Britain's Top 100 Entrepreneurs 2014: Seven over 70

With businesses in areas as diverse as fashion, motorbikes, and vacuum cleaners, our superstar silvertops show age is no bar to success.

by Philip Beresford
Last Updated: 28 Oct 2014

1. Cathie Paver, Pavers Shoes - 86 years old (93)

Cathie Paver, the oldest member of the Top 100 at 86, founded her York-based shoe business in 1971. Initially selling shoes in village halls and at house parties, Paver - known as 'The Maggie Thatcher of the shoe trade' - soon learned how to subdue any suppliers who were unwilling to deal with a female client.

Her shops became fixtures across the north of England, and in 2008 - with son Stuart now MD - Pavers entered the Indian market, setting up an R&D centre in Mumbai and opening its first concessions there. Pavers England (as it's known in India) now has 32 stores, 120 outlets and accounts for 25% of group sales.

Pavers opened its 100th UK store late in 2013, is investing a further £10m in expanding in India and even has its own TV shopping channel, Paversshoes, featuring Paver's daughter Debbie as a presenter. In 2012-13, Pavers' profits hit a record £7m on sales of £65.6m.

2. Robin Faccenda, Hillesden Investments - 77 years old (53)

Robin Faccenda founded Hillesden Investments, which trades as Faccenda Group, in 1962. The Northamptonshire-based firm is now the UK's second-largest chicken processor, supplying a range of fresh portions and products including 'roast in the bag' birds to Asda and other retailers. In 2012 Faccenda acquired turkey business Cranberry Foods and is making significant investments in sites at Brackley and Telford. In 2011 he donated £500,000 to his alma mater, Harper Adams University. Hillesden's profits are far from chicken feed, up to a record £29.5m on sales of £536m in 2012-13.

3. Christopher Duncan, Numatic - 75 years old (96)

With its long nose and wide smile, a Henry is an instantly recognisable choice for many domestic and commercial cleaners. Made by Somerset company Numatic International, the first Henry was produced in 1981 and the factory now turns out 4,500 cleaners a day, 40% of them for export. Numatic was founded in 1969 by Christopher Duncan to produce heavy-duty commercial vacuums for cleaning coal, oil and gas-fired boilers, before branching out into the school, hospital and home markets. The name and cheery face of the Henry was Duncan's idea. He reckoned early-morning cleaners would prefer a friendly looking machine. In 2013 Numatic International's profits rose to over £10m on sales of £124.4m.

4. Sir David McMurtry, Renishaw - 74 years old (29)

David McCurtry is a leader in 3D measurement

While working on the Rolls-Royce Olympus engines for Concorde in the early 1970s, designer McMurtry invented a device to accurately measure 3D objects called the touch-trigger probe. Thus was born Renishaw, which floated in 1983 and is a global leader in the arcane business of industrial metrology. Every car, truck and aeroplane made relies on the precise and replicable measurement of its internal parts, and this is Renishaw's particular expertise. Chairman McMurtry - who has been described as 'the Steve Jobs of his industry' - has also built Swinhay House in Gloucestershire, a £30m, futuristic eco-mansion. Wotton-under-Edge-based Renishaw achieved record revenues in the year to June 2013 of £346.9m - its 40th year - and is now valued at £1.22bn.

5. Dame Vivienne Westwood, Vivienne Westwood - 73 years old (90)

Vivienne Westwood went from college dropout to Dame of the British Empire

Made a dame in 2006, the punk-turned-fashion grande dame received her insignia from the Prince of Wales. Vivienne Westwood's mother was a weaver and her father came from a family of shoemakers. Leaving grammar school at 16, Westwood attended Harrow Art College, but left after a term, explaining: 'I didn't know how a working-class girl like me could make a living in the art world.' After training to become a teacher, in 1966 she met Malcolm McLaren, who later managed the Sex Pistols. The pair worked together from 1970 to 1983, gaining a reputation for avant-garde clothes and political activism. She went on to forge a substantial solo career and business, with shops all over the world, and clients including Princess Eugenie, Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams. Last year, her main company, Vivienne Westwood, showed £3.2m profit on £29.4m of sales.

6. John Bloor, Bloor Holdings/Triumph - 71 years old (71)

Triumph sold 50,000 motorbikes last year, 85% of them for export. A miner's son from Derbyshire who trained as a plasterer, Bloor bought the Triumph name for £150,000 in 1983. He spent upwards of £80m on a highly efficient Midlands assembly plant to revive the marque. But it is in construction that Bloor made his name. Bloor Homes builds 2,000 houses a year and is one of the UK's largest privately owned housebuilders. Its parent company, Bloor Holdings, made £35.5m profit on £760m of sales in 2012-13.

7. Terry Lister, Listers of Coventry - 71 years old (77)

Terry Lister opened his first car dealership in 1979. Now Listers of Coventry (Motors) operates across the Midlands, offering quality marques, such as BMW, Lexus, Land Rover, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz and Audi. In 2011 Lister invested £1m in his first VW showroom. Listers is the largest family-owned motor group in England and managing director Lister owns 50% of it. In 2013-14 it made £15.3m profit on sales of £860m.

See the full list here

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime