40 under 40: Showcasing Gloucestershire’s business talent

From up and coming talent to well established faces in the county business community, SoGlos has teamed up with the University of Gloucestershire to shine a spotlight on 40 individuals, partnerships and teams – aged under 40 – that we think are ones to watch.

By Andrew Merrell  |  Published
After much painstaking research and valued insight from experts across the county, SoGlos and the University of Gloucestershire showcases some of the best, brightest and most interesting talent under 40 years old across the countys business community.
After much painstaking research and valued insight from experts across the county, SoGlos and the University of Gloucestershire showcases some of the best, brightest and most interesting talent under 40 years old across the county’s business community.

Gloucestershire is blessed with diverse businesses big and small. In 2021 it was named the strongest place in the UK for local businesses and in 2019, the last full year before Covid, 4,305 new businesses chose to set up shop here.

To shine a light on just some of the talent making Gloucestershire such a vibrant place to live and work, we have launched the first SoGlos 40 under 40 – a curated list of individuals, partnerships and teams all aged under 40, from 40 county firms. Listed here in no particular order…

1. Ross Griffin of Ocean Ecology Ltd

Griffin founded Gloucester-headquartered Ocean Ecology Ltd in 2013 ‘to work with the UK’s most forward-thinking organisations making use of and regulating the marine environment’.

A graduate of the University of Portsmouth with a degree in marine biology, Griffin has more than a decade of experience in marine ecological assessment and monitoring with specific focus on the impacts of offshore wind farms on habitats, fisheries and marine mammals.

2. Emily Tarbox of Montrose Group

After graduating with a first-class degree in history, Tarbox joined the graduate programme at up-market car marque Jaguar Land Rover as a buyer before eventually moving in-house at a business building large-scale turnkey automotive manufacturing facilities around the world.

Then with an impressive skillset under her belt she took another left turn in 2017, and joined Gloucestershire-based bespoke building firm Montrose Group’s management team.

By all accounts she has made a ‘significant impact’, overseeing business development, sub-contractor management and marketing of a firm where the attention to detail and customer service is paramount. All of which she has managed alongside being a mother-of-three and studying to become a chartered management accountant.

3. Theo Freyne of Deya Brewing Company

Freyne founded Cheltenham Deya Brewing Company in 2015 following a stint at Odell, a brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado.

He was already completing a Masters of Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University at the time and brought the experience and learning from the American business with him back to the UK.

By 2016, he had the keys to a 4,000 square foot industrial unit in Cheltenham, where the brewery’s beers were first poured that May. The business, which exports globally, has also become a thriving venue, complete with shop and tap room, on the Lansdown Industrial Estate in Cheltenham.

4. Sophie Wilding and James Wilding of Imperial Haus

Sophie Wilding’s profile went stratospheric in 2022 thanks to her appearance on BBC One’s show The Apprentice.

Wilding’s day job, however, is running the town’s Imperial Haus, which she does with her brother, James Wilding. The siblings opened the boutique bar on Imperial Square in Cheltenham at the tail-end of 2020.

The former University of Bristol student is no stranger to business with a decade under her belt as a successful sales rep.

5. Thomas Yates of McMurtry Automotive

When the founder of Renishaw, Sir David McMurtry, decided to build an electric racing car to outperform all, he was never going to do it by halves, and forged a team with Yates as managing director.

Formerly of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains, the University of Bath and Malvern College, Yates and his team unleashed the incredible car they created at a secret location in Gloucestershire at the Goodwood Festival of Motorsport 2021.

McMurtry Automotive’s McMurtry Spéirling is a single-seater Batmobile-like supercar capable of standstill to 186mph (300kmh) in under nine seconds.

6. Tyler Attwood of Your Next Move

Attwood became a board member of GFirst LEP in August 2021. The trained dancer and graduate of both Swindon Dance’s Centre for Advanced Training and Northern School for Contemporary Dance is also the founder of the not-for-profit organisation Your Next Move.

