Interviews

The best family-owned businesses in the UK

14 min read

21 November 2018

Deputy Editor, Business Advice

Taking place on Wednesday 29 November at The Brewery in London, the 2017 Amazon Growing Business Awards will celebrate the finest entrepreneurial talent in Britain. We take a look at those in the running for Family-Owned Business of the Year.

According to the IFB, family businesses are the embodiment of being responsible. Often cited as the “bedrock of communities,” these companies are said to generate over a quarter of UK GDP.

A mish-mash of strong values, sustainable outlook and commitment – traits the IFB strongly associates with family companies – has ensured longevity even in harsh economic times, and it has been reflected in our 2018 Amazon Growing Business Awards.

From food to manufacturing, the eight companies in the running for Family-Owned Business of the Year show that you can persevere in any sector with the right attitude.

2018 Family-owned Business of the Year finalists

Biscuiteers Baking Company

A hand-made biscuits boutique turning over £5m a year

Biscuiteers, Northcote Road, Battersea

Founders: Harriet Hastings and Stevie Congdon

Growth story: Biscuiteers was the first of its kind when launched by husband and wife duo, Harriet Hastings and Stevie Congdon, in 2007, and now ices 1.5 million biscuits each year. The business was self-funded until 2016, when the founders ran a successful crowdfunding campaign and raised £1.25m to fund the next stages in an already impressive growth story.

“Biscuiteers introduced a unique new concept to the gifting market and has been instrumental in positioning iced biscuits as an alternative to flowers and building a hugely successful corporate business producing branded biscuits for product launches and corporate gifting.”

Bonacia

Directors: Ian Walton, Morgan Walton, Rosie Walton, Geoffrey Wilkes

Growth story: Bonacia has grown from strength to strength since foundation in 2010, with turnover hitting £5m in 2017, from £3.7m in 2015. The business now houses ten different printing and publishing brands.

“By creating and instilling company values, having directors who lead by example, excellent career opportunities, a fun atmosphere and staff who are passionate and committed, Bonacia has increased its turnover by almost £2m in a year. The family vibe is apparent, we don’t go to work, we go to our second home – the kettle’s always on, friendly faces and fantastic staff driving the business forward.”

Find Me A Gift

A unique range of personalised, novelty and affordable gifts

Founder: Adam Gore

Growth story:

“We pride ourselves on being fun and quirky and if you are looking for something a little bit different then we have got it. We not only have an amazing range of self-created products, but also amazing new and existing products. We are a fun, family-orientated business who pride ourselves on innovation and ensuring our team are happy and inspired.”

Food Attraction

A family-owned and run food manufacturing business

Director: Jake Karia

Growth story: Food Attraction Ltd is a family-owned and run food manufacturing business, with products unique to the sector and products that other major brands have failed to imitate. The business is owned and run by three family members and launched into over 2,500 stores in 2018, with new customers like Co-op, Spar, Londis and Budgens as well as its current Sainsbury’s supply. The family has forecast turnover for 2018 to reach £5.5m.

“Although I am the face of the business, Food Attraction could not have achieved what it has without the family working closely together. The family culture created by Mum initially has been passed on and is certainly felt throughout the business, with the business run by understanding and involvement and never fear. We have faced some very tough issues but have gotten through on the strength of our internal relationships, trust and respect.” – Jake Karia

H20 Hygiene

Founders: Tom and Louise Davenport

Growth story: In April 2017, Tom Davenport and his wife Louise created H2O Hygiene as a sole trader. They converted an office space in their garage and started with lots of contacts willing to support their new venture. After business quickly progressed, H2O Hygiene became Limited and Vat Registered in July 2017. The company’s first year audited turnover reached £861,000.

“H2O has just been accredited with ISO14001 Environmental Management System demonstrating our commitment to protecting the environment. We also proudly sponsor ‘Little Explorers’, a local charity run Preschool and we have supported charitable events such as Freddie’s Fight, White Collar boxing, the Shenstone Fun-Run and a sponsored bike ride, demonstrating how we value community spirit.”

Red Box International

Providing power, support, tools and tool kit solutions for air, land and sea since 1993

Directors: Frances Harding, Ian Harding and Adrian Jackson

Growth story: Founded in 1994, Red Box is a leading supplier of ground support equipment in the UK, as well as internationally, with distributors in Asia, Europe, America, Australia and the Middle East.

“Since trading began in 1994, we have had a positive impact on the markets both in the UK and abroad. We have a strong and loyal customer base, with a strong range of distributors in many countries globally. We ensure that we go through a strategic process to choose new distributors and ensure that we choose a business with good standing and good relations within the local business community.”

