Britain's Top 100 Entrepreneurs 2006: Young Meteors

Our youthful bosses, ranging from housebuilder and telecoms magnate to internet retailer, are united by their keen eye for a money-spinning deal.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010


Harron Homes, run by brothers Paul and Stephen Harrison, builds about 350 new houses each year, mainly in its heartland of Yorkshire and north-west England. But a big expansion further south is on the cards, with the opening of a new office in Tamworth, Staffs, last year and three new developments in the Wolverhampton area, doubling the firm's quota of Midlands sites. Harron Homes range in size from two-bed apartments and social housing to five-bedroom executive properties. Strong demand and rising house prices, with an average sale price per property of £156,000, have pushed results at Northallerton-based Harron to profits of £9.3m on £55.5m sales in the year to June 2004.


MX Telecom, a West London-based telecoms group, has teamed up with companies such as the BBC and Endemol (the production firm behind Big Brother) to capture the potentially lucrative market for streaming live video footage to 3G mobile phone customers. MX's technology allows fans to watch TV shows live on their mobiles, and might just turn out to be the killer app that the 3G mobile phone networks have been waiting for. MX, founded in 2000 by its two owner-directors Thomas O'Donohoe and Mark Fitzgerald, has grown rapidly - in the year to June 2004, it made a £328,000 profit on £24.6m sales.


Christian Rucker studied fashion design and her first job was as an assistant to wedding dress designer Anneliese Sharpe. She joined Conde Naste as a receptionist, moving on to work on a number of the glossy publisher's magazines. She then went up to Cambridge to study journalism before landing a job at style bible Harpers & Queen. But she hankered after running her own business, and in 1993 started The White Company, selling white-themed bedlinen and homewares, mainly via mail order and online. She owns 99% of the company, which made £293,000 profit on £28.7m sales in 2003-04.


Shaf Rasul runs and owns E-Net Computers, which reckons to be the largest storage media distributor in Europe, and the biggest buyer of DVD and CD-R media in the world. It has longstanding partnerships with the world's top optical media manufacturers and has recently opened a global import/export hub in duty-free Dubai, as well as a new £5m distribution centre at Edinburgh airport. Rasul set up E-Net in 1999 on the back of various property interests in his native Edinburgh. In 2004-05, the company made £4.5m profit on £67.2m sales.


For someone whose first business went bust in 1991, Penny Streeter has made an extraordinary recovery. She was a branch manager for a recruitment firm when, in 1989, she made the fateful decision to go it alone just before recession struck. Second time around, she did it differently, taking a small desk in the corner of a friend's office and moonlighting as a DJ at childrens' parties. Her big break came when asked to supply care assistants for a nursing home: it turned out to be an untapped market.

The Croydon-based Ambition operation has grown rapidly, meeting a strong demand for nursing staff, and Streeter is now worth £50m by our measure.


Anyone wanting to buy a house abroad should contact Mayank Patel, founder of Currencies Direct. A former futures and options broker, Patel manages the foreign financial transactions for those buying overseas. He co-founded the business in 1996 with £9,000 and a cast-iron work ethic. 'I'm very driven, very positive and never allow doubt to creep in,' he said. 'When we started, we had one fax, one computer and one printer. I'd send faxes to 100 posssible clients night after night, and sometimes I'd get only two positive responses. But that was two I didn't have the day before.' Turnover grew to £700m in the year to April '04, when it made a £2.5m profit. Patel now has seven offices - in London, Spain, South Africa, Australia and India.


As chief executive of Asos, the quoted internet retailer, Nick Robertson sells copies of celebrity clothes, accessories and jewellery at prices that are a snip compared with the real thing. Among his hot items are copies of Kylie Minogue's Love Kylie pants at £15 each. Although the AIM-listed company raised only a modest £2.8m at its float, it has grown into one of the stars of the junior market, with sales soaring from £335,000 in 2000 to over £13m in 2004. Robertson's stake is now worth £8m. Shares in Asos were temporarily suspended before Christmas after its Hemel Hempstead warehouse was damaged by the Buncefield oil depot fire.


Raj Chatha set up European Food Brokers, his wholesale beer and wine business, based in Halifax, W Yorks, in 1991. He had been running a retail store at 18, but turned his attention to the delivered wholesaling market four years later. EFB now has depots in Halifax, Huddersfield and Gateshead.

In 1996, it entered the cash-and-carry business under the name Two Ticks.

EFB Holdings saw its profits hit £4.71m on £93m sales in the year to January '04. Chatha's success was recognised in December '03, when the Federation of Wholesale Distributors presented him with its annual gold medal for customer service.


Even as a university student studying computer science in 1990, Sanjay Vadera had a keen eye for a business opportunity. After spotting vacant space at the front of the menswear shop where he had a part-time job, he talked his boss into allowing him to set up a perfume concession. Two concessions later, Vadera created Per-Scent, based in Swinton, Manchester.

He soon won the custom of big-name retailers, including Asda, Superdrug and Tesco, and has just launched an online service. In 2003-04, Per-Scent Group made £4.7m profit on sales of £40.7m. In July 2005, Vadera sold a 65% stake to Icelandic investor Karl Wernersson.


James Murray, a dyslexic who left school with few qualifications, started out as a telecoms salesman before co-founding Alternative Networks with friend Chris Wilson in 1994, using a £10,000 loan and £4,500 in savings.

The London-based telecoms business has four regional offices, and is a reseller for providers including MCI, Easynet, Cable & Wireless, Avaya and Vodafone. Wilson returned to his family in Australia in 2004, leaving Murray to spearhead the firm's February '05 flotation on AIM, at a market cap of £44m. Murray's 35% stake is worth £17.4m.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

When spying on your staff backfires

As Barclays' recently-scrapped tracking software shows, snooping on your colleagues is never a good idea....

A CEO’s guide to smart decision-making

You spend enough time doing it, but have you ever thought about how you do...

What Tinder can teach you about recruitment

How to make sure top talent swipes right on your business.

An Orwellian nightmare for mice: Pest control in the digital age

Case study: Rentokil’s smart mouse traps use real-time surveillance, transforming the company’s service offer.

Public failure can be the best thing that happens to you

But too often businesses stigmatise it.

Andrew Strauss: Leadership lessons from an international cricket captain

"It's more important to make the decision right than make the right decision."