Interviews

The best micro businesses in the UK

14 min read

20 November 2018

Deputy Editor, Business Advice

Ahead of the 20th edition of the Amazon Growing Business Awards, we unveil the seven companies in the running for Micro Business of the Year.

The recent achievements of UK businesses in a time deemed as “economically unstable” highlights that success is not tied to size – part of the reason why the Amazon Growing Business Awards consists of several categories.

It’s why we have a Micro Business of the Year award up for grabs, with seven growing and inspiring companies in the running to win it on 28 November.

Below are our contenders for Micro Business of the Year at the Amazon Growing Business Awards 2018.

2018 Micro Business of the Year finalists

Boss Brewing Company

Changing perceptions of gender in the beer industry, Boss Brewing Company is a woman-led craft brewery from South Wales

Founder: Sarah John

Growth story: A craft brewery based in Swansea, South Wales, the Boss Brewing name references the absence of female brewers in the craft sector. Founder Sarah John created the business with her partner Roy Alkin to change perceptions around women in brewing. The company has secured listings with some of the UK’s largest national pub chains and achieved 248% turnover growth in the last three years.

As a micro company, not only are we bucking the industry trend with our turnover placing us in the top 20% in terms of commercial success, but we are bucking a second trend by inspirationally achieving this with a female leader in a male environment. All the while, we have not borrowed a single penny.”

Castle Hill Fire Protection Ltd

Founder: Andy Stubbs

Growth story: Castle Hill Fire Protection is a contractor based in East Anglia that specialises in the installation of passive fire protection products and systems for major construction and refurbishment projects throughout the UK. The company achieved 145% turnover growth in the last three years.

“Since Grenfell, the fire protection industry has been transformed with contractors being more aware and fire-safety being paramount. We knew prior to the disaster that this industry would become much more important and clients would understand the importance of fire safety.”

Issoria

Launched in October 2016, Issoria is rapidly on its way to disrupting the Change Management Consulting Industry.

Founder: Ibi Thomson

Growth story: A network of 6,000 independent business consultants providing the scale of a major consulting firm, Issoria has retained the speed, agility and low cost base of an SME. Issoria’s long-term ambition is to have served half of the world’s largest companies by 2030. The company has achieved 178% revenue growth in two years.

“Our customer focused value proposition design process has seen us beat the established elite in the market to secure an impressive list of corporate customers.”

Mantons Cards

A local retail hero on the Isle of Man, Mantons Cards aims to offer the “worlds best selection” of greetings cards and gifts.

Director: Chris Beards

Growth story: Amid the multiple pressures facing independent high street retailers, Mantons Cards has worked hard to provide a point of difference to customers. The business works with local suppliers and artists to provide locally-themed merchandise.

“With all the pressures that have affected retail over the last few years causing many independent and national retailers to contract or close completely, we have worked hard to provide a real point of difference and reasons to visit our store including working with our suppliers and local artists to produce exclusive, locally-themed merchandise.”

Proviz

Founded by two brothers with a desire to disrupt the uninspired “hi-viz” space, Proviz is creating products that make a difference to their customers’ lives.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Proviz Reflective Sportswear (@provizsports) on


Founders: Anthony and Rupert Langley-Smith

Growth story: Proviz produces a range of high visibility and reflective cycling clothing and accessories to cater for all levels of cyclist, whether it’s riding to work, family bike rides or performance cyclists. The founders have achieved 93% revenue growth in the last three years.

“Proviz has evolved as a brand and business in an ever-changing retail environment and constantly stayed ahead of new competitors constantly coming in. We have achieved this by bringing out new innovative products each year, listening to our customers, embracing technology, working with a great team and having good relationships with suppliers.”

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.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by The Willoughby Book Club (@willoughbybooks) on


Founder: 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.”

WriteUpp

GDPR-ready, cloud-based software designed for healthcare and wellbeing professionals.

Founder: Bob Bond

Growth story: WriteUpp Offers “everything you need” to run a private healthcare practice, including client records, diary, secure messaging and card payments. The company has registered 209% revenue growth in the last three years.

