The South West of England is steeped in industrial history. From the region’s maritime heritage, to the aeronautical production that has cropped up in the area since the 20th century, scores of successful companies have set up in the South West.
It is also one of the most entrepreneurial regions in the UK, with almost 50 per cent of people there saying they would consider starting their own business. That’s why it’s no wonder that some of the country’s most successful entrepreneurs come from the region. This article will go over just a few of them and discuss how they built their companies.
Stephen Fitzpatrick set up Bristol-based Ovo Energy in 2009. Over the last decade, the company has quickly become one of the UK’s largest energy suppliers. The company is unique in that it supplies 100 per cent renewable energy to its customers as standard.
Fitzpatrick has always been an entrepreneur, beginning his career after graduating from university by starting The Rental Guide, a Scottish property listings publication and website. After two years, he joined investment bank Société Générale to become a trader, but later used £350,000 of his own savings to start Ovo.
Fitzpatrick has numerous other business interests, and never seems content to just do one thing. He has launched Vertical Aerospace, a start-up developing electric flying taxis, as well as Just3Things, an app that helps companies monitor how employees spend their hours at work when doing so remotely.
A well-known name in the business community and something of a local celebrity in the South West, Dawson made a name for himself as the founder of home retailer The Range. Dawson is a natural entrepreneur with an impressive journey to where he is today.
Dawson grew up in public housing in Plymouth, Devon. When he was young, he worked two paper routes and sold scraps from his school’s metal shop. He struggled with reading and writing at school and eventually dropped out at 15, before starting his career as a market trader. Dawson claims that he could not read until he was 27.
In the early 1980s, Dawson began selling cookware at outdoor markets. Almost a decade later, he and his wife used the profits from his trading to open a discount home store in his hometown of Plymouth, which later became The Range. The company now has over 175 stores nationwide, each owned by Dawson, as well as over 11,000 employees.
Terence Mordaunt is the co-owner of The Bristol Port Company, one of the largest and most successful marine hubs in the UK. Mordaunt and his business partner Sir David Ord founded the company in the 1990s when they privatized the Bristol Docks, purchasing them from the local council.
When they took over the docks, they were in a state of disrepair, having not turned a profit for the last two decades. Mordaunt and Ord invested heavily in the docks after privatization, and they turned a profit in the first year of their ownership, as well as every year since. Under their ownership, The Bristol Port Company has grown considerably. Today, the Port employs over 500 people and contributes over £1 billion to the UK economy.
Another of the UK’s most successful retail entrepreneurs, Julian Dunkerton founded clothing company Superdry in 2003 with his business partner James Holder. However, his first foray into retail was much earlier, with the founding of Cult Clothing in Cheltenham in 1985 with a loan of just £2,000. The company went from strength to strength under Dunkerton’s leadership, growing rapidly during the 2000s, until the business undertook a successful flotation on the London Stock Exchange in 2011, raising £120 million.
Outside of Superdry, Dunkerton also runs his family’s cider company and has numerous property interests throughout the South West. He is the owner of the Lucky Onion Group, which operates a small group of hotels, restaurants, and pubs in the Cotswolds. He is also part-owner of two flower-arranging companies, as well as numerous other businesses.
While many of the entrepreneurs in the list so far have had long and storied careers in business, there are many in the South West that aren’t as far along. One feature that the South West does have over other areas in the UK is that it boasts the highest number of female-run businesses in the UK.
One of these businesses is Softwire, a software development company that employs over 130 people. Zoe Cunningham started there as a graduate programmer and was the company’s ninth employee, but has since risen through the ranks to become the company’s Managing Director.
Far from being satisfied in just one role, she is also the chair of the Small Software Association, as well as the founder of Tech Talkfest and the Exponential Member Network. In 2013, she was named as one of the 100 most influential people in Tech City and also named the Brightest Woman in Britain by the BBshort url: