Ever wondered what it’s like to go into business with your partner? Whether it’s easy to separate work and home life? TechRound has spoken to 22 different couples who have done exactly that, giving the term ‘work-life balance’ a completely new meaning.
Couples featured include:
- Natalie Bent & Denhue Harris – Little Scholars Playground
- Simon & Lucy Cornelius – Cornelius Creative
- Dr Carolyn Lam & James Hare – Us2.ai
- Adele-Marie Hartshorn & Tony Noto – The Retreat at Oakmead
- James & Laura Stokes – Coach Hire Comparison
- Jason & Sarah Dowzell – Natural HR
- Tony and Annaliza Sturge – Streethunt Games
- Steve & Kiran Roest – PocDoc
- Jenna and Jordan Vyas-Lee – Vyas Lee Practice
- Ellen Wakelam & Alex Jungmayr – In the Welsh Wind
- Joseph Williams & Cayelan Mendoza – Clu
- The Earl & Countess of Yarmouth, William & Kelsey Seymour – Spirit of St Maur
- Richard & Claudia Bramble – Bramble Dining
- Jolyon & Charlotte Olivier – Napton Cidery
- Rhiannon & Darren Birch – Cheshire Cat Marketing
- Ebi & Emmanuel Sinteh – Our Lovely Goods
- Sophie & Ian Baron – Mamamade
- Judy Nadel & Damien Clarkson – THE PACK
- Simon & Jaime Tillyer – Vouch
- John & Clodagh Higginson – Higginson Strategy
- Will Rice & Sophia Guy-White – Generation Home
- Jason & Emma Ash – YoungPlanet
For any questions, comments or features, please contact us directly.
Natalie Bent & Denhue Harris – Little Scholars Playground
Little Scholars Playground is a diverse children’s book publisher and early years hub. It was founded by Natalie and Denhue, a couple from London. Their goals are to create engaging, diverse children’s literature and to encourage Black parents to get their kids into STEM.
Between them they have 20 years’ experience of working in the STEM industry. Natalie started her career working in marketing for 8 years in the retail and publishing sectors, before deciding to take a risk and change her career. She then studied for a Master’s degree in Web Design & Content Planning, which also taught her how to develop websites by hand coding them herself. Once she finished her degree, she then went on to work as a product designer. She is conscious of the lack of Black women in the STEM industry and she works to encourage Black girls to develop a passion for STEM.
Denhue’s early years passion for STEM started with a visit to Gatwick airport as a child. He remembers being awe-struck by the hustle and bustle of the airport and in particular the spectacular aircraft. That early interest set him off on a journey to pursue learning everything he could about aviation. What followed years later was a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Technology, a branch of aeronautical engineering. In the real world, he applied this knowledge for 15 years in the airline industry as an aeronautical engineer.
They enjoy working together as a couple, surprisingly with no arguments or disagreements. They think that’s because they both have the same clear goals and mission, which they always refer back to. They get to reinvest all the money back into the business, as they have no staff to pay. Also, a bonus is they get to spend lots of time together, which has actually made the relationship stronger.
Simon & Lucy Cornelius – Cornelius Creative
Cornelius Creative is a product design and marketing company based in Kent. They specialise in bringing new and innovative ideas to market. Their mission is to turn creative ideas into commercially successful products; taking clients on a seamless journey to achieve their organisational goals.
The company was founded by Simon and Lucy Cornelius. They’ve been husband and wife since 2017, but they first met in 2011 as colleagues. Working together has always come naturally to them, so it made complete sense for them to start a business together. So, in early 2020, when their son was just a few months old, that’s exactly what they did. Now, nearly two years later, despite having negotiated the pandemic for most of the company’s existence, business is thriving.
They make successful business partners because they have different skills and experiences, so they’re able to balance each other perfectly – much like yin and yang. They’re both creatives, but in different ways.
Simon is a designer, engineer and marketer. He’s as comfortable turning his hand to industrial design as he is developing a product launch plan or conducting a market research focus group. He truly bridges the gap between R&D and marketing.
Lucy is a content creator, passionate about brand strategy and telling stories. She can also work a little magic at building websites and built our company site in-between caring for our baby.
