Molly Masters, Books That Matter

Molly Masters launched reading subscription service Books That Matter while at university in 2016 to inspire and empower women and girls through literature. “How can we expect women to be empowered if they’re not represented in the books they’re reading?”

In a year epitomised by lockdowns, her business quadrupled in size. Masters, who is 23 and lives in Bristol, says membership boomed in 2020 from 800 to over 3,000 as a second brand for younger readers, Brave Girls Book Club, helped make Books That Matter the UK’s leading and largest book subscription box.

“Last year was such a whirlwind,” says Masters, who was recently named as a finalist in the Great British Entrepreneur Awards. “With so many people having reacquainted themselves with their love of reading during quarantine, and securing ourselves some amazing opportunities for brand awareness, we’re hoping to continue our trajectory of growth into 2021. “Diversifying our product offering and exploring new horizons has been an exciting part of our growth, and I hope that 2021 will allow us to level up.”

Sarah McAnallen, McAnallen

Sarah McAnallen, founder of McAnallen, didn’t know it then, but her entrepreneurial journey began when she was just six years old – and her 34-year-old mother had a stroke.

It meant McAnallen applied her creative talents throughout her childhood to trying to make tasks easier for her mum – and after her A levels swapped her chosen career of architecture to product design. Her first device, an aid called Ezi-Sock to enable people with restricted mobility to put on socks without bending down, attracted such demand that she turned her hobby into a business.

In 2019 she won a £20,000 pitching competition at Belfast’s Female Entrepreneur Conference and now provides a range of colours and styles and is working on a new product.

“Our products come from listening and observing, and an emotional, ground-level understanding,” says McAnallen, who is 23. “They’re not clinical white hospital products – they blend into a home, reflecting a personality, not an injury or disability.

“Although 2020 was a trying year, we hope to continue to grow our business in 2021. We are in the process of enhancing our production processes to expand our manufacturing capabilities, and we are planning to launch a new product in the new year.”

Robbie MacIsaac, Flux Solutions

Robbie MacIsaac, who is 19 and from Falkirk, has applied the skill of design to the skirl of the bagpipes to solve a worldwide problem for those who practise the instrument. As a British champion piper who has even closed the show at Glasgow’s T in the Park festival, he wanted to reduce the build-up of moisture in the pipes, which can not only crack and damage instruments and affect their sound, but also create mould, thought to cause a rare pipers’ disease called bagpipe lung.

MacIsaac was just a 16-year-old schoolboy when he used his engineering skills to begin developing the FLUX, a blowpipe that uses a silica desiccant to absorb moisture before it reaches the bag. It has proved a global game changer in piping, leading MacIsaac to design other mouthpiece products and win a £10,000 innovation prize to help launch his own business, Flux Solutions.

“In the coming year I plan to expand the FLUX product range within the bagpipe industry to capture a wider target market,” he says, now an engineering student at the University of Strathclyde. “I also plan to begin development and expansion into other industrial markets, in sight of making my mark of innovation more prominent and universal.”

Marwa Ebrahim, Atypical Cosmetics

When Marwa Ebrahim found she was allergic to some skincare treatment ingredients, identifying and avoiding them was easier said than done. Research revealed thousands of people had the same problem so she hit on the idea of creating bespoke skincare treatments.

“The mass-produced approach tries to treat us all the same,” she says, “but we’re not. We’re more than ‘oily, dry and normal’. Where we live, our ethnic origins, our lifestyles, the local pollution levels, and of course our health and allergies, all make a difference.”

Ebrahim, who is 25 and has a degree from The Glasgow School of Art and a joint master’s in Management and Design Innovation from The Glasgow School of Art and the University of Glasgow, applied algorithms to create a customisation service, which takes customers’ individual answers to questions to create bespoke products just for them. Since then, she’s won numerous awards, built up a 500-strong waiting list – and launched Atypical Cosmetics.

“We’re very excited to share with people our custom-made, individually filled skincare that’s made with ingredients that are vegan, natural and completely customised to each user,” she says. “Over the coming year, we aim to continue growing the company and to expand our product range; enabling people to customise their perfect skincare product from hundreds of possible ingredient combinations.”

