Some 24 UK-based business leaders passed through the Capital Conversation studios in 2018, telling their stories of what it takes to make it in Britain today.
From Monzo’s Tom Blomfield – whose digital bank gained over one million users in just two years – to Renée Elliott, whose Planet Organic supermarkets continue to grow at pace across the capital , each guest spoke about their drive, ambition and vision.
“We’re not aiming for an IPO in a year or two, we’re not driving towards immense profitability in the short-term,” Tom explained on Monzo’s business model. “We’re in this game to acquire hundreds of millions of users and build a platform for the future.”
Renée similarly keeps her eye on the future but says there’s more to business than the bottom line: “Planet [Organic] is successful and that’s great and it’s growing. But that mission for me – the mission of promoting health in the community, that is still my mission every day. It’s what gets me up.”
Fellow food brand, The Black Farmer, and its founder, Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, similarly graced the Capital Conversation stage in 2018. Wilfred spoke about how as an entrepreneur, it’s vital to take risks: “Research will tell you what people are thinking today, but it won’t tell you what people are thinking tomorrow.”
And there was, of course, the unavoidable B-word to deal with: Brexit.
Views came from both sides of the aisle. Entrepreneur and People’s Vote campaigner June Sarpong MBE said leaders need to be honest about their post-Brexit intentions: “I think the most important thing that needs to happen is for everybody to understand what really will happen if we leave. At the moment a lot of businesses aren’t being honest, they’re saying ‘of course we’re going to stay’ when we know they’re not.”
Pippa Malmgren, entrepreneur and former special adviser to President Bush, on the other hand took a brighter view, arguing business should embrace the coming change: “[Businesses] would rather hang on to rules that are old and they understand, than take the opportunity to build a new framework that would be better,” adding, “It’s only the British who lack confidence in their own future.”
Despite the Brexit uncertainty, guests were overwhelmingly positive about the UK start-up scene, with more than 600,000 new businesses launched in the UK 2018. TechUK president Jacqueline de Rojas CBE put it succinctly:
“We are a nation of pioneers.”
Watch the full compilation episode of the 2018 highlights here.