Although most of the time they work brilliantly together and complement each other’s skills, there is the odd occasion when they disagree, and it can be difficult to find a resolution. But they’ve learned over the years how to deal with each other’s preferences, and they have a good rhythm now. They also make sure they spend time as husband and wife outside of work, rather than business partners, as it’s important to remember you’re something other than a business owner.
Dr Carolyn Lam & James Hare – Us2.ai
One is a highly awarded Professor of Cardiology, the other a successful serial entrepreneur – they came together to solve a medical problem they faced personally using AI and technology.
James received a worrying diagnosis about his heart one day during a routine check, only to be told “you have nothing to worry about” by a second doctor. The discrepancy between the two diagnoses for echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart), the wide variability of human measurements along with the highly manual process and high margin for error struck James, who immediately saw the potential of automating the process and removing any guesswork from reading echocardiograms and giving accurate diagnoses.
Admittedly, Dr Carolyn was sceptical at first. She’s spent decades in the field of Cardiology and there are so many different technical aspects to consider, but Us2’s AI is so advanced that it can automatically recognise images, trace cardiac borders, and make the crucial measurements necessary to evaluate heart structure and function.
Working together with two different approaches, from the business and startup world and with a scientific perspective, has given the company the rigour needed to go, in just a few years, from an idea to a patented product with FDA clearance appearing in clinics globally.
They were determined to create an end-to-end tool that doesn’t need any human intervention, thereby freeing up doctors’ time to focus on matters that require their specialised eye. Ultimately, the platform produces a report of all the basic variables needed for a standard adult trans-thoracic echocardiogram evaluation. This is an all-in-one system that’s accurate, comprehensive, easy for general practitioners and polyclinic staff to use, and best of all, it’s affordable.
Adele-Marie Hartshorn & Tony Noto – The Retreat at Oakmead
Adele-Marie and Tony had a vision: they wanted to open a place where people could come and heal. So, they created The Retreat at Oakmead. Whilst this property doubles up as their home, it also is the home of retreats and holistic hen-dos alike. With 6 bedrooms for rent alongside an outdoor pool it is the perfect place to come and allow the mind and body to reset.
Adele-Marie admits that working alongside Tony is of course challenging. They think in a totally different way, but she believes that because they were both bought up with parents who worked together they ‘get it’ better. Luckily, when the pair disagree it is behind the scenes – by the time the next guests arrive they have worked through the problem. They each describe themselves as passionate, impulsive and creative people. Tony sees the details Adele-Marie doesn’t – she starts projects and he finishes them. The pair describe themselves as being the ‘best team’.
Adele-Marie admits that without the tenacity of her partner, the duo would have never gotten as far as they have now. They only opened their retreat last August and already have bookings most weekends until next September. Adele-Marie believes that to have a vision and create a business with a partner takes courage and a special type of relationship. She also thinks that there is no better business partner than a life partner because working together ensures you are always heading in the same direction – together.
For any questions, comments or features, please contact us directly.
James & Laura Stokes – Coach Hire Comparison
James had left his driving job and the pair were busy getting their hands dirty as they nervously scrubbed their beloved coach. And after six years’ building their business as a small coach operator, James and Laura saw an opportunity to help other like-minded business owners and champion independent coach travel.
They wanted to make coach hire the simplest, cheapest, happiest choice of travel. That’s when Coach Hire Comparison was born. The pair have commented that “Working together to build a business was something we always wanted, it’s not for everyone but definitely works for us. We enjoy the work life balance that running our own company together brings, and we have proud moments when we sit back and can see what we have achieved together!”
Jason & Sarah Dowzell – Natural HR
Natural HR was founded in 2010 by husband-and-wife duo, Jason and Sarah Dowzell. Today, Natural HR delivers industry-leading software that simplifies and automates HR and payroll processes for management and employees alike – available anywhere, at any time.
Natural HR was created in response to challenges faced by our now COO and Co-Founder while running a successful cleaning business at the age of 21. As her team grew, Sarah became overwhelmed by the number of timesheets and HR admin that managing a growing team presented. So, like many of us would, she looked to technology to help.
But her search for simple, reliable HR software that was reasonably priced was fruitless.