Tal Horton-Horsman, and Campbell-Ross Drummond, Touch Immersion

Tal Horton-Horsman and Campbell Drummond (pictured from left, below), both 23, were aerospace engineering students at Hertfordshire University when they shared a vision of how the immersive nature of virtual reality could be used to train people in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) industries and universities. After both continuing their studies at Cranfield University they launched Touch Immersion, which provides VR training programmes for industry and education.

They have also just developed what the pair call a “moonshot” revolutionary “immersive engineering” VR tool for aviation and aerospace firms, allowing everyone creating components in a design project to see the most recent product version of a whole in real time and “engineers can work to design components in VR around the product model itself, instead of in isolation”, leading to faster and more collaborative design.

“Having completed our Minimum Viable Product as proof of concept for Cranfield University, the focus for 2021 is going to be rapid growth for Touch Immersion,” says Horton-Horsman, who describes himself as having “a love of sci-fi, travel and anything innovative”. “We aim to secure a SEIS Seed Funding round to finance further development of our Immersive Engineering VR Programs and to have our programs be deployed to multiple industry clients as well as several universities. This is to further our purpose of accelerating the use of immersive technologies to drive global engineering and scientific developments.”

Suhit Amin, Saulderson Media

Suhit Amin is clearly adept at spotting a zeitgeist. While working in influencer marketing at esports giant ESL Gaming he saw the potential in becoming an agent for influencers, to manage their careers and link them with brands to the long-term benefit of both. So he launched Glasgow-based Saulderson Media, which looks after a roster of high-profile influencers, designs creative campaigns, develops influencer strategy and enables collaborative marketing, while helping to protect content and grow merchandise opportunities.

The company has grown significantly in the last couple of years and in August 2020 the prestigious Influencer Marketing Awards named him “One To Watch” in its Rising Star category. Saulderson also claimed the award for Best Use of a Small Budget after its marketing campaign for software firm Wondershare outperformed target by 640%.

But there is another reason Amin, who is 19, was determined to seize the day – at 16 he was diagnosed with Stage 2A Hodgkin Lymphoma and, he says, he “channelled the diagnosis into my ambitions”, determined to spend every moment he had fulfilling his entrepreneurial goals. Although he retains the diagnosis, following aggressive chemotherapy Amin is in remission and is looking forward to the future.

“The past two and a half years running Saulderson have been amazing,” he says. “However, it’s now time to enter the big leagues: 2021 is going to be a huge year for the company. We have major plans to drastically scale up our operations, work with even larger clients on huge campaigns and sign some of the biggest talent globally. No more are we going to be seen as a small agency, we are going to be some of the leaders in the industry.”

Nduduzo Ndlovu, Urbvngent

Du Ndlovu can trace the origins of his bespoke tailoring business back to something his late great grandfather would say. When challenged that he was overdressed, the old gentleman would reply: “Everyone else is merely underdressed.”

Ndlovu never met him but took his words, as well as his fabrics and textiles education, from his grandmother as inspiration on his journey to create Urbvngent, a personal styling and tailoring service. He’s a firm believer in the adage “clothes maketh the man” – perfectly made and individually crafted suits can give the wearer confidence and affect how they think, feel and function. “We always aim to give individuals an opportunity to excel in everyday life,” says Ndlovu.

Born in Africa, which he describes as “a continent thriving with textile vibrancy and expression”, he moved to England aged nine. He recalls altering clothes for his peers in school and, after graduating from Leeds Beckett University with a degree in sports marketing, used funding from a part-time job to launch Urbvngent. The business offers a range of traditional and contemporary suits, personal retailoring of ill-fitting ‘off the peg’ suits bought elsewhere, and accessories such as ties, polka dot handkerchiefs and card holders.

After a year of adversity for so many businesses, Ndlovu, who is 25, says he had to adapt his own. “From curating a range of gentleman’s essential hampers to hand making accessories, I’ve done everything in my power to keep my dream of modernising a beautiful art.” He also runs a “suit drive”, which encourages current and retired professionals to donate old suits that can be re-tailored for individuals in need.

He adds: “This is a campaign created to tackle the major issue of sustainability within the apparel industry by donating and tailoring suits to those whom need it the most. Whether it is a job interview, graduation, prom, or wedding, with the help of our relevant partners, donors and personal tailoring and alterations service, we will have the right suit for you. There is no better feeling than when you put on something that is tailored to you. For 2021 and beyond, this is a feeling that we will deliver to those that need a helping hand.”

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