Elspeth Duxbury: Entrepreneur of the Future

Duxbury set up Intelligent Space Partnership with co-founder Jake Desyllas in 2000, each ploughing £10,000 of their own cash into the business, along with £110,000 from an angel investor.

The Shoreditch-based firm specialised in mapping pedestrian movements. “Our first contract was with Camden Council, advising it on safety improvements, pedestrian movement and accident analysis for St Giles’ Circus [the junction of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road],” explains Duxbury. She throws us a statistic: “Did you know that 64 per cent of pedestrians cross the road at Oxford Circus when the lights are red, not green?”

Duxbury reckons setting up a business while she was still in her twenties was a “low-risk move”. She explains: “Yes, you might fall flat on your face because you don’t have experience – but if you do fail, it has less of an impact. I didn’t have a husband, I didn’t have any children. No-one was financially dependent on me. And if I needed to work all weekend, I could.”

Duxbury and Desyllas started considering a trade sale last year. “As a small niche business, it was difficult to win business with large organisations. We didn’t have the clout,” says Duxbury. “Secondly, we were ahead of the market – but we knew our competitive edge would be eroded over the next few years unless we did something about our growth.”

The pair signed a deal with multinational engineering and design consultancy Atkins last year and have joined the company’s Transport Planning board as directors.

“Is it strange going from a company with 18 employees to a company with 18,000 employees” Absolutely! But I still think it’s possible to be entrepreneurial within Atkins,” comments Duxbury. “We’re a business within a business so we still write our own business plans – we just have to make sure we get them signed off.”

She says the company has just won a bid in the Middle East. “We wouldn’t have stood a chance if we weren’t tied to Atkins.”Duxbury won the entrepreneur award at last night’s Women of the Future event. To read about the other winners, click here.

Share this story

Send this to a friend