Sarah’s husband, and fellow Founder of Natural HR, Jason, is an avid programmer. He took it upon himself to develop a custom application that would help her to manage her growing business.
Soon after, in talking to fellow business owners, it became clear that they were all crying out for a simple cloud-based HR solution like the one Jason had built for Sarah. And so, Natural HR was born.
Despite an early lack of funding, Sarah and Jason invested heavily in the development, hosting and ongoing support of Natural HR – injecting over £80,000 of their personal savings into the business.
What started as a hobby for Sarah and Jason soon turned into a leading HR platform being used by over 13,000 users globally with a team of almost 50 staff and offices in Birmingham’s vibrant Jewellery Quarter. The couple’s continued tenacity and drive to make Natural HR a success led to subsequent rounds of significant investment in the business.
Sarah and Jason’s unwavering commitment to developing a pioneering HR and payroll solution has supported the journey to becoming the software of choice for hundreds of companies across the UK.
Tony and Annaliza Sturge – Streethunt Games
Tony and Annaliza Sturge launched a new interactive outdoor adventure game for adults last summer which has been proving popular for date nights, team socials and getting together with friends. The game is outside and there’s no contact with anyone outside of the team – making it an ideal safe activity in these uncertain times.
StreetHunt Games provide engaging outdoor, self-guided mysteries set around captivating locations in London – think grown-up scavenger hunt meets escape room meets murder mystery, played outside across London. All players need is a phone and a sense of adventure.
“Colombia’s Finest introduces you to Jim Robusta and his coffee company – Jim’s colleagues have shady pasts and Jim has asked you to sniff out evidence of a crime amongst the caffeine.”
The activity costs £15pp and takes around two hours with individual team sizes of two to five (larger groups form multiple teams to pit their wits against each other). Players self-navigate to offbeat locations, solving location specific cryptic clues, immersing them in their own murder mystery investigation.
Tony Sturge, StreetHunt Games’ co-founder, said “I’m always looking for new immersive events across the city, and have been wowed by productions from companies like Secret Cinema and Layered Reality. At the start of 2020, I took the plunge by writing my own game and roping in my brother to turn it into an interactive web-based game.
“Annaliza, my wife and co-founder, has since turned the concept into a start-up business and in 2021 we were recognised by the SmallBiz100, a national campaign that showcases inspiring, independent businesses from across the country. We’ve gone from strength to strength, taking paid bookings from July 2021 and hosted larger corporate events from September – we’re excited every time someone tries it out!”
Steve & Kiran Roest – PocDoc
PocDoc is a digital health platform and leading personal diagnostics tool. The couple developed the PocDoc platform to allow anyone with a smartphone to test themselves for a range of major diseases and conditions. Using PocDoc, in just six minutes, someone can get the same markers tested using just a smartphone anytime, anywhere, instead of waiting days or weeks for the same result through a standard pathology lab test.
They both have felt for a long time that the key to fighting dangerous diseases is to increase access to testing, as early detection of anything serious can reduce its health implications. They both had personal experiences of family members struggling to get blood tests through traditional methods, such as Kiran’s father who was refused a cholesterol check by his GP. It got them thinking that routine testing should be made more available to the public.
After launching the business together in 2020, they were the first app-based COVID-19 screening service in the UK, including being the first company to trial lateral flow testing for air travel with Edinburgh Airport during the pandemic.
It’s been a very busy couple of years, and they are now backed by the NHS Digital Accelerator as ‘HealthTech [is] set to transform the NHS’. They have an ambitious roadmap ahead and plan to add different tests that tackle various diseases and conditions to the app in the coming years.
The pair have a young family, and juggle time between the UK and Switzerland, so it can certainly be challenging at times running a fast-growing start-up together and looking after a family. However, both are passionate about the work and the shared goal of addressing health inequality, democratising access to vital diagnostics and relieving the strain on healthcare services around the world.
For any questions, comments or features, please contact us directly.
Jenna and Jordan Vyas-Lee – Vyas Lee Practice
Jenna and Jordan are a husband and wife from London with two young children. A moment of get-up-and-go in February 2021 saw them leave safe NHS roles to set up a virtual healthcare startup. They now provide swift, efficient and effective mental health treatment through online platforms to children and families.
