Young Guns revisited: Catching up with classes of 2003-05

We catch-up with some of our rising entrepreneurial stars from years gone by to discover whether our predictions hit the mark – and if they managed to realise their early potential

Damian Bentley Company: Snowball Focus: Direct marketing Class of 2005

Bentley has continued to drive the business forward, buying out a partner’s 30% stake and picking up some notable clients, including Isolagen, a ‘natural botox’ that keeps your cells in a lab for use during old age or accidents. Bentley is planning “a big campaign” in the run up to Christmas, but has kept his nine-strong team focused and lean, outsourcing where possible. “We don’t try and sell everything to everyone,” he says. Turnover stands at £2.4m.

Jennifer Irvine Company: The Pure Package Focus: Executive meals on wheels Class of 2005

The past year has proved to be one of change for Irvine, on a business and personal level. She now has a six-month-old daughter, who has inspired the introduction of a crèche area in the company. The entrepreneur has also outsourced delivery of the meals made to dietary requirements for the rich and famous, and attracted further celebrity custom, including actor Hugh Jackman. Sales have doubled since last year, pushing turnover beyond the £1m mark.

Chris Philp Company: Clearstone Focus: Training of lorry drivers Class of 2005

Clearstone has supplemented its organic growth with the acquisition of two training schools in St Albans and the Midlands, almost doubling turnover to £9m. Philp has also set up Pluto Capital, developing real estate in the Balkans. He sold the first development of 20 apartments in four weeks and sees the post-war region as the fastest growing tourist destination in the world.

Nick Wood Company: Fruitboost Focus: Juice bars Class of 2005

Wood and brother Andy happily report that turnover is set to double in the business’ second year, with staff numbers also rising, from 30 last year to more than 60 now. Four juice bars are now up and running, with a further two set to start trading by Christmas. A franchising programme will help take the Wood brothers’ concept nationwide. Aside from Fruitboost, the pair have created a self-storage company called Storage Boost, with two outlets opening over the next year.

Alex Michelin Company: Finchatton Focus: Luxury property development Class of 2005

The growth of Finchatton has allowed Michelin to hand-pick development projects from Ireland to the south of France. The business has moved into appropriately grand offices in Belgravia, London, with two extra staff members joining in the past year. A turnover of £22m is expected this year, with £35m planned for 2007.

James Hibbert Company: Dress2kill Focus: Bespoke tailoring Class of 2005

Hibbert’s business continues to be as sharp as his suits, with turnover doubling to £2m and profits rising by 100% in the last year. Overheads have been cut by his London-based store becoming a destination of choice for customers, rather than the previous reliance on visiting tailors. Hibbert’s media coverage continues to impress, while the business’ link with Richard Branson saw the Virgin boss wearing a Dress2kill suit at a credit card launch. Franchising is also a possibility for Hibbert.

Emma Barnett Company: Essential Escapes Focus: Spa holiday operator Class of 2005

The past year has generally been one of consolidation for Essential Escapes, with both Barnett and her sister Deborah, a fellow director, having children. Barnett feels that the business is now on a more scaleable growth platform, with the customer retention and marketing aspects improved over the past 12 months. The portfolio of spa destinations has increased, with a number of affiliate deals signed. Turnover hit £1.5m this year, with £2.5m in revenues expected in 2007.

Stacey-Lea Golding Company: Premier Cru Focus: Wine investment Class of 2004

Having given birth to a daughter in January, Golding is back and working four-day weeks to guide the business’ growth. Premier Cru has expanded into Europe, with Spain a particularly fertile ground for investment. Growth has been organic, with turnover doubling to £2m since last year and deals signed with the likes of Park Row and Millfields.

Claire Page Company: Whitewater Focus: Marketing for charities Class of 2004

Following a costly, large-scale launch in the US, Page re-evaluated her approach and went for a more low-risk strategy, appointing a franchisee. The business has increased its margins, aided by contract wins with the RNLI and the NSPCC, and successful work with various clients on Virtual Gifts. Negotiations are on-going for a Swedish franchise to cover the Scandinavian market. Turnover is projected at £5.2m.

Imraan Malik Company: iBetX Focus: Online betting Class of 2004

The betting frenzy of the FIFA World Cup was a further boost to iBetX, which enjoyed a “significant” growth in turnover in the past year. Malik feels he is gaining ground on rival Betfair, with impressive brand building via sponsorship of football, cricket and the Goodwood racing festival. Future growth will be fuelled by moving into the Asian market and the acquisition of smaller betting exchanges.

Tony Rafferty Company: Focus: Printing Class of 2003

Rafferty has floated the company on AIM, with a market capitalisation of £32m. The franchise roll-out has continued apace, with 175 outlets now established. Last November saw the business expand overseas, with a master’s licence granted in New Zealand and discussions underway with firms across Europe. The business generates an enviable £2.4m in profit.


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