The community interest company works to help raise aspirations of young people through Hip Hop culture.

7. Rachel Geliamassi of Stagecoach West

As managing director of Stagecoach West, Geliamassi is responsible for all bus and coach services across the west of England and Oxfordshire – 1,500 employees and more than 500 buses, delivering over 44 million journeys every year.

Having joined the UK’s biggest bus, coach and tram operator in 2007 on its graduate training scheme, Geliamassi has risen through the ranks, holding operations manager positions across the country, before becoming operations director for Stagecoach West in 2014.

8. Felix Elliott-Berry, Clarice Elliott-Berry, Cicely Elliott-Berry, Digby Elliott-Berry of Sibling Distillery

Few will have missed the rise and rise of Sibling Distillery. The four siblings started their distillery next to their family’s successful Gloucestershire microbrewery in 2014 when the oldest of the four, Felix, was just 22.

Its stylishly bottled up-market product and the story of a management team who were barely (and in some cases not) old enough to consume their own product legally, caught the imagination.

9. Zac Miles and Ryan Speck of Forge Motorsport

Led by Peter Miles, Gloucester-based Forge Motorsport has established a worldwide reputation within performance motoring circles as a market-leader.

Of late its profile has been climbing in the county too, not least because of the rise of the next generation – including former Sir Thomas Rich’s School pupil, Zac Miles, who is in charge of media and promotions at the engineering firm.

That next generation also includes Ryan Speck, former Brockworth Enterprise School pupil, now business and manufacturing operations manager.

10. Lee Walding and Adam Walding of Leeways Packaging Services and Kalex Films

Leeways Packaging Services is a third-generation family-owned and run plastic packaging manufacturer based in Churcham in the Forest of Dean since 1971.

Lee is the managing director of Leeways Packaging and Adam is the boss of another family business, Cinderford-based Kalex Films – which makes packaging from recycled materials.

In 2021 Kalex Films won the New Business of the Year, sponsored by Bamboo, at the inaugural SoGlos Gloucestershire Business Awards.

11. Sam Waley-Cohen of Portman Dental

Waley-Cohen is the chief executive and founder of fast-growing Portman Dental and one of the few on this list who can also lay claim to being a jockey.

In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, Portman Dental took over 28 businesses and in May 2021 the Cheltenham-headquartered dental health specialist revealed it was now turning over close to £117 million.

12. Anya McKenna of Hexe Digital

Founder of Cheltenham marketing and public relations firm Hexe Digital, McKenna’s firm delivers brand strategy, PR, social media for businesses and individuals.

The University of Dundee graduate and former model founded her Cheltenham-headquartered firm in September 2020. She is also marketing and communications manager for Pride in Gloucestershire.

13. Daniel Rees of Ruroc

Former Sir Thomas Rich’s School pupil Rees led from the front at innovative helmet-maker Ruroc – with its stylish helmets sold to snowboarders, mountain bikers, motorcyclists, F1 drivers and film stars around the globe – turning the Gloucester-headquartered business into an international success story.

Under Rees’ control, Ruroc became one of the very first companies to understand the power of Facebook to generate sales and it is now a $50 million turnover business with a foothold in the United States of America. Rees left the firm officially at the start of April 2022 and plans to launch a combined brand, creative and social performance marketing agency very soon.

14. Tom Hughes of Tubby Tom’s

Tom Hughes started selling his spicy sauces with the self-mocking branding while working at Over Farm Market in Gloucester, and then became a regular at Stroud Farmer’s Market, quickly attracted loyal fans as he went.

Fast-fowward four years, and with a little guidance from the Gloucestershire The Growth Hub (and a lot of hard graft), Hughes has six staff and a new production facility at Churcham in the Forest of Dean. Turnover is estimated at £500,000 and could grew by another 50 per cent in 2022.

15. Hannah Robins, Tom Robins, Jenny Robins and Chris Robins of Printwaste Recycling & Shredding

Established in 1983 by Don and Geoff Robins, Printwaste Recycling & Shredding started recycling waste from local printers.