Close friends – many experiencing furlough at the height of the coronavirus pandemic – simply couldn’t understand a decision to leave reliable employment. Truth is they’d seen a lack of credible options for worried families attempting to self-manage a mental health crisis exacerbated by repeated lockdowns. The NHS does a good job at providing mental health care in very isolated patches. But it simply cannot cope with demand, and the pressures on parents around children’s mental health is growing.
Skip forward nearly a year and the first stages of business growth have been a success – hitting 12-month goals and then some. They were operating a full online clinic by month seven, and recruited two new members of staff by month nine. They now have heads spinning with ideas on how to develop new virtual products, increase online capacity, and help more struggling families in an increasingly remote world.
It hasn’t been a totally straightforward journey, but setting up has debunked some preconceived fears that had been holding them back. Healthcare won’t be as effective online, psychological therapy requires an in-person human connection, increasing childrens’ time online will be unhelpful, conducting business solely in the virtual world is too new and complex to fathom.
But they’ve asked for help, kept the working process simple, and maintained a (mostly!) positive relationship through the stresses. They’ve bought in to cloud based clinic management software, integrated online billing and accounting tools to patient databases, and set up an online self-service booking system that talks to the website – patients adore the convenience. They’re integrating a range of apps and services that assist with GDPR compliant data gathering to assist our business and marketing efforts. All of these things require minimal initial set up and are easy to manage whilst freeing up time.
Not only is it getting clearer that business works well when solely conducted online, but more surprisingly – mental health treatment flourishes in the virtual world too. Data shows rates of symptom recovery improved through moving to an online therapy model, and rates of session cancellation are down too. They’re convinced that the future of mental healthcare is online, and it’s a race to fully digitise and scale up.
We just need to remember to get out for a walk, meet friends, or go for dinner in the real world every now and again. It’s great for mental health, our relationship, and generating ideas.
Ellen Wakelam & Alex Jungmayr – In the Welsh Wind
Ellen Wakelam and her partner Alex Jungmayr run In the Welsh Wind Distillery on the west Wales coast. They employ 12 members of staff in the production of award-winning gins and a fully ‘grain to glass’ Welsh whisky. They decided to set up a business together following a transformative ‘walk around Wales’ when the couple took three months to establish what they wanted from life.
When it came to setting up the distillery, Alex and Ellen didn’t sit down and consciously divide up the responsibilities, but Alex, who had previously trained as a baker and worked as a chef, naturally took the lead on the more creative elements of the business, including renovation of the premises, recipe development and long-term strategy. Ellen’s ability to deal with the mountains of paperwork and more practical aspects of the business such as licensing requirements and reporting to HMRC means they can work separately on the areas of the business where they are strongest.
Alex explains: “The division of roles came quite naturally to us. That doesn’t mean we don’t discuss every aspect of the business together, but day to day, we will focus on our own particular areas.”
As well as keeping defined area of interest in the working day, the couple are clear that having separation between work and home is vital. Originally, they lived onsite with their son, making it harder to leave work behind.
Ellen said: “Inevitably, we talk about work outside of the working day, but being able to leave the distillery is really important and marks a clear division between being ‘at work’ and ‘at home’. If we have had differences of opinion, they tend not to spill over into home life now we live away from the distillery.”
Joseph Williams & Cayelan Mendoza – Clu
Like many millennial couples, Cayelan and Joseph met through a dating app, albeit a pretty boring one. They didn’t discuss what they did for work initially but connected over their love of Korean food, social justice and dogs as they walked around Regent’s Park in London.
Over the months that followed, Cayelan became an invaluable confident, and constructive challenger, to Joseph whilst he was forming the vision for Clu. It turned out that his technological acumen and precision perfectly complimented Joseph’s product and marketing background and before long, they just bit the bullet and decided to go into business together.
Clu is the world’s first inclusive recruitment platform. They are committed to evolving the way that people are seen, understood, and set up for success in the recruitment and selection processes. Clu was created through a genuine shared experience of the pairs, and their journey to get here has been colourful to say the least.
