December 10, 2023

It takes a certain set of skills to to be able to be successful in the corporate and business world. You need a strong work ethic, networking skills, business acumen, a problem solving mentality, an ability to communicate well and, sometimes, a lack of fear to be ruthless.
To become a successful entrepreneur, you need all of those skills. Plus a few more. You also need vision, resilience, confidence, the ability to take a chance and a penchant for dipping into all realms of business – from sales and marketing to finance and operations.
Outside of London, the Thames Valley is the fastest-growing economy in the UK. With so much going on in the area, it should come as no major shock to learn that the region is a hotbed of entrepreneurial talent.
Here are just five up-and-coming business people who have ventured out on their own and are making an impact in the Thames Valley…
Sarah Jordan, an Oxford-based entrepreneur, has found success after creating the sustainable fashion business Y.O.U Underwear (Your Own Underwear), an entirely ethical company that makes 100% organic cotton underwear for both men and women.
Sarah founded the company after visiting Uganda in 2016. She was assisting a local business in selling sanitary items when she realised that demand was low owing to a lack of access to underwear. Her response was to launch her own online underwear brand; for every pair bought, two are donated to a charity that provides underwear to underprivileged adults and children in Africa and the United Kingdom.
Y.O.U is currently a thriving and sustainable business that has customers in over 30 countries and has seen substantial expansion in recent years.
The firm’s positive impact is most important to Sarah – they have donated over 21,000 pairs of underwear so far, which has helped over 7,000 girls stay in school. Sarah and Y.O.U are currently on course to meet their objective of 23,000 pairs donated by 2023.
Solutions 4 Health is a forerunner in the fields of artificial intelligence, digital health and clinical healthcare services. The company has developed from a modest start-up into a thriving business in the last twelve years, helping 100,000 people a year to improve their wellbeing. They employ over 360 healthcare professionals under the leadership of founder and CEO Kishore Sankla.
The Reading-based entrepreneur’s organisation offers innovative and sustainable lifestyle and clinical services that improve healthcare for everybody, particularly those who have very poor health. The goal is to help individuals stay healthy and carrying on working to prevent sickness, minimising the demand for hospital services and improving chronic condition management.
Solutions 4 Health has received numerous honours in its time, including the Royal Society of Public Health’s coveted Technology, Health and Innovation Award, while Kishore has been named CEO of the Year in Healthcare and Technology by AI Magazine.
Reading’s Dani Hall was managing a bookshop when she spotted a gap in the market for literary-related gifts. While still in work, she took £1,500 of her savings and set up a microbusiness curating and selling book-based gift baskets. The Literary Gift Company was born.
Fast forward some twelve-odd years and the business has thrived. In 2019, it was estimated to be worth more than £1.5m. Of course, Dani no longer manages her old book shop. Instead she focuses on running LGC full time.
The Castle Street-located firm offers ‘gifts for book lovers, gorgeous gift ideas for readers, writers and literature fans’ under the pleasing tagline ‘every gift tells a story’.
Other entries on this list may have made more money, but Ms. Hall’s story (no pun intended) is especially inspiring. £1,500 to £1.5m is some achievement for someone in business that seems driven by love more than cold hard profit.
Glen Dinning is a known face in Reading. Since 2016, he’s run the wildly popular Blue Collar Street Food, putting on regular street food festivals and events. So it’s no surprise that the 29 year-old is so liked by gastronomes in the Berkshire town.
Glen expanded Blue Collar’s offering in March of this year when him and his team opened up Blue Collar Corner on Hosier Street in Reading. The permanent ‘bar and street food arena’ is a hugely welcome addition to the town centre’s drinking and eating offering, offering a little bit of London flavour to the ‘ding.
Dr. Valarie Jerome was chosen to to be part of Small Business Britain’s #ialso100 campaign last year, a programme that recognises the work of 100 female entrepreneurs from a variety of industries.
Dr. Jerome established her own practice, Valarie Jerome Optometrists, in Newbury in 2019. Following the emergence of the COVID-19 epidemic, she provided remote eye care and free spectacle repairs to residents of West Berkshire. As an NHS responder, she also collected medicines and did grocery shopping for folks who were homebound in the Newbury region.
It’s been a little over a decade since she moved to the UK, working in various opticians before starting her own firm and proving herself to be as astute entrepreneur as she is an optometrist.
READ MORE: Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds among top regions for female entrepreneurs
READ MORE: 12 female entrepreneurs to watch in the South East
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