications. But his professional life has been dedicated to food. He worked in catering before moving to the BBC to produce and direct food and drink TV programmes, bringing the likes of Gordon Ramsey, Brian Turner and James Martin to the small screen for the first time. In 1994, he launched his own marketing agency focused on working with food and drink brands. Then, in 2005 at the age of 46, Wilfred embarked on his journey as The Black Farmer. Whether it’s sausages, burgers, poultry or cheese, The Black Farmer products promise ‘Flavour without Frontiers’, which also perfectly summarises his personality. Wilfred is someone who will not be confined by race, convention or tradition. He loves British eccentricity, all that it is to be British, and the traditions that come with it. Perhaps unfitting of the British stereotype, however, Wilfred is quite outspoken. Never afraid to have his say, he is someone who holds strong opinions on rural affairs, justice for small food producers and giving young people more opportunities. More than anything, though, The Black Farmer refuses to be pigeon-holed as an ethnic brand. The term ‘ethnic minority’ creates more problems than it solves, he believes. In his article, Wilfred discusses the lack of racial diversity in the food and retail industry – something he says is holding back more black entrepreneurs from starting businesses.
Recently, a black colleague and I got caught up in a security alert at the head office of one of Britain’s largest retailers. Alarm over, all staff headed back into the building. As they filed back to their desks, it gave me and my colleague an opportunity to observe what type of people work for the company. Two things stood out. They were young, but more importantly, we didn’t see a black person enter the building. Only one black face revealed itself and that was the security guard letting everyone back into the building. Stepping outside into the real world and seeing the diversity of the people walking the streets, it was in very sharp contrast to what I had just seen. Sadly, this retailer’s lack of diversity is not rare, but typical. Corporate Britain has an appalling record when it comes to a diverse workforce, especially at senior levels. Unfortunately, most of the people who work in these whiteonly enclaves either don’t recognise this oddity, choose to do nothing about it, or, if there are discussions about diversity, the subject is usually hijacked by the gender debate. Watching the staff file back into the building didn’t point to there being any issue with gender representation, if anything there were more women
working in that establishment than men. I meet lots of people of colour who find the doors closed to them for a career in many companies, so they have no choice but to go it alone and set up their own business. I always caution them. I say that ‘if you think it is tough getting an executive role in an established company, setting up your own food business is equally difficult,’ because new business start-ups are also a bit of a white enclave. “I have to confess when I found out about The Black Farmer brand I automatically thought it was owned by a white guy and it had something to do with The Black Country in the West Midlands,” I was once told by a very senior executive trying to pay me a compliment. He didn’t realise it at the time, but what he was illustrating is why a lot of people of colour find it difficult to get support from banks, investors, business angels etc. for their businesses. He, like many decision makers, have a stereotypical view of what sort of career a black person should follow and the sort of business they should start. NHS worker, athlete, rapper and security guard are just a few that spring to mind. When I set up The Black Farmer brand I was determined not to be pigeonholed as an ethnic brand, which is where the retailers felt the brand belonged. For them black doesn’t equal mainstream. For me, that is where the problem lies.
Colour is still not seen as being part of the mainstream. The term ‘ethnic minority’ causes us more harm than good because it emphasises separateness rather being part of the whole. For those few black people who have managed to get a foothold in these white enclaves, the lack of diversity sticks out like a sore thumb but they keep their heads down for fear of being branded chippy. Any discussion on diversity, especially colour, is cause for nervousness in many white people because they don’t want to be labelled racist or as having a bias towards white people. Those companies who know that there is an issue with lack of diversity within their organisations, but choose not to do anything about it, are perpetuating the problem. If you are in a senior position and you scan the sea of faces in your organisation and see that it is not reflective of the society we are living in, you are personally responsible for choosing not to do anything about it. You can no longer hide behind a diversity policy or brush the issue off to the Human Resources department. Ask yourself are you setting a good example? Change only happens when individuals in the position of influence and power take a stand.
BY WILFRED EMMANUEL-JONES
GBEAâ€™S TOP 20 START-UPS OF 2019
Hayden Wood & Amit Gudka Bulb Energy
Ed Barton & Ben Kidd Curiscope
Helena Ford & Kirsty Williams DashHound
Liam Manton & Mark Smallwood Didsbury Gin
Bulb provides 100% renewable electricity to over one million customers through solar, wind and hydropower. Bucking the industry trend, Bulb stands out from the crowd by cutting its prices regularly.