There are so many advantages to founding a company with your life partner, and the pair are so passionate about the problem Clu is trying to solve. Being able to realise the vision of a working world that works for everyone with someone who supports you professionally as well as personally is game changing. In the past, they felt they had to hide and not stand out, from hiding neurodiversity, identity or sexuality and they have both overcome that together to exist in a more transparent way, both at work and at home.
Of course, there are also disadvantages to setting up a company as a couple. As everyone has found with working from home during the pandemic, creating a separation between work and home life can be tricky; it can be hard to switch off. They try to carve out time where they can do the things they love without discussing Clu, or scheduled spontaneity as they like to call it. Having the dogs is also a blessing as three times a day they have to leave the house and cannot help but be fully distracted by their ridiculousness and foolishness.
Their combined vision for Clu is to promote a more equitable working world where people are seen for what they can do rather than what they have done. It is an exciting time for the business as they are currently fundraising and have begun growing their team. They couldn’t have done it without the support, understanding, and deep commitment they have to each other as a couple and those are the key benefits to founding a business with a partner.
The Earl & Countess of Yarmouth, William & Kelsey Seymour – Spirit of St Maur
Multi award-winning St Maur is a small batch premium elderflower liqueur handcrafted in Alcester, Warwickshire, from responsibly sourced ingredients, with elderflowers gathered in ancient family-owned woodlands. St Maur is the creation of The Earl and Countess of Yarmouth, William and Kelsey Seymour who first produced it uniquely for their wedding guests at Ragley Hall in Alcester three years ago before deciding to turn it into a full-time family business at the start of lockdown.
William, 28, is the eldest son of the Marquess of Hertford, and grew up at Ragley Hall, his family’s seat since the 18th century. But St Maur signals an exciting new direction for the Earl who is driven by his vision to build not just a livelihood, but a ‘new legacy’ to be proud of for his two sons. Steeped in history, St Maur is the surname used by the family in medieval times which has ancestors who rode with William the Conqueror, but by the time Jane Seymour married Henry VIII the name had changed.
The wild blossoms used to make St Maur are hand-picked by William and Kelsey and their friends and family in the shadow of trees which grew when their ancestors were young. The co-ordinates on the bottles will take you to Ladies Wood in the bucolic Warwickshire countryside, and to an elder grove where the elderflowers are picked early summer. There’s also a red-legged partridge on the bottle, a bird successfully introduced to England in the 19th century by an ancestor Francis Seymour, the 5th Marquess, and now the brand’s mascot.
Described as ‘a little drop of England’s heart,’ this business is blossoming on the back of the couple’s own love story but is now growing – with a recent expansion into new premises in Alcester so the production process can be handled on site. Indeed, the couple’s own personal journey and entrepreneurial ethos underpins their product.
In the less than 18 months since its launch, St Maur has already won four awards – The Great Taste Award 2 Star rating; International Spirits Challenge Silver Award; The World Liqueur Awards ‘Best English Floral’ and, most recently, Gold at Las Vegas Global Spirits Awards.
They’re keen to give back to the environment too, including a commitment to pick no more than 30% of the wild elderflower blossom. St Maur advocates responsible drinking, and the choice of better quality.
“We wanted a drink that would capture the spirit of that lovely day. Drawing on old family recipes handed down to us, we created St Maur and we named it after our family heritage. We also gave it the colour of love,” said William.
For any questions, comments or features, please contact us directly.
Richard & Claudia Bramble – Bramble Dining
Bramble Dining is a family run business, based in Warwickshire. With a passion for food, Richard and Claudia Bramble wanted to create a company where they could share that passion with other people and still find time for family. At the heart of Bramble Dining are great ingredients, exceptional dishes and the best service for our customers.
As well as catering for weddings and events, Bramble Dining prides itself on bringing top restaurant-quality dining to our own kitchens with a choice of three five-course menu options catering for meat and fish lovers, vegans and vegetarians as well as younger diners. And when they’re finished pampering you, they promise to leave your kitchen as they found it – and will even do the dishes!
Self-taught chef Richard Bramble’s love affair with food began aged just 16 when he took on a part-time job as a kitchen porter. He went on to learn new skills while working with chefs at independent Leamington restaurants for 15 years, where he also perfected his favourite English modern and classical French styles.