“With over a thousand clinics in 20 countries using WriteUpp we’ve delivered cost-effective, highly reliable, cloud-based software to sole clinicians and small healthcare practices that are tapping into the fast growing health and wellbeing market.”

2017 Micro Business of the Year finalists

AM Bid Services

AM Bid Services has grown into a £0.5m turnover business in just three years, creating seven new jobs in the process. It launched a clear business plan from the outset and has surpassed its targets to date, demonstrating success and proven scalability.

Its methodology is applicable to customers of all sizes and experience levels, successfully achieving clear business growth for small companies whose continuation depend on retaining key contracts, to beating FTSE 100 organisations by producing superior bids and solutions.

The business has always stayed grounded and will continue to support its staff and help the wider community.

Beauty Boulevard

We are a team of five. Each member is Beauty Blvd through and through. It is their company also and together, we make daily choices that benefit the business and its customers.

We know this is due to leading instead of managing the team – we are enthusiastic every day about growth and it’s contagious. We started the Glitter Lips revolution, it has been seen on catwalks all over the world, worn by celebrities, loved by Press and PR companies alike.

We may be a small company but we have BIG ideas and aren’t scared to shout and get our voice heard.

Emma Hellier

I have been running my own business since I was 18 years old and my entrepreneurial spirit ensures that I never rest on my laurels.

I embrace change and I’m not afraid to step out of my comfort zone to propel my business forward. My EHBlowdry Club has secured my bottom line, enabled me to employ more staff and driven new clients in the door.

I use my position in the community to help others. The future looks bright for Emma Hellier as we are now looking for property number two.

Making Moves

In an industry that is particularly stuffy and corporate, Making Moves cultivates a friendly and approachable startup atmosphere which filters through into the way we interact with our clients.

The services that we provide go above and beyond our client’s expectations, which is reflected in the testimonials given to us.

Having an agent that does not “double dip” (charging the landlord and tenant for the same service) is a very new concept. The Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors has recently debated the conflict of interest issue. We predict that many of the big players will start to follow suit.

Poptails by LAPP

LAPP has created the perfect combination of a refreshing fruit sorbet and a glass of alcohol: two things that should have never been mixed together.

This meeting point between two unexpected elements became our brand essence. Always with a strong desire to surprise and offer a unique experience, we propagate LAPP’s vision by collaborating with unexpected fields and people.

This is where our creativity comes from. Shared ideas, shared skills, shared visions and shared laughs. Exactly like our product is, a product you want to discuss about and most of all share with the people you love.

The Centre for Crisis Psychology

So far in 2017 we have travelled to the Caribbean, Portugal, Norway, Kos, the Netherlands, Egypt, Majorca, Cuba, Barcelona and Mexico supporting British holidaymakers for leading brands Thomson, Thomas Cook, Carnival Cruises and Hotelplan.

Having worked on over 200 incidents within the UK and taking over 300 support calls on our employee assistance lines so far this year, we are often asked “how do you do it”? Well, we have three colleagues in the office and four travelling consultants.

We plan, we work hard and we look after each other. We are the company trusted to look after people.

Turtle Tots

Our vision is to be teaching 30,000 babies and toddlers a week by 2020 and recognised as the best baby and toddler swim school in the UK, contributing to reducing drownings worldwide.

Our USPs and our ability to think strategically makes us stand out from other micro businesses. Having recruited our MD, we are now working at establishing ourselves more definitely in Ireland and Australia, to prove our business model more robustly in these markets before we expand further internationally, whilst continuing to grow in the UK.

We also plan to attractive to a buyer or investor within two years.

The Amazon Growing Business Awards is sponsored by Santander, Bridges Fund Management and ECI Partners. It is supported by CBI, the Department of International Trade and Real Business. This year, the awards partnered with Beanstalk, a charity that recruits, trains and supports volunteers to provide consistent, one-to-one literacy support to children aged 3 to 13.