Curiscope is an award-winning business that utilises augmented reality to help children develop a love of science, combining its ‘Virtuali-Tee’ and app.
Dashhound is a platform which utilises artificial intelligence to automatically detect the products showcased by beauty YouTube and Instagram stars and allows users to purchase them.
Two gin-loving friends created a range of products to “reflect the unique vibrancy” of Didsbury. Seeking funding to expand the business, Liam and Mark secured a £75,000 investment from Jenny Campbell.
Digby Vollrath & Hugo Campbell Feast It
Steve Moore & Paul Barham Flight Club
Nigel Toon & Simon Knowles Graphcore
Daniel Hegarty Habito
Feast It provides a single platform to find and book catering companies. The duo are now working with 650 of the UK’s most exclusive food and drink companies, including Michelin-starred restaurants.
A chain of venues disrupting the bar scene in London, Manchester and Chicago. It combines unique design, bespoke cocktails and ‘Social Darts’.
Having started one of the most exciting tech companies in the UK, Nigel and Simon aim to dominate the AI chip industry and projects revenues of $1 billion within the next five years.
Habito rapidly searches over 20,000 mortgages in seconds to find the best one for its customers. It has received significant backing from investors, with over £24 million of funding raised.
Lucy Greenwood & Chris Renwick Lucy & Yak
Nuala Murphy Moment Health
Ben Corrigan & Jonny Plein Pouch
Alessandro Savelli & Chris Rennoldson Pasta Evangelists
Focused on trousers and dungarees, Lucy and Chris are making a name for themselves with great but affordable style and biodegradable, recycled or reusable packaging.
Moment Health became the most downloaded app in its category in its first week. It can be used by employers to monitor staff mental wellbeing and clinicians to harness its data to better inform mental healthcare.
Pouch is a web plugin tool that automatically finds applicable discount codes for shoppers, allowing them to apply a discount with a single click, rather than having to search for one.
With backing from Prue Leith, food critic and journalist Giles Coren, and Masterchef William Sitwell, they are delivering around 3,500 portions of restaurant quality pasta every week.
Freddie Blackett Patch
Michelle Kennedy & Greg Orlowski Peanut
Claire Henderson & Michael Branney Oh Polly
Jack Jenkins & Dan Jefferys Resooma
Patch is a company that helps you discover the best plants for your space. Demand is growing, with the likes of Nike, Google and Levi’s using Patch for their office.
Peanut is an app that allows its users to connect with like-minded mothers and make it easier to meet, helping to tackle problems of loneliness for new mothers. The app was an instant hit, with over 325,000 mums using the app within a year of launch.
Claire and Michael have created one of the fastest rising stars of women’s fashion. As well as making statements with its designs, Oh Polly is making a name for itself by being ‘For Girls, By Girls’, which Claire attributes to its success.
Resooma is a property search service for students that manages the entire rental process from viewing to handing the keys back, further disrupting the students rentals market.
Rachel Hugh & Neil Potts The Vurger Co
Hamish Grierson, Elliot Brooks & Tom Livesey Thriva
Louisa Rogers Trendlistr
Mandeep Singh & Alex Loizou Trouva
The Vurger Co is a vegan burger company dedicated to providing great tasting, ‘soulsatisfying’ burgers. The pair smashed their crowdfunding target to open their first permanent restaurant.
Thriva is the world’s first preventative health service. It enables customers to proactively manage and monitor their health, giving them the knowledge and understanding required to make changes in their lifestyle.
An online collection of vintage fashion and accessories curated from across Europe piece-bypiece. Within a year, Trendlistr was delivering products to 48 countries around the world.
An online marketplace for physical independent homeware and clothing boutiques. Trouva has been described as the online equivalent of “those cool curated shops you find off the beaten track” by GQ. 85
GBEA REVIEWS The team behind GBEA sampled some of their favourite products from the awards alumni. Companies supplied us with tasters from their collections. Here are a few of our top reviews.
