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Who are the top 32 leaders set to take 2021 by storm?

This year has been challenging for businesses and entrepreneurs across all industries. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a devastating force, leading to many companies going bust and millions being left unemployed.

However, with 2021 on the horizon, Business Leader has put together a list of 32 individuals and their businesses that are set to lead the UK into the future. Whether they are already established or are a disruptive entity – over the next 12 months, these are the names to look out for.

This list is in no particular order

Jack Dyer and James Wren


The Birmingham-based fitness company created an innovative alternative to phone holder armbands to give fitness enthusiasts the freedom to train smart and train free. Set up by former Aston Villa youth player Jack Dyer and former Walsall FC goalkeeper James Wren in 2015, the firm has experienced significant growth, increased their product range and has sold over 80,000 units worldwide and an annual turnover of £3.6m. The big break though came when Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba posted a video of himself wearing the vest in April 2020. Manchester United forwards Mason Greenwood and David Beckham have been spotted wearing them as well.

Rachael Flanagan

Mrs Buckét

At 18, Flanagan failed her business A-levels and was told by teachers that she’d never make it in business. With her signature go-getter attitude, Rachael defied expectations and started Mrs Buckét with only £20 worth of black and white flyers and a mop. Today she is the proud owner of an award-winning cleaning operation worth nearly £3m, employing 250 members of staff across the South West and Wales.

Mrs Buckét has achieved fantastic growth, increasing turnover year-on-year whilst maintaining excellent profit margins. This year alone, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the business has expanded by £250,000; welcomed 30 new clients and grown its team by 10%. In the next five years, the team is looking to grow internally by 300%, to invest heavily in innovative cleaning technology and branch out its services into new sectors across the UK.

Greg Jackson

Octopus Energy

Jackson featured earlier in this edition in our Fast Track feature – and after five years of incredible growth at the London-based retail electricity and gas supplier specialising in sustainable energy  – the firm now records annual revenues of around £2bn. However, with the green energy market set to exponentially increase in value, Octopus is perfectly placed to achieve its goal of becoming the ‘Amazon of energy’.

Dr Tom Carter


The recent recipient of the Rising Star Award at the Amazon Scale-Up Awards, Carter is the CTO and co-founder of the world’s leading haptics and hand-tracking firm, based in Bristol. The innovative and disruptive tech firm makes virtual reality feel more ‘real’ – and with its real-world applications merging with VR/AR all the time, Ultraleap’s perfect blend could set the industry alight with its technology.

Guy Harrington


Glenhawk, the fast-growing real estate challenger lender, was recognised as Start-Up Business of the Year at the Amazon Scale-Up Awards. Launched in January 2018 by 33-year-old entrepreneur Guy Harrington to disrupt the UK short-term lending market and backed by Rightmove founder Harry Hill, Glenhawk has quickly become a mainstay of the £4.5bn industry. In March they announced a new funding line with J.P. Morgan, which will support Glenhawk’s ambitions to grow its UK loan book to £200m by the end of 2021.

Chris Larmour


Founded in 2015, Orbex is a low-cost orbital launch services company, serving the needs of the small satellite industry. Orbex has developed one of the most advanced, low-carbon, high-performance micro-launch vehicles in the world. The Moray-based firm plans to launch its small satellite rocket in 2021 from a spaceport being developed in Sutherland – and has been earmarked as a future unicorn business.

Alex Chesterman OBE


Online car retailer Cazoo launched less than two years ago and has become known as  Britain’s fastest-ever technology unicorn, after raising £25m from investors earlier this year. Founded by prolific entrepreneur Chesterman, Cazoo is his latest successful enterprise. He also set up start-ups Lovefilm and Zoopla.

Vishal Chatrath


CEO and Co-founder Chatrath founded Secondmind in 2016, with a mission to empower people in business to make better decisions. Secondmind closes the gap between people and AI and supercharges decision-making with the Secondmind Decision Engine, an intuitive and insightful software platform that helps people in industries from supply chain to automotive predict, plan, influence outcomes, manage risk, and make complex decisions with ease and confidence. Secondmind is backed by global venture funds including Amadeus Capital, Atlantic Bridge, and Cambridge Innovation Capital.

Dr Oliver Prill


Established in 2015, Tide is one of the first digital-only finance platforms in the UK to provide current accounts for businesses and promises to do so in less than five minutes. Tide is a fintech firm providing mobile-first banking services for SMEs.

It enables businesses to set up a current account and get instant access to various financial services, including automated bookkeeping and integrated invoicing. The challenger bank has now expanded into a 250-strong team in London and also has offices in Bulgaria and India.