The couple had to quickly adapt after launching their new private chef and catering service just weeks before the first Covid lockdown in 2020.
It’s a particularly personal milestone for fine dining chef Richard, who vowed to leave restaurant kitchens behind to establish Bramble Dining so he could spend more time with his family. It’s also the result of a childhood promise he made to himself after spending much of his own childhood in foster care.
Bramble Dining also collaborates with holiday accommodation businesses to offer private chef services to their guests.
Longer term, there is a shared vision for the Bramble Dining brand becoming established nationwide – and they have recently moved into their first dedicated premises.
Richard said: “I haven’t come from a privileged background with investment behind me. I’ve had to work extremely hard for everything I’ve achieved and my main drive is my own children. I look at them and am proud that things are better for them and they have more of a head start than I did. I look at the circles I mix in now and the clientele and it’s a big personal step, particularly because a lot of people don’t realise how much I’ve had to go through to get here.”
Jolyon & Charlotte Olivier – Napton Cidery
A family-run independent and award-winning cidery in Warwickshire, started life as a hobby nine years ago when Jolyon and Charlotte Olivier were first introduced to the taste of craft cider on a family holiday to Cornwall. Returning home to with an apple tree, they soon started experimenting in their back garden.
Today, the team harvests, presses, bottles and distributes more than 100,000 litres of craft cider a year, using 17 types of apples from six orchards across the Herefordshire region.
Central to Napton’s growing popularity among customers is its strong sustainability ethos, from harvesting through to packaging.
All of its apples come from traditional unsprayed orchards, organic and biodiverse growers, so no unnatural chemicals are introduced into the ecosystem. The cider is also naturally fermented using only wild yeasts and packaged in recyclable materials and all ingredients sourced as locally as possible.
Two hugely successful crowdfunding campaigns, helping mount a post-pandemic recovery of their business, have exceeded expectations, leading the couple to bounce back and once again revisit their plans for expansion and fulfil a wealth of new sizeable contracts. – From survive to thrive!
In the last 12 months the business has enjoyed 97% year on year growth, expanding the ciders into more than 50 pubs and restaurants as well as securing new contracts with Ocado, Spar and Co-op Midlands stores.
As well as the addition of three new members to the team, the cidery has also invested its funds into new products, including an Apple Cider Brandy, branded glasses and its cider in cans and kegs. They are now planning to further upgrade and streamline their cider production facilities to bring more of the cider making process in house, which would cut costs in the long term and grant them greater control over the products.
Over the next 18 months Napton will also be bringing the remainder of their signature ciders onto draught as well as extending the popular taproom following sell-out success of their live comedy, music and tasting events.
A new purpose-built warehouse will enable the cidery to upgrade to digital laboratory equipment as well as further increase their sustainability credentials by investing in steel tanks. Their taproom also hosts popular Cider Tasting Tours and Comedy and Live Music nights.
Rhiannon & Darren Birch – Cheshire Cat Marketing
Cheshire Cat Marketing is a close-knit, woman-led digital marketing agency based in Cheshire. They help SMEs and Start-Ups grow their on and offline presence, driving sales through methods like SEO, Web Design, Social Media, PPC, Email Marketing and many more.
After the birth of her youngest son, Rhiannon Birch, the Co-Founder of Cheshire Cat Marketing, decided that she wanted to make more of a difference and focus her attention on supporting SMEs and Start-UPs. After her partner, Darren encouraged her to start freelancing, the referrals started coming in thick and fast! Rhiannon’s freelancing efforts quickly transformed into a fully-fledged marketing agency, and just three months later, her now-husband started working full time on the agency too. Their team has grown to 14 marketing experts (and counting)!
Rhiannon and Darren met at a Birmingham-based start-up and found that they gelled really well together, romantically and in business. Having opposite skill sets – she’s creative, and he’s technical, the decision to start an agency together just made sense. Working together has strengthened their relationship, and neither would turn back! Balancing family and work can be hard (occasionally leading to bickering over who has the best ideas), but they find working collaboratively helps them both to perform their best. It’s challenging but rewarding!
