At the end of 2007, private equity group Exponent paid Lowell Harder its ultimate compliment. It stumped up £130m to take over her upmarket handbag and luggage brand. All a far cry from humble beginnings back in 1984, when Harder started designing handbags and selling them in Camden Market. Exponent’s financial muscle has paid off handsomely with sales reaching £48.8m and pre-tax profits hitting £6.5m. The group’s 132 employees averaged £370,000 in sales each. Further proof of the company’s rude health is that it has £4.5m in the bank. The group now has three brands: Radley, Tula and Hidesign and Radley is the UK’s bestselling branded handbag. Little wonder that this is the second successive year Radley + Co has featured on our Hot 100 list. Harder remains creative director of the company, which has recently branched out overseas.