2024 Startups 100 | Young Entrepreneur shortlist and award winner

Youth is wasted on the young - but not on our Young Entrepreneur nominees. Meet the next generation of business leaders for 2024.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Few groups came under more criticism last year than Gen Z. Stereotyped as hard to work with and unambitious, young people have become the victims of a similar smear campaign to Millennials before them – minus the avocado toast.

The statistics tell another story, however. Gen Z is more likely to be self-employed than previous generations. Meanwhile, a surge in the number of student-led startups is creating hundreds of jobs.

Against this backdrop, Gen Zers are dispellling the myth that Mother knows best. Smartphone in hand, they are entering the workforce with a bang, ready to challenge what it means to work in and run a business.

Our Young Entrepreneur award is your front-row seat to the UK's most inspiring young business minds. Each year, we recognise the top founders under 25 who made our Startups 100 Index, and celebrate their unwavering determination to make a difference.

With Eloise Skinner, Startups 100 guest judge and a successful young entrepreneur in her own right, we’ve picked out the top baby-faced founders who are poised for greatness in the years to come. Get ready to feel amazed, empowered, and – perhaps – a little bit jealous.

Profile headshot of Eloise Skinner, entrepreneur and author
Introducing Startups 100 guest judge, Eloise Skinner!

As a young entrepreneur success story herself, Skinner is already a published author, teacher, and therapist. Plus, she’s founded two successful businesses: consultancy firm, The Purpose Workshop, and education resource platform, One Typical Day.

WINNER – Brent Oldfield (Voltric Mobility Technologies)

Brent Oldfield

2024 Startups 100 | Winner of the Young Entrepreneur award

In recognition of the brilliant young innovator aged 25 and under who are here to solve the next generation’s challenges with their inspiring business idea.

Learn more about Voltric

Brent Oldfield has been hustling since his university days. Growing up in Guernsey, he was unable to access student loans, and so took matters into his own hands, setting up his first business upcycling lamps to fund his studies. His choice of degree, Team Entrepreneurship (TE), proved to be a strategic move, providing him with the tools to navigate the world of business while juggling his academic pursuits.

In 2019, Oldfield's entrepreneurial prowess reached new heights when he co-founded Voltric while still at university. Voltric's all-inclusive monthly or yearly subscriptions take the hassle out of EV ownership, making the switch to electric as smooth as a ride in a Tesla.

Despite the demands of full-time study, Oldfield’s achievements have not gone unnoticed. He was named a finalist for the UWE Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2020 and recognised as one of the top 11 UK student founders in 2020 by Beauhurst.

Oldfield is still involved as a mentor for current TE students and Voltric has successfully raised nearly £500,000. He sees Voltric as a catalyst for change, shaping the future of mobility and transport to make the UK a greener place for generations to come.

What did Eloise Skinner have to say? 

“Along with the impressive amount of funding and investor interest, I loved hearing about the founder’s passion for giving back to the student entrepreneurial community,” says Skinner. “Brent is clearly passionate about supporting others.”

SHORTLISTED – Alyssa Ottley-Awuah (Frobelles)

When most kids were busy with cartoons and colouring books, Alyssa Ottley-Awuah was already flexing her entrepreneurial muscles. At the age of six, she noticed a glaring gap in the world of dolls and dress-up – a lack of characters that reflected the beauty of afro hair.

Unwilling to settle for subpar representation, Alyssa teamed up with her cofounder and Mum, Yvonne, to create Frobelles, the UK's first Afro hair dress-up game. This wasn't just a casual after-school project; Alyssa poured her heart and soul into the game, spending hours designing characters, hairstyles, textures, and clothes. She even lent her voice to every character, instruction, and expression, and had the brilliant idea to add an educational section to the game, providing valuable information on Afro hair care and maintenance.

With Yvonne's guidance and their shared vision, Alyssa (now aged 11) is leaving an indelible mark on the gaming world, proving age is just a number when it comes to making a difference. Skinner expresses admiration for Alyssa's motivation to break down barriers. “Frobelles is such an important and meaningful business,” she commends.

SHORTLISTED –  Abisola Bright (PolishPad)

While studying at Essex University, Abisola Bright decided to nail nail artistry. But instead of doing  manis and pedis, she found herself drowning in a sea of messages trying to manage her busy schedule. This experience laid the base coat idea for PolishPad, an all-in-one management tool for nail technicians.

In 2019, Bright  pitched her venture at the Essex Startups Summer Bootcamp, where her infectious passion and well-crafted pitch earned her a £200 investment (funded by Santander Universities) – the first step on her entrepreneurial journey.

Since then, Bright has secured investments from corporations like SKY & BEO, joined the prestigious Microsoft for Startups program, and even graced the stage as a panellist at Enterprise Nation's Next Gen Fest to share her wisdom with aspiring young entrepreneurs.

Skinner praises PolishPad for its goal of polishing up the nail sector by addressing a challenge faced by underserved nail technicians and sole traders. “I love the community aspect – PolishPad has a really clear and effective product market fit,” she enthuses.

Is 2024 the year of the young entrepreneur?

Move over Warren Buffett. In today’s technology-led world, it’s obvious that age is no longer a barrier to success. From Alexandr Wang, who founded Scale AI aged 25, to Frobelle’s 11-year-old tech-whizz, Alyssa Ottley-Awuah, the startup landscape is teeming with young and student entrepreneurs who are rewriting the business rulebook.

Just in time, too. In 2024, we face a unique confluence of challenges that demand fresh perspectives and bold solutions.

AI is taking us into uncharted territories, creating new markets and transforming industries. Societal shifts, like the evolving nature of work, are introducing opportunities for young people to disrupt traditional models. Meanwhile, the fight against climate change must rapidly accelerate in order to safeguard our planet for future generations.

Together, our shortlisted founders demonstrate the boundless potential of youth to shape the world we live in. Each motivated by a social mission – whether sustainability, diversity, or community – their stories serve as a call to arms for other aspiring entrepreneurs.

“The diversity of ages and backgrounds in this year’s shortlist shows that entrepreneurship is thriving amongst young people – and the future is certainly bright for those who want to build businesses,” Skinner tells Startups.

“Ultimately, these finalists show that there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ age to dive into entrepreneurship. If you have an idea, a passion, and a strong sense of determination, these finalists show that you can bring your vision into reality.”

This year’s Young Entrepreneur nominees signal that the entrepreneurial landscape is poised for change. For the UK’s bright young things, it’s time to seize the reins.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.
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