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Growing Business Awards 2010: Young Company of the Year shortlist

6 min read

07 October 2010

From an international drinks distributor to an innovative children's travel products firm, the five companies vying for the 2010 Young Company of the Year gong are shaking up traditional industries. Meet the UK's future superstar businesses.

This category identifies new companies (which started trading after April 2006) that are challenging their sector and have the potential to be significant players in the future. Online pharmacy Chemist Direct, run by Mitesh Soma, scooped the prize in 2009.

And now for this year’s shortlisters:

  • Jamie Murray Wells, founder of Glasses Direct and winner of our 2009 Young Entrepreneur of the Year award, is once again taking on Specsavers and Boots – this time by selling cut-price hearing aids online. Alongside hearing-aid experts Gary Hill, Joan McKechnie and Stuart Canterbury, Murray Wells launched Hearing Direct in January 2010, aimed at the eight million Brits with mild to moderate hearing loss who could benefit from a pre-programmed digital hearing aid. While devices from high-street retailers cost an average £1,100, Hearing Direct’s products start at £99 – with a next-day delivery option and a 30-day money-back guarantee. Murray Wells says he expects the business to have saved its customers £1.5m in its first 12 months. The product range now includes hearing-aid compatible headphones and tinnitus devices. Orders have been shipped as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and the US.
  • If you’ve seen kids riding around airports on animal-shaped suitcases, you’ll be familiar with Magmatic, the children’s travel products company founded by Rob Law in 2006. The ride-on suitcase, known as the Trunki (pictured above), is the company’s best-known product but Magmatic also sells a variety of related accessories, such as the Yondi, a cuddly travel chum that doubles up as a neck pillow, and the BoostApak, a booster seat-cum-backpack. The £2.3m-turnover company employs 16 people and sells to 62 countries. Magmatic will be launching in 15,000 Mom & Pop stores in the States this year, along with Macy’s, FAO Schwartz and Toys’R’Us, and has just signed a distribution deal in India.
  • Life began for Make it Cheaper in 2007, just as energy prices were leaping through the roof and the economy poised to go through the floor. The B2B price comparison and switching service now attracts more than 2,000 enquiries a week to its 60-seat call centre in Waterloo – primarily for commercial electricity and gas prices but also for business insurance and telecoms quotes. This £5m-turnover business has also struck partnership deals with Go Compare, Uswitch and Moneysupermarket to look after their SME customers. The business launched in Australia this year – the first of many planned overseas locations.
  • Intamarque distributes and exports British food, toiletries and household products. Owned and run by twin brothers Richard and Stephen Shortt, the company started out in 2006 and has grown 35 per cent each year. Intamarque has revolutionised traditional wholesaling, using state-of the-art IT, outsourced logistics and low staffing levels. This firm turns over £15m and makes £800,000 a year – with only ten employees. A truly global firm, Intamarque ships containers of British-branded goods to more than 40 countries.
  • Disillusioned by the cost of retail space, Laura and Paul Clark set up Phat Pasty in 2007. This quirky business distributes mid-morning and lunchtime snacks direct to the workplace in retro-style, Phat Pasty-branded vans. Within two weeks of launch, sales had hit targeted levels (£2,000 a week). At the end of last year, the company signed a franchising agreement with government-backed Befranchising. Phat Pasty is now rolling out one franchise a month, with the aim of having 20 Phat Vans on the roads by the end of 2011. In its efforts to build up a national brand, Phat is offering licenses to cafes, coffee shops and bakeries, and developing a Phat Cart concession for universities, sports venues, petrol stations and office canteens.  
  • Set up by former professional cricketer Stephen Brogan in 2008, Berkshire-based Interbev distributes drinks brands to domestic and international wholesalers, cash and carries, retail chains, ships chandlers and retailers. The company likens its business model to Ryanair’s – the customer is provided with a net price for the product and can then opt in to a menu of extra services, be it warehousing or freight forwarding. Pulling in sales of £6.7m a year, Interbev has clinched deals with Molson Coors, United Breweries India. AB-Interbev, EJ Gallo and Foster’s Wine Group to distribute their products into European countries.

Briitain’s finest business leaders and entrepreneurs will gather on November 25 at the London Marriott Grosvenor Square to celebrate the 2010 Growing Business Awards. You’ll also be able to rub shoulders with business minister Mark Prisk, who will be delivering a keynote speech. All booking details can be found on the Growing Business Awards website.

We’ll also bring you the inside story on all of our Growing Business Awards shortlists in a special edition of Real Business in December.