The UK’s most exciting start-ups inspired by founders’ travels

The fantastic stories behind the best British businesses inspired by their founders’ trips overseas. Could your holiday inspire the Next Big Thing?

This year, tens of millions of Brits will escape to foreign climes. And whether immersing themselves in other cultures, recharging batteries or seeking adventures, the aspiring entrepreneurs among them may well return with their own Big Idea.

Leaving the routine and drudgery of our daily lives has a habit of getting our creative juices flowing. Inspired by exotic locales and the good (or sometimes bad) experiences to be had there, countless British business owners have found their business ideas far from our shores.

But don’t just take our word for it – look at the stories behind some of the most successful businesses in the UK.

Back in the 1970s, seasoned travellers Tony and Maureen Wheeler embarked on a mission to travel overland from Europe to Australia for their honeymoon – and decided to share their off-the-beaten-track travel advice.

Some 48 years later, their business venture Lonely Planet has published more than 100 million copies of its books, which are seen as travel Bibles for the generations of adventurous explorers who have followed in the Wheelers’ footsteps.

A travel industry business isn’t the only option. Enterprising couple Stephen and Juliette Wall, for instance, discovered a passion for Vietnamese street food during a trip to the country. When they returned, Vietnam-inspired restaurant chain Pho was born.

Now, we’ve spoken to entrepreneurs who have found business opportunities in every corner of the globe. From transport to currency, confectionary to alcohol, so many of the brands we love and depend on wouldn’t exist if their founders had holidayed in Bognor and Skegness rather than Buenos Aires and Southeast Asia.

Whether they travelled in search of a brainwave or simply stumbled upon a life-changing opportunity, our interviewees all used their unique travelling experience as a springboard to launch their successful business. Here, they tell us about the trials and tribulations of translating a foreign concept into a UK success and even reveal their top tips for unearthing a hidden gem abroad.

So, read on to hear the surprising stories behind the likes of Joe & Seph’s, the gourmet popcorn famed for its gin-inspired flavours; Eat Natural, the popular healthy snack bar brand with telltale transparent packaging; Elephant Branded, the social enterprise which aims to improve lives in impoverished areas; SugarSin, the Willy Wonka-style sweet shop; and more.

And the next time you take a holiday, open your mind and you too could be coming home with more than tourist trinkets and Duty Free booze.