Richard Barlow


The Cheshire-based tech firm has created a data exchange platform to enable smarter mobility for transport across the UK – and globally. The firm collects billions of data points from millions of connected cars to help analyse trends within transport – to reduce congestion and pollution. The firm has expanded into the US and has raised more than £100m. The firm is now 35% owned by General Motors.

Franz Doerr and Daniel Jeczmien


Winner of the Tech Start-Up Award at the Go:Tech Awards, Flatfair was founded in 2016 by Doerr and Jeczmien after the much-publicised struggles renters and landlords had when dealing with the financial aspect of their transactions. Plus, with the government deposit schemes and insurance policies of the time not benefiting either party, Flatfair was born.

The founders, inspired by the success of deposit alternatives in Germany and Switzerland, combined the most effective government deposit schemes with smart technology to make renting more affordable for tenants, more secure for landlords and more efficient for agents and institutions.

Hugo Tilmouth and Charlie Baron


Two young entrepreneurs who pivoted their mobile phone charging network business – ChargedUp – into hand sanitising supplier – CleanedUp – as COVID-19 hit, have fully powered back up their on-the-go portable mobile charging business by securing a five-year deal with Europe’s two largest shopping centres, Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City.

ChargedUp now provides mobile charging stations in public spaces, has grown a network of 2500 charging points across 50 European cities and takes inspiration from bike-sharing, letting you rent a mobile charging pack from one destination and return it at a different location.

Alicia Teagle


Winner of the Rising Star Award at the 2019 Business Leader Awards, Teagle looks set to keep SR2’s momentum going into 2021. SR2 stands for Socially Responsible Recruitment, with a double bottom line that measures the firm’s contribution to society as well as its monthly turnover figures. SR2 is part of a new wave of business that cares as much for people as it does for profits.

Brian Allen


Bristol-based Rovco is a global provider of ROV and hydrographic services, supported by unique artificial intelligence-based technology products. The firm has a vast track record in supplying services and technology to the offshore energy industry across the globe. Allan’s firm seeks to not only replace subsea video surveys with 3D, but to introduce AI and further disrupt the sector with innovative techniques and ground-breaking concepts.

Will Britton


Britton is the Founder of AutonoMe, a Bristol-based scale-up helping the social care sector combine educational technology with one-to-one support to improve the outcomes for vulnerable people in social care settings. With the impact of COVID-19, AutonoMe could play a crucial role over the next 12 months.

The firm helps people across the UK with needs such as learning disabilities, mental health needs, care leavers, homelessness and more. They work closely with local governments, housing associations and, mental health organisations.

Oliver Woolley


Woolley is an ambitious leader looking to transform the early-stage investment market in the UK. Traditionally, the industry has been slow in updating processes and utilising technology. It has also been scrutinised for the lack of opportunities for BAME founders and is dominated by exclusive, hard-to-break-into groups of white, middle-aged men.

Oliver’s ambition is a connected ecosystem of investment networks, accelerators, VCs and universities that utilises technology to lower barriers to entry. Envestors have already established a network of over 6,000 investors in the UK.

Alice Stephenson

Stephenson Law

Stephenson is an entrepreneur, lawyer, angel investor and avid spokeswoman for diversity and disruption in the legal industry. She founded Stephenson Law in 2017 to create a law firm that does things differently and has helped inspire young women to challenge the perceived barriers to success in business and to see that anything is possible.

Andre Brown

Advanced Commerce

Brown is the former CEO of global software firm Attraqt Group plc, a company that he co-founded in 2003 on an initial capital investment of £20,000. During his time there, he grew the business to become a major player in the European market with more than 200 retail clients. In 2014, the company was listed on the London Stock Market. He left in 2018 to start work on a new software company, Advanced Commerce, which launched in October.

Faisal Lalani and Jamil Mawji

National Care Group

Co-founders, Lalani and Mawji have created a sustainable and innovative business that has also had a positive impact on society. The pair identified a gap in the market and now run the UK’s largest specialist adult care provider. As disruptive entrepreneurs with a multitude of awards behind them, the firm now provides care and support services to over 1,200 individuals and operates in nearly 250 locations across England and Wales.

Manav and Rimi Dabhia


With the vegan revolution picking up pace, LoveRaw has risen to prominence as a popular vegan chocolate firm. Over the last seven years, the firm has established itself as one of the leading companies within the industry and has picked up multiple awards. With new innovations within vegan food hitting shelves all the time, the future is bright for LoveRaw.