Over the last four decades the business and team has grown and now offers ‘a total waste management solution’ – collecting 18 different materials from firms county-wide.

Chris Robins, Tom Robins, Jenny Robins, Hannah Robins are the next generation of the successful Cheltenham-headquartered family business.

16. Nicola Bird and Natalie Bell of AccXel

Charged with leading the development of Gloucestershire’s new construction school, AccXel, Nicola Bird and Natalie Bell have done that and more.

Steeped in the industry thanks to family firm Bell Construction, the pair assembled an able board of county businesspeople and delivered the multi-million pound new-build training centre in Cinderford in the Forest of Dean.

AccXel is expected to deliver 80 apprentices in its first year, rising to 150 plus 300 CITB and industry-recognised qualifications. That latter figure is also expected to grow, to 500 per year.

17. Claire Cleevely of Cleevely Electric Vehicles

Claire and husband Matt Cleevely were inspired to start possibly the county’s most high-profile electric car business, Cleevely Electric Vehicles, after a disappointing experience buying a second-hand Nissan Leaf from a dealership.

Convinced they could do much better, they teamed up with David and Samantha Smith who also shared a passion for electric vehicles, and Cleevely Electric Vehicles was launched.

The business has some considerable pedigree to draw on, with Matt’s father, former Dowty’s engineer John, starting the long-standing Cleevely Motors in the early 1960s.

18. Chantelle Bowring and Jason Kalwa of Salus Cyber

Kalwa founded Salus Cyber in 2017 after a decade-plus of experience in cyber security, testing everything from web applications to military defence targets and weapon and access systems. He even helped implement the digital security for Nato’s Kabul International Airport.

Bowring is the firm’s, operations director and is credited with helping steer its success. She is passionate about bringing more women into the cyber sector. She was also named in SoGlos’s 11 women helping shape Gloucestershire’s cyber sector in 2021.

19. Kane Lewis of Severnside Security Ltd

Former Churchdown Senior School pupil Kane Lewis is the managing director at Severnside Security Ltd.

Severnside can list clients including the NHS, Gloucestershire police and county council, county-based helmet maker Ruroc, Sue Ryder to Gloucestershire’s biggest business by turnover – St James’s Place Wealth Management.

20. Sebastian Down and Fanzi Down of DPS Designs

Sebastian is the second generation to lead the innovative and unusual Queen’s Award-winning Forest of Dean family firm, DPS Designs. With Fanzi Down, Sebastian’s wife, its commercial director and a winner of a Women in Innovation Award from the Innovate UK.

DPS Designs is in demand from the aerospace, healthcare and automotive sectors across the globe for its design and toolmaking skills – and from retailers like M&S, Aldi, Fortnum & Mason and Harrods for its abilities helping create chocolate treats – with 80 per cent of the hollow chocolates you see in UK stores having been made with its helping hand!

21. Naomi Howells of Class People

University of Gloucestershire business graduate Naomi Howells is the managing director of Cheltenham-based teaching supply agency Class People.

Since 2009 she has risen through the ranks to her current role at the head of the Eagle Tower-headquartered business – a position she has held for two and a half years.

The independent education recruitment specialists provides supply teachers and early years practitioners services across the south west and Midlands.

22. Joe David of Nephos and Myna

Joe David is founder and managing director of Cheltenham cloud-based accounting specialist Nephos and the standalone firm Myna, one of the UK’s first dedicated accountancy businesses specialising in cryptocurrency and blockchain.

The Cheltenham-born entrepreneur and former financial director for county-based engineering legend Lister Petter, helps businesses use the currency in their day-to-day trading.

23. Janina Neumann of Janina Neumann Design

Neumann founded Tewkesbury-based brand design company Janina Neumann Design in May 2016, specialising in helping social value organisations grow their brand, pitch for funding and showcase their impact.

