Summer is upon us! Our #SummerKick is all about inspiring you to do start something new or push your business to the next level during the second half of 2017. To help give you some ideas, we’ve found 10 of the UK’s most inspirational startups.
These businesses are all just a few years old and already making an impact in their sectors. Some are making waves in sectors dominated by big brands, others have identified a new way of doing something that pushes their sector into the future, while still others are running successful businesses designed to make a positive impact on the people around them.
Could one of these 10 be the inspiration you need for your next big idea?
Free the Fresher
Founder: Mikaela Richardson
Richardson started her business after moving to university in London and realising how hard it is for students with little or no parental support to get through their course. Students pay one fee at the start of the year, then get deliveries throughout the year containing all the stuff they need for each term, including bedding, kitchenware and stationery.
Richardson founded Free the Fresher in 2016 whilst still a student and has turned it into a successful business that is already profitable. The best part, however, is that in doing so she has created a service that is genuinely useful for thousands of cash-strapped students in London and beyond.
Founder: Oliver Bridge
Like many entrepreneurs featured in this list, Bridge started out young, founding his first business when he was just 15! Now Bridge is finding success with Cornerstone, a subscription shaving service that won the People’s Champion award at the 2016 Startups Awards for the second year running.
Cornerstone is a great example of a startup disrupting an industry stuffed full of big brands, with British-made razors, a convenient subscription service and a gimmick-free marketing strategy. Its success shows that you shouldn’t discount a sector because it already contains established players; quality speaks for itself.
Founder: Tom Blomfield
Monzo might just be the best-known startup on our list. Founded by Blomfield in 2015, this fintech startup is changing the way banks operate in the digital space. At present, it offers users a smartphone-based budgeting service and a prepaid card that’s free to use overseas, but the company plans to launch a fully licensed current account service very soon.
Like Cornerstone, Monzo is an example of innovation shaking up a sector. The online service’s popularity is astonishing in a sector that is often treated with suspicion, though it could be argued that it’s precisely because Monzo is new and untainted by past negativity that it has been embraced so readily.
The Hair Bears (Sensory Hair Ltd)
Founder: Jessica Leach
The Hair Bears is not the biggest company on this list, but it’s surely one of the most inspiring. 23 year-old Leach founded the hairdressing service, aimed at children and adults with autism and additional needs, after seeing the distress her physically and mentally disabled aunt experienced in a hairdressing salon.
Along with her mother, Leach now travels to homes, care homes and hospitals to cut and style hair, using a mixture of distraction techniques and sensory therapy to keep customers calm and enable them to enjoy the process a lot more. In the future, Leach plans to introduce training and accreditation for highstreet salons so that they can gain the relevant skills and customers can see that they are autism and additional needs friendly.
Founders: Eamon Jubbawy, Husayn Kassai, Ruhul Amin
Onfido and its founders scooped two awards at the most recent Startups Awards, claiming both ‘Business of the Year’ and ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year.’ All of the founders are under 30 and have created an internationally successful startup that runs automated background checks thanks to a mixture of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
The business is a perfect example of entrepreneurs using the latest technology to increase efficiency and save their clients time and money. Tapping into this innovative spirit is the key to many startups succeeding where others might fail.
Founders: Olivia Higgs, Tom Charman, Kurt Henderson and Doug Walker
KOMPAS is a shining example of what can be achieved when entrepreneurs pool their skills. Higgs and Charman were able to turn their popular travel blog into a viable business with the help of Henderson and Walker, who brought the technical skills needed to create a slick, attractive mobile app.
The app helps tourists to find things to do abroad that they wouldn’t see on most travel sites, enabling them to escape the bustle of tourist traps and get a feel for the city they’re in. With the support of an experienced board of advisors and the London Midlands travel and mobility accelerator, the four entrepreneurs (all under 25) are in a great position to succeed.
London Fashion Agency
Founder: Rosie Davies
How do you succeed in a sector like PR, when so many agencies are competing to win customers? Rosie Davies’ answer was to target a specific industry, keep costs down and build a reputation for herself through the testimonies of happy customers.
Since founding LFA in 2013, Davies has been recognised with several awards and nominations, winning Creative Industries Entrepreneur of the Year 2016 in the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, as well as Great British Fashion Entrepreneur of the Year: Entrepreneurial Spark Special Merit Award in 2015. Davies’ story shows that, in many cases, you’ll be most successful when you start a business in a sector that you know and love, where existing industry knowledge can get you off to a flying start.
Flood Protection Solutions Ltd.
Founder: Simon Crowther
Businesses with an environmental focus continue to be both necessary and successful and Flood Protection Solutions is a great example of an entrepreneur meeting a practical need in the UK. Crowther founded the business to sell the Water-Gate, a Canadian flood prevention barrier for homes, which he had used with great success in protecting his home against flooding in 2012 (it had already been flooded once in 2007).
Now, Crowther has expanded his offering to include other flood relief technology, such as pumps, and regularly advises councils and businesses on how to reduce or eliminate the risk and negative impact of flooding. Crowther’s achievements were recognised in 2016 as he won Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards.
Founder: Ben Jeffries
The second marketing startup to make our list, Influencer is the brainchild of 21 year old entrepreneur Ben Jeffries. When running a clothing business in his teens, Jeffries noted that the prevalence of ad blockers among his peers made traditional advertising very difficult. This led him to found Influencer, a business that connects brands with social influencers.
Now Influencer’s clients include Uber and Primark, and Jeffries has won £50,000 in the Young Start-up Talent Competition. He believes that influencer marketing is the future of online advertising and it looks like others are inclined to agree.
Founders: James Gupta and Omair Vaiyani
Gupta and Vaiyani have built a successful business whilst studying medicine at university, which is a huge achievement in and of itself! Their story is a testament to hard work, identifying something to improve upon and the benefits of starting a business with a crowdfunding campaign.
Synap is a revision tool, designed to help students revise more effectively than anything else on the market thanks to techniques informed by cognitive science. After raising £195,000 through crowdfunding, the duo turned over £500,000 in their first year of trading. Synap’s story shows that, while running a startup can be incredibly demanding, hard work really does pay off.