Poppy Gustafsson


As one of the UK tech sector’s ‘unicorn’ businesses, Darktrace’s world-leading ‘Cyber AI’ protects businesses against unpredictable threats online. The company covers a firm’s entire enterprise, from workforce devices and IoT to SaaS and email. More than 4,000 organisations – and growing – now rely on Darktrace to autonomously respond to emerging cyber-attacks in seconds.

Boyan Slat

The Ocean Cleanup

Every year, millions of tons of plastic enter the oceans primarily from rivers. The plastic then filters its way into the ocean. Therefore, solving ocean plastic pollution requires a combination of stemming the inflow and cleaning up what has already accumulated. The Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit organisation – headed by Slat – is developing advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.

Grace Beverley

Tala & Shreddy

Ethical fitness retail entrepreneur Beverley is one of the UK’s most up-and-coming business leaders, having started her first company – B_ND – which produces vegan-friendly resistance bands whilst studying in her first year at Oxford University. Since then she has expanded her empire through FitTech firm Shreddy and activewear brand Tala.

Timothy Armoo


Armoo is the Co-founder and CEO of social media marketing company Fanbytes – which specifically helps companies target the Gen Z audience. Led by a team of young techies and advertising veterans, the firm helps brands engage with younger audiences in the most interactive ways. Fanbytes has received many industry awards for its innovative and disruptive approach to the marketing sector.

Ben Francis


Founded eight years ago by Francis, when he was a student at Aston University, Gymshark is the latest British firm to join an exclusive list of companies that have achieved ‘unicorn’ status. The sports fashion retailer recently sold a 21% stake in the company to reach the $1bn (£750m) valuation and looks set to further disrupt the retail sector.

Gymshark has risen to prominence through its use of social media influencers, rather than traditional advertising and marketing campaigns. The brand has 4.6m followers on its main Instagram account, alongside 2.8m Twitter followers.

Urenna Okonkwo


Okonkwo is the founder of the app-based company that helps women save towards purchasing luxury items while being responsible with their money. The app is praised for helping the millennial generation of shoppers from falling into debt over ecommerce purchases. Through Cashmere, a user can create a list of items they desire, then save through its automated wallet – once the target is reached, the user can purchase the item.

Zanna van Dijk & Natalie Glaze

Stay Wild Swim

The premium swimwear brand uses regenerated ocean plastic to create a range of beachwear items. The co-founders Van Dijk and Glaze say that growing up scuba diving, snorkelling and spending time by the water allowed them to develop a strong connection with the sea. Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans, so the firm has committed to fighting this problem and providing a solution.

James Williams


Williams is the MD of the fast-growing Cardiff-based start-up Sero. His firm is delivering its own new zero-carbon homes and working with other partners to decarbonise new and existing homes. It has developed its own customer smart energy management app, as well as a range of digital tools for retrofitting existing homes, that will pave the way for others to follow suit – and overall help reduce the carbon footprint of the UK’s housing stock to help meet the Government’s Net Zero 2050 targets.

Nicholas Kelly

Axela Ltd

Founder and CEO Kelly created the healthtech firm in 2016 and has since led the firm to now have more than 1,200 employees and a turnover of £5m. Axela Ltd is made up of two healthcare businesses for the elderly and includes an innovations arm, which has created a range of innovative tech products. Kelly is now launching a new consumer healthtech product in 2021 that looks set to help take the business to a new level.

Tim Campbell MBE


The first ever The Apprentice winner, Tim Campbell MBE is launching a new company – 15 years after the first series was broadcast – in the form of tech brand, Iternal. It is a new memory-sharing site that allows family and friends to experience the life stories of their loved ones even after their death.

It’s a safe haven to privately share fond memories with those closest to you. Currently under construction is the company’s AI function, which will give the user their own AI which will save, store and then share your memories with whomever you choose.

Samantha Rutter

Open Study College

Rutter was 19 when she founded Solihull-based Open Study College with her father, Mark. Fast forward 13 years and as CEO, Samantha has grown the distance learning business, to provide over 650 courses, from A-Levels to nail therapy and animal care, to more than 90,000 students. She has plans to grow turnover to £12m by 2024, through acquisitions and international expansion.

Maxine Laceby

Absolute Collagen

Laceby is the Founder and CEO of the award-winning brand Absolute Collagen. Created in 2017, within 12 months Laceby had turned her kitchen table product into a multi-million-pound supplement. She stumbled upon the benefits of collagen at home, and after extensive time and research, became an expert in the world of ingestible supplements and collagen. Now heading for a £100m turnover in just five years, Absolute Collagen is fast on its way to becoming a global brand.

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