Neumann is a member of Cheltenham Chamber of Commerce, Department for International Trade’s UK Investment Support Directory, Social Enterprise UK (Supporting Member), and Social Value UK and a member of SIETAR UK and Social Entrepreneurship Netzwerk Deutschland.

24. Heath Gunter of Cheltenham BID

Heath Gunter was appointed as the new chief executive of the powerful Cheltenham Business Improvement District (BID) in September 2021, after the organisation won a second five-year term from businesses in the town.

Some 795 businesses were entitled to vote with an aggregate rateable value of £45,102,199. Gunter will now oversee an estimated £2.8 million of investment over the next five years all aimed at improving and promoting the town centre and encouraging business and trade.

25. Sophie Williams of Cotswold Kitchens

Sophie Williams founded Cotswold Kitchens with Jonathan Houston at the end of 2019, after a decade working in the kitchen industry.

Both originally trained in architecture and design. Houston is also a trained cabinet maker.

The pair describe Cotswold Shaker Kitchens as ‘a local family run kitchen company, creating stunning kitchens across Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Worcestershire and surrounding counties across the south of England’.

26. Henrietta Kitt of Hetty’s Kitchen

In April 2021 Hetty’s Kitchen became the latest artisan trader to join the growing line up at Stroud’s Five valley’s Market food hall. It is a long way from 2011 when founder Henrietta Kitt started the business from her flat in Gloucester Docks.

By 2017, Hetty’s Kitchen had moved to a bakery at Morelands Trading Estate off Bristol Road in Gloucester, selling direct from the site, continuing to attend markets and branching out into wholesale. With her mail-order brownies proving a particular hit during lockdown.

27. Rich Hine of British Polo Gin

Hine discovered his passion for gin in 2015 working for a gin business in Perth, Australia, while on a winter break from playing professional polo.

When a tendon injury ended his polo playing career he began researching and became convinced in the potential of a 100 per cent organic gin.

Returning to England in July 2016 he sold his best polo horses to fund the business that would become his new passion, British Polo Gin. The brand has been growing in popularity ever since.

28. Lex Beckett and Lisa Cullis of Squashed Robot

Since starting their video production company Squashed Robot in 2016, Lex Beckett and Lisa Cullis have racked up an impressive list of clients.

Their Cheltenham-based business has worked with county-based tech firm Bamboo, The Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham BID, construction giant Kier, Sudeley Castle, GFirst LEP, the NHS, and Oasis Events.

Filming has taken the pair and their team all over the UK, including West End musicals, to internationally – for the likes of the Mojo Foundation in The Gambia.

29. Joe Snow of Just Wholefoods

Snow took over the reins of the award-winning Cirencester-based Just Wholefoods in 2018, with founder Anne Madden and James White remaining an integral part of the business they founded in 1989.

He has kept the Cotswold firm true to its founding ideals – of creating ‘top-notch plant-based food’ – and remained committed to organic. The business has continued to thrive, innovate and deliver everything from sweet treats to cake mixes, soups to mixes.

30. Natasha Griggs of Topaz Luxe Ltd

Griggs is the owner and designer of Topaz Luxe Ltd, a Cheltenham-based boutique swimwear brand launched just as the world was entering the Covid-19 pandemic.

Topaz is already stocked in three Sanderson department stores across the UK and making progress to launch small pop up stands within the niche resort and cruise line industry. Griggs is just one of the names recommended by the Growth Hub for this list.

31. Abby Guilding of WellChild

After studying dietetics with a view to going into the healthcare sector Guilding took a left turn to help establish the Gloucestershire food charity and social enterprise Wiggly Worm. She enjoyed it so much she stayed, was promoted to managing director and the organisation went on to achieve great things in the county.

Guilding joined WellChild in 2020 where her skills at communication, her contacts, enthusiasm and relationship building skills are being put to good use redefining the charity’s goals and developing new income streams.

32. James Markey of Nutrition X

Former University of Gloucestershire student James Markey is the managing director of Gloucester-based food supplement Nutrition X.