The Willoughby Book Club

The Willoughby Book Club is the UK’s leading book subscription provider, selling to thousands of subscribers in over 30 countries across the world.

 

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Founders: Adam and Chloe Pollard

Growth story: Launched from a kitchen table in 2012, The Willoughby Book Club is a growing team of 10 permanent employees based from its Leicester office. The business has partnered with over 20 stockists across the world and major high street retailers. The founders have achieved 180% revenue growth in the last three years.

“We’ve successfully entered the market by creating an innovative and unique proposition, shifting the focus from ‘self’ purchasing to a ‘gift’ oriented service. Since our arrival, the book subscription market has continued to gain momentum, with Willoughby at the forefront.”

2017 Family-owned Business of the Year finalists

Grasmere Gingerbread

Grasmere Gingerbread is unique. Now in its 163rd year, owner Joanne Hunter is a proud third generation custodian, fiercely loyal to Victorian founder Sarah Nelson’s legendary mouth-watering culinary legacy.

With husband Andrew and their three children, Yasmine, Eden Rose and Eamont, Grasmere Gingerbread is a true family affair. Everyone contributes, whether in bakery, front of house, outside events, digital marketing or packing.

Whilst it has evolved from deeply parochial village origins in northern Victorian England to current-day international ambassador for the UNESCO-recognised Lake District, Grasmere Gingerbread has not forgotten its roots because it has never pulled them up and left.

Harts of Stur

Big enough to cope, small enough to care! This sentence sums up our fourth generation family business perfectly. We have the infrastructure, skills and technology to be able to fulfil orders fast and efficiently.

What sets us apart from our competitors is our superb customer service and the fact that we genuinely care.

This is true from the time Harts of Stur founder, Walter Hart, shoed his first horse, to the current MD reviewing all customer feedback so that any complaint, however trivial, is examined, discussed and used as a benchmark on how we can improve our business.

Hay Hampers

Hay Hampers has been a family-run business for over 30 years. In July 2014, the company was taken over by the Da Re family.

With the second generation ownership, the company has reached a distinctive high end positioning in the gift hampers market and tripled the turnover from £700.000 to £1.5m in the last three years.

Hay Hampers offer a helpful, efficient and personal customer service that only a family-run business can have. Some of its employees have been working there for over 20 years. Hay Hampers is like a big, enlarged family passionate about food and wine.

KP Technology

KP Technology is located in the North of Scotland, in a small town called Wick. My dad, a physicist, owns and runs the company along with my mum, a software engineer. My sister (ten) has her own office.

My brother and I (19 and 21) work for the company while at university – we did the same when we were at school. This year we travelled around the world selling equipment often worth more than £100,000 to globally leading institutes.

We create equipment at the very frontier of what’s technically – or physically – possible, and a ten-year-old helps make it, and NASA buys it.

Mash Direct

Over the last 13 years, Mash Direct has grown into a £16m turnover, family run business that puts our customers at the forefront of our company ethos.

From handing out over 110k samples to get direct feedback and suggestions at consumer and public events, to engaging with our customers through our digital/social channels (a cumulative reach of over 5,000,000), Mash Direct brings a family face to the convenience food market and promote healthy living.

We also work toward combating food waste throughout the UK.

Origin

As Origin moves from strength to strength, the family ethos that the company was built on has remained at its very core. Even now, with over 270 employees, the family business is still going strong, with over 30 per cent of the workforce related in some way.

The high-quality products Origin offers, the unrivalled lead times it promises and a gold standard of service it provides have contributed to Origin’s success.

However, without its employees and its family culture, it would not be where it is today. Family is and always has been at the heart of Origin

PJ Care

PJ Care is a family owned provider of specialist neurological care and neuro-rehabilitation for people with progressive or acquired neurological conditions.

We are unique in what we do and we are changing the lives of people who on the whole would be in secure accommodation with little to look forward to for the remainder of their lives. We are helping with the acute shortage of acute beds in the UK.

PJ Care was established by Jan Flawn who has recently passed on the reigns to her son, Neil Russell –he is taking the company into its next expansion phase.

Uuni (Tapaninaho)

Uuni is truly unique. Our rate of growth is huge and whilst profitability is very important to us, so is being a company “for good”.

We are a values-orientated organisation and have designed our core values with the team. We have a professional development budget – also a personal development budget for each team member to ensure we invest in the people in our team.

We care about sustainability and plant a tree for every single Uuni oven and every 10kg bag of pellets we sell. We are known for exceptional customer experience. We have a large and passionate online community.