Although they already work with a handful of clients in Europe, their ultimate goal is to expand their reach and help even more businesses to grow. The European market is an entirely different challenge, but one they welcome. They also aim to continue their charity work, where they offer one business free support every quarter.
Ebi & Emmanuel Sinteh – Our Lovely Goods
Our Lovely Goods are a rapidly growing online retailer of handcrafted goods for the body and home. Ebi and Emmanuel are on a mission to fill your home with high quality, ethical (and lovely) goods. Their collection includes hand poured candles and homewares made in Nigeria, combining traditional craft with new designs.
The brand proudly supports Nigerian artisan makers who have created woven goods for generations. The brand’s ethos is centred around the belief that the simple, everyday details bring a home to life. So make yourself at home, with Our Lovely Goods.
For any questions, comments or features, please contact us directly.
Sophie & Ian Baron – Mamamade
To get to where Mamamade is today, they’ve had to sacrifice quite a bit – not just because they bootstrapped for the first 12 months, but also in regards to how it affected their family and the mental strain that went into it. In the early days, it was all hands on deck with both of the pair involved with every aspect of the business from design, branding, cooking, customer service and strategy. Like with any partnership, they had to learn quickly how to work together and even worked with a business coach to set out where each of their key strengths and weaknesses were – they literally wrote out job descriptions for each of them, even though they were the entire team.
There are of course disagreements. They don’t know of any partnership that doesn’t have them. The difference is that they’re fiercely protective of their personal life – and they both are adamant that they simply can’t afford for these differences to spill over into their family time and personal relationship. Issues have to be dealt with, openly and honestly. The most important strength is their mutual respect for each other and how they each value the other’s role in the company.
They won’t pretend – of course there have been wobbles. Every entrepreneur will say the same – there’s always a moment where you wonder if you’re doing the right thing. But they’re all in. They’re fully committed to seeing this through. Thankfully they have built an incredible community of 40k parents and now have a team of 15. There are days and even whole weeks where they now don’t cross paths – just seeing each other over zoom for team catch ups and company wide meetings.
Judy Nadel & Damien Clarkson – THE PACK
Cooking-up delicious plant-based meals for dogs, THE PACK wants to shake up the pet food industry, and prove that plant-based is not just the future for us humans, but for our furry friends too. Set up by Co-founders and couple Judy Nadel and Damien Clarkson, the pet-food-tech company is the first company in the world to produce multiple plant-based meat analogue wet dog food flavours, with three alternative options to fish, chicken, and beef.
Prior to THE PACK, Damien and Judy, created and built Vevolution together in 2016, which became known for its large-scale annual festival and important role in the explosion of plant-based living in the UK. Today Vevolution is building a technology platform to serve as the home of plant-based innovators and bring consumers, investors and startups together to accelerate the plant and cell-based economy.
Earlier this year, they closed an undisclosed pre-seed investment round for a new range of plant-based dog food, drawing high profile support from international footballer Chris Smalling, BOSH! celebrity chef duo Henry Firth and Ian Theasby and Veganuary Co-Founder Matthew Glover’s fund Veg Capital.
The boom in UK ‘pet parents’ has created an opportunity for food startups catering to those who want the best for their animal. 73% of cat/dog food buyers say that knowing more about where the ingredients come from would boost their trust in pet food, while 56% say they try to buy pet food from environmentally friendly companies. (Mintel’s Pet Food Report).
Simon & Jaime Tillyer – Vouch
Founded by husband and wife duo Simon and Jaime Tillyer, Vouch is a tenant referencing platform that is built by letting agents for letting agents. By digitising some the most time consuming, stressful, and costly aspects of the letting process, Vouch enables its users to move away from slow, outdated processes, to a simple online platform that saves them time and money, cutting normal costs by around 65% as well as providing opportunities to earn commission-based revenue.
Before launching Vouch together in 2017, Simon and Jaime worked as letting agents for 12 years. It was during this time that they came to understand the difficulty in sourcing quality service providers – for even the most everyday things like utilities, broadband and administration.
Ultimately, it was the years spent paying for sub-par tenant referencing services – and the realisation that their experience was far from unique – that convinced Simon and Jaime that they could do something about; the idea for Vouch was born.