The firm’s product is made with elite athletes in mind and it supplies more than 45 top level clubs across premiership rugby union and football as well as first class cricket.

In the 12 months to the end of 2021 Nutrition X doubled its turnover.

33. Kieran Scott and Luke Lutman of Phoenix Consultants

Scott and Lutman, both former product design students at the University of Gloucestershire, are also the founders and directors of Phoenix Consultants Gloucestershire.

The award-winning partnership has now worked with more than 100 clients and if you have a product you want to develop they will help with everything from intellectual property protection to product development – from prototype to manufacture.

34. Matteo Conte and Clara Cardillo of Non Solo Pasta

Matteo Conte and Clara Cardillo, originally from the south of Rome, founded Non Solo Pasta (Not Just Pasta) in 2018 in Gloucestershire, selling their Italian-sourced wares on markets in the county.

In early 2021 the business also moved into Stroud’s food hall, Five Valleys Market, where the couple continue to sell their Arancini, pasta dishes, desserts and vegan options.

35. Phil Jordan of Under The Prom nightclub

Phil Jordan is the director of Cheltenham’s Under The Prom and Coco nightclubs and a board member of Cheltenham BID, the town’s powerful business improvement district.

A former University of Gloucestershire student, he also has a number of property interests and is a partner in Movers & Shakers, a mobile bars and events company. At last count he was involved in an estimated 14 businesses.

36. Madeleine Howard of CyNam

Madeline Howard is a director and face of the influential Cheltenham-based cyber networking group CyNam, which works to support and encourage the community of digital-related businesses clustering in Gloucestershire.

The not-for-profit organisation also works closely with the likes of Cheltenham’s Hub8 to bring like-minded businesses together, discover new talent and stimulate interest in cyber in the county’s schools and colleges. Howard is an industry engagement coordinator for the NCSC’s (National Cyber Security Centre) Cyber Schools Hub.

37. Jon Lock, Lucy Lock, Alice Angell and Nich Angell of Big Punch Studios

All four directors of Big Punch Studios, the Cheltenham-based creator and publisher of comics, games and podcasts, are under 40 years old. In addition to its creator-owned comic titles, such as Afterlife Inc. and Cat & Meringue, the team has also seen success with its hit card game Sandwich Masters and solo RPG Colostle.

When they are not writing or drawing at their Festival House headquarters you will find them touring or producing A Show Called Hate, a comedy podcast about love, hate and everything in between.

38. Jordan Tuck of J’Luxe.Fit

Tuck is the entrepreneur and founder of J’Luxe.Fit, a Gloucestershire-based gymwear brand whose stylish gear aims to not just make you look good – but to ‘empower women of all shapes, sizes and ages’.

Furloughed from her job as a business development manager in spring 2020, the then 23-year-old from Stroud threw herself into developing her supportive activewear brand for women.

It proved time well-spent. Tuck received 170 orders and sold out 80 per cent of her Scarlett’s World collection within two hours of going live.

39. Daniel Leach and Ben Byron of Gloucester Carpet Outlet

In February 2022 Dan Leach was awarded a prestigious medal from the Mayor of Gloucester for his charitable work, fundraising for children with heart disease.

It is not the only charitable cause Leach and Gloucester Carpet Outlet, the business he started with former St Peter’s High School friend Ben Bryon, have supported and the work has not gone unnoticed.

All of which is possible because the pair and their Bristol Road-based team have worked tirelessly to establish a business which at the last count turned over in excess of £3 million annually.

40. Matt Nolan of The Outdoor Inn

Nolan is the owner and and managing director of The Outdoor Inn. He started the business with former business partner Jay Adler, making the brave move to takeover a disused piece of land on the corner of High Street and St James Street in Cheltenham, establishing what became known as The Outdoor Inn and in 2021 opened a bar in the courtyard of the former Fleece Hotel in Gloucester.

By Andrew Merrell

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