10 inspiring Gloucestershire couples in business together

Some inspirational entrepreneurs manage to successfully combine being both partners in business and in life, with SoGlos showcasing ten of these power couples running Gloucestershire businesses together in 2023.

By Sarah Kent  |  Published
SoGlos reveals some of Gloucestershire's most inspiring couples in business together in 2023.
In partnership with ReformIT  |  reformit.co.uk

ReformIT is a Cheltenham-based IT support specialist, providing expert advice to businesses all over the UK. Assisting with everything from cyber security and cloud technologies to improving broadband speed, ReformIT can tailor its services to meet individual businesses’ needs – whether it’s a fully outsourced IT department or third line support.

Gloucestershire is host to some of the UK's leading businesses, with the highest ranking recently revealed in SoGlos's Top 100 Businesses in Gloucestershire. But you might not know that some of those businesses are run by couples who are partners in business and life — successfully managing their companies and their families.

SoGlos shares ten of Gloucestershire's most inspiring couples in business together in 2023...

Neil and Sarah Smith of ReformIT

Founded by Neil Smith in 1998, managed IT service provider ReformIT began life from a spare room in Smith's house. Fast forward almost 25 years and the company is headquartered in Cheltenham with a staff of more than 20 and counting.

Smith's wife, Sarah, joined the business in 2021 after a few years of part-time work while she raised their two small children. What started out as a social media role soon became director of operations and marketing after Smith quickly recognised his wife's natural ability to 'work out and create processes and procedures that make things more efficient, save money or both — she can take a chaotic set of tasks and just make them flow.'

Julian Dunkerton and Jade Holland-Cooper of Superdry and Holland Cooper

Arguably Gloucestershire's most prolific power couple, Julian Dunkerton, co-founder of clothing giant Superdry and Jade Holland-Cooper of celeb favourite fashion label Holland Cooper, met in 2016, married in 2018 and share two children together.

With the uber cool Dunkertons Organic Cider and Holland Cooper's headquarters sharing the same site in Dowdeswell, the couple also runs Cheltenham hotspot No. 131 on the Promenade and owns French-style bakery La Boulangerie Artisan on the outskirts of town.

Matt and Claire Cleevely of Cleevely Motors and Cleevely Electric Vehicles

Founded in the 1960s by Matt Cleevely's grandfather, award-winning independent Cheltenham garage and electric vehicles specialist Cleevely Motors and Cleevely Electric Vehicles is renowned for its excellent customer service and aftersales care. Cleevely Motors celebrated its 60th anniversary last year and was the winner of Micro Business of the Year at the SoGlos Gloucestershire Business Awards in 2022

Matt Cleevely, together with wife and business partner Claire Cleevely, have been running family business Cleevely Motors and EV for the last six years and have two daughters together. 

David and Helen Everitt-Matthias of Le Champignon Sauvage

While there are numerous examples of wonderful restaurants run by couples across the county, one of the most well-known — and a leader in Gloucestershire's strong restaurant scene for over 30 years – is Le Champignon Sauvage, which continues to delight diners with its modern French menu — and its owners' recipe for success has never failed them.

Husband-and-wife team, David and Helen Everitt-Matthias, married in 1985 and moved to Cheltenham in 1987 where they opened their restaurant in the Suffolks, with David as head chef and Helen leading the front-of-house team. Aged just 26 and 24 at the time of opening, the couple have since expanded into the property next door, won a legion of awards including Michelin stars and written three best-selling cookbooks. 

Phil Daniels and Charles Cusick Smith of Upstage Designs

Gloucester-born Phil Daniels and partner Charles Cusick Smith met over 40 years ago while working as designers for a Manchester theatre company. After moving back to Gloucester, they founded Upstage Designs in 1988 and have over 35 years' worth of awards and rave reviews under their belts for their incredible set and costume designs for theatres, concerts, operas and ballets across the world. 

Upstage Designs' work features in the V&A Museum and, even though many months of the year are spent travelling the globe working on productions, Daniels and Cusick Smith maintain strong Gloucestershire connections. They have designed costumes and sets for many of the Everyman Theatre's pantomimes and productions over the years, and even hand painted the theatre's beautiful stage screen.

Nick and Jo James of Bedfolk

Nick and Jo James met as students at the University of Warwick but it wasn't until buying their first flat and shopping for bedlinen that they realised how uninspiring the bedding market was. Within a year, the couple had sold their flat to raise business funds and began designing a collection of linens that weren't wrapped in plastic, were made of the finest natural materials and with — above all — the highest level of comfort possible. That collection became Cheltenham-based bedding company, Bedfolk.

The initial bed linen collection grew, expanding into towels, bathrobes, loungewear, duvets, pillows and even eco-friendly laundry detergent. Bedfolk was then featured in J.P. Morgan’s top 200 female-powered UK businesses list, with Jo being named as a finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year at the SGGBA in 2021, too. Jo has also revealed that Bedfolk will open its first physical store in Cheltenham in the next year or so.

Lee and Tracey Kelly of Cotswold Retreats

Cotswold Retreats is headed up by husband-and-wife team Lee and Tracey Kelly, who started their holiday lettings business with just one property back in 2019.

With its inception inspired by the purchase of the couple's first holiday home, four years on the company now manages 50 holiday properties across Gloucestershire — many of which are located at Cotswold Water Park — offering luxury accommodation and hot-tub breaks, with fully managed services for holiday-home owners.

Rich and Mel Jones of Encore PR

With over 20 years' experience working in the leisure and creative sectors for organisations such as cultural venues, national media publishers and international charities, husband-and-wife team Rich and Mel Jones joined forces 12 years ago to launch Encore PR.

The driving force behind starting their own business was the desire for the flexibility to create their own way of working and to allow themselves and their team to have a healthy work-life balance. Encore PR provides public relations, marketing and design services for everything from visitor attractions and theatres to heritage sites and outdoor events.

Lauren Williams and Abi Walker of Soup Cans

Lauren Williams and Abi Walker of Cheltenham clothing company, Soup Cans, met in 2018 through a mutual friend in the rugby community. At the time, Williams was a primary school teacher and Walker was working as a martial arts instructor. When the pandemic struck and Walker was advised she would be out of a job after the furlough scheme ended, she and Williams put their heads together and founded Soup Cans, an online gender neutral clothing company that caters for everyone.

The ethos behind the business is that 'people should be who they want to be, without constraints', drawing on its company motto — ‘Labels are for Soup Cans’. Most of the clothing is designed and printed by Walker personally in Soup Cans's Cheltenham office — the couple also use a local embroiderer, post orders in sustainable eco packaging and try to offset carbon emissions through donations to a tree-planting initiative. The company supports the LGBTQ+ community and donates some of its profits to an LGBTQ+ homeless charity. On top of running Soup Cans, Walker is now a behavior support worker and Williams is still teaching at a primary school.

Mark Powles and Rachel Palmer of RRA Architects

Mark Powles and Rachel Palmer run award-winning, Cheltenham-based firm, RRA Architects. Powles joined RRA in 1995 and in 2001 became a director at just 26 years old. As other directors retired and left, Powles took up the reins and has been head of the company for the past 20 years, including overseeing the firm's expansion, now with offices in Shropshire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. Palmer began unofficially helping out with company events and marketing, before officially becoming director of marketing in 2017. 

In addition to RRA and a busy family life — the couple have two daughters and two dogs — Powles and Palmer also run three other businesses, including a property development company. And the firm has just moved its Gloucestershire headquarters to one of Cheltenham's most historic addresses, with the building having undergone extensive renovations to provide the team with an environmentally-friendly, state-of-the-art new workspace.

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