GRENADE Grenade sent us a generous amount of bars, including their new releases ‘Dark Chocolate and Raspberry,’ and ‘White Chocolate and Salted Peanut.’ The team were very excited to unravel the huge selection, all of which were packed up in enticingly attractive colours, labelled with their logo and signature Grenade depicting each flavour. With a range of taste buds in the office, everyone was quick to choose favourites, although most were torn between several for their top pick. Each bar is packed full of flavour, and stays true to the name depicted on the wrapper. For example, Jaffa Quake (Grenade’s chocolate orange offering) is truly reminiscent of the family classic, Jaffa Cakes. Jon – “Jaffa Quake is definitely my favourite, the flavour is amazing! It’s 86
perfect for when I’m in a rush and need to grab a quick, filling snack.” White Chocolate and Salted Peanut, a new addition to the Carb Killa family, exploded with flavour. The texture was different to its predecessors, more fudgy, with a nutty and chocolatey exterior. Two of the GBEA team were hooked; Adam - “Of all the flavours, this one was definitely the best tasting – you can’t go wrong with peanuts and white chocolate. I also think it would taste a lot better after an actual workout, not just as a snack whilst sitting in the office.” We can imagine this is going down a storm after its release earlier this year. Cookie Dough was also highly regarded, and my top pick. There was a perfect balance of crunch from the
chocolate chips and sweetness from the runny caramel topping, encased by a thin layer of milk chocolate. Perfection. Mac – “I was dubious to try protein bars as I thought there wouldn’t be any flavour. After my first bite of the Cookie Dough Grenade Bar, I was hooked. The caramel, the chocolate chips and the cookie dough were so tasty and I just wanted more!” None of us are experts in protein bars, but we were all in agreement that they are the perfect snack for any occasion. Deliciously tasty, and an ideal chocolate bar replacement if you’re looking for a sweet treat, without the sugar. It really is a tough choice to decide a favourite when they all taste that good.
PIP & NUT Nutbutter done right. No palm oils or added sugar; Pip and Nut stays true to the health food market by ensuring no nasties are added. The wide range of nutbutters are jam packed with flavour, without compromising on ingredients. Only Hi-Oleic almonds and peanuts are blended to make the spreads, ensuring only unsaturated fat content (the good fats that contribute to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels). Whether eaten by the spoon, dolloped on porridge, or spread on some pancakes, Pip and Nut’s delicious nuttiness shines through. The Chocolate Orange has a fruity cocoa tang which makes demolishing the tub an easy feat. The Maple Peanut is also a lovely sweet treat, with a hint of syrup and gloopy texture, this is definitely one for your oats… if it makes it past the spoon!
The classics do not disappoint either. The peanut and almond butters exude flavour, paramount to its competitors in the market. Tip of the cap to founder Pippa Murray for capturing the essence of the nut and producing a nutbutter that ticks all the boxes. Hannah: “Pip and Nut is my favourite brand of nutbutter, but I’ve never had the chance to try the different flavours.
I was blown away by the hit of flavour in both the Chocolate Orange, and the Maple, which will definitely be on my next shopping list. The only complaint I have is that they’re not available in 10kg tubs!” GBEA spoke to Pippa Murray about her entrepreneurial story. Read the full interview in the next issue of GB Entrepreneurs magazine.
HILLTOP HONEY over ice cream or blending them into smoothies. The nutritional benefits are endless, and they’re naturally high in protein. Bonus!
Straight from the hive, Hilltop Honey ensures that no flavour it lost by producing flavoursome Welsh honey in its rawest form. Even if you’re not a honey lover, the nectar boasts so many health benefits, making it an ideal addition to your recipe repertoire. We tried a spoonful, just by itself, so we could experience the full flavour. We all agreed that we’d never tasted honey like it. There’s a wholesomeness, rather
than an overpowering sweetness, a real essence of blossom. The slab of honeycomb in the acacia jar gives the honey a luxurious edge. Its crystals give a satisfying chewiness when slathered on toast, or dolloped onto some Greek yoghurt and raspberries. We were also intrigued by the bee pollen. These nuggets are gathered by bees when out foraging wildflowers. Hilltop recommends sprinkling them
Chloe: “A drizzle of Hilltop Honey, and sprinkle of pollen, compliments my oats and berries perfectly. Creating a healthy and appetising breakfast, making me feel ready for the day ahead. Traditional tasting honey with a twist.” For more GBEA Reviews, pick up the next issue of GB Entrepreneurs Magazine, released in Summer 2019. To be featured in GBEA Reviews, e-mail email@example.com for more information. 87