John & Clodagh Higginson – Higginson Strategy
“That’s brave I could never work with my wife/husband!” was a statement John Higginson often got when he set up his communications agency Higginson Strategy alongside wife Clodagh. Five years on it still amuses him. “I completely understand it though. For most people work is one of the few things they don’t share with their life partner and so it seems sacred. They also worry that they would bicker at work in the same way as they bicker in their home lives.”
Set up as a communications agency for purpose-led organisations, Higginson Strategy now has offices across London and Manchester, fifteen staff and clients based in the UK, Holland, Greece, the US and Israel.
“We both take on different parts of the business. Clodagh is brilliant at working with journalists and winning new business, meanwhile I am better at the back end of the company – hiring the right staff, working out what we can achieve within budgets and times.” says John.
“We work at such different ends of the business that we often see each other less than when we were both working as journalist together.” John says. John and Clodagh met as political journalists working in Parliament for two different national newspapers in 2007. They wrote a play together in 2009, have been married since 2012 and now have two children.
“We’ve always been very good at working together. We are very compatible there. We are both very hard working and are able to go into a kind of work tunnel – where you can block out everything else. I think that comes from being a daily journalist having to turn around copy every day within a few hours for years. It’s good disciplinary training. You can’t get distracted!”
Will Rice & Sophia Guy-White – Generation Home
Generation Home is a mortgage lending fintech launched in 2020 by husband and wife team Will Rice and Sophia Guy-White with the mission to make everyone a homeowner.
Will and Sophia first met in 2011, and having forged a bond over a mutual love of Russian literature, the two lived and worked for a time in Moscow. They returned to London in 2018, struck by the fact that they’d spent a decade renting with nothing to show for it. They considered buying a home with a group of friends, but high-street banks wouldn’t lend to their group.
They realised that mortgages were inflexible. Though neither had entrepreneurial ambitions, they saw an opportunity to improve the home-buying journey for millions locked out of homeownership. They took the money intended for the deposit on their home and got to work on building a business.
Soaring house prices and stagnating incomes have made it increasingly difficult for young people to accumulate capital. Contributions from the Bank of Mum and Dad are on the rise, and Generation Home’s novel products – income booster, deposit booster and the home agreement – allow families to formalise family lending.
The company received FCA authorisation and made its first loan in September 2020, and has since helped hundreds of people become homeowners. The business is well capitalised with a $30m Series A and debt funding to lend millions per month, and continues innovating to increase accessibility for a broader group of first-time buyers.
Will is CEO and Sophia is Head of Customer Success, with a growing team of nearly 90 employees. Generation Home has their sights set on bringing the fintech revolution to mortgages by building a full-stack lender and taking ownership of the user journey end-to-end, reworking a broken system to one that works for all.
Jason & Emma Ash – YoungPlanet
The YoungPlanet app was founded by Jason and Emma in 2019 in order to help families exchange parenting and children’s items for free. Jason and Emma have always been focused on reducing their environmental footprint, but as their family grew they became increasingly concerned about how big their impact was becoming. After a visit to a secondhand toy sale, a seller decided to give one of their boys a toy truck for free. She said that watching our son enjoy the truck so much brought back happy memories of her own children enjoying it. This inspired them to create YoungPlanet – a way for families like theirs to reduce waste and have a positive impact on the planet.
YoungPlanet is a cashless circular economy app where families exchange children’s toys and items for free. By introducing communities to a circular economy through the YoungPlanet app, they want to eliminate waste and encourage people to maximise the lifespan of pre-used items, encouraging a sustainable alternative to purchasing children and parenting products first-hand. To date, their community of 90,000 YoungPlanet users has saved over 20,000 children’s items and toys from going to landfill.
The need for climate action is universal and the past year has seen some progress in the right direction, but we can all do more. We should all look to re-gift toys and items that other people might want or need. Second-hand is not second best; it’s a vital part of creating the sustainable, circular economy our planet needs. Now is the perfect time to set new habits and seek out a better way of dealing with the items children have grown out of or no longer need. Jason and Emma want to encourage other families to declutter, give joy and save the planet.