Three scale-up entrepreneurs in their 20s you’ll hear more about

If you think some millennials might lack great ideas, work ethic and entrepreneurial flair, then sit up and take note.

The 100 Stories of Growth campaign reveals that young guns in the UK scale-up community are boosting the economy, nurturing young talent and creating valuable jobs.

Financial and professional services firm Smith & Williamson’s recent Dream bigger: the scale-up moment report tells us that more than 40% of scale-ups are created and run by the under-34s.

And campaigns such as Ideas Mean Business are tapping into young entrepreneurs’ sizzling potential. Run by Innovate UK and The Prince’s Trust, the campaign is helping the under-30s break into business across the whole of the UK.

This week we’re showcasing three impressive company founders who were all in their late teens or early 20s when they set up their companies. A few years in, they’ve avoided the pull of equity funding and are scaling-up on their own terms.


Verb Brands – finding a luxury niche

Chris Donnelly was just 19 and studying at Warwick University when he launched his full-service digital agency with just £400.

The agency, which works with luxury brands including The Wolseley, Creed Fragrances and Grosvenor Estates, has grown in part by acquisition.

Its successful buyout of another agency DBD Media has accelerated its growth and created cost-saving synergies.

We took over the business, strengthened the team, and stripped out office and operational costs.

Donnelly says that this this strategy has reaped rewards and it’s been nothing short of brilliant, generating much higher turnover with higher profit. Today the agency employs 40 people and has a turnover of £3.5m.

He knows that selling equity in the business would have “affected our valuation” and it’s been a sensible strategy to cashflow the business. [Read the Verb Brands story]



GapCap – funding solutions for cash-strapped SMEs

At 25 and with a background in private equity, Alex Fenton set out to disrupt the bank-dominated SME finance market. Founded in 2014, GapCap helps companies improve their cashflow by raising funds against their invoices.

As we’re talking to maybe 50 businesses every day about their individual problems, if we haven’t seen the cash problem that someone’s having, then no one has.

Fenton’s business model needs a constant flow of debt funding from his capital providers. He says finding the money to fuel his finance business is easier when he’s done research on investors and he knows where to look for it.

He also says: “The biggest problem that we have is that we’ve either got too much money or too much business.” [Read the GapCap story]



The Goat Agency – influencing consumer trends

Harry Hugo had just turned 20 when he set out to create a leading global social influencer marketing agency.

With an average age of 24, the agency has become magnet for young grads eager to make a big splash in the East London agency scene. What’s great is that the agency ploughs its profits back into growing the team of 40.

Our biggest area of capital investment is always in our staff.

The agency has worked with many globally recognised brands such as KFC, Liverpool FC, Malibu and Formula E and is posting a healthy turnover of £6m. [Read the Goat Agency story]


Join the 100 Stories of Growth campaign as we continue to explore how fast-growth companies are using financial, human, intellectual and emotional capital to successfully scale.
Follow us on Twitter to be the first to find out new and inspiring stories @100stories