Five of Scotland’s most innovative entrepreneurs under 30

Picture: Kirsty Gillies enjoying her Angelic Gluten Free products
Picture: Kirsty Gillies enjoying her Angelic Gluten Free products
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Scotland is home to some of Britain’s most innovative and forward thinking entrepreneurs, who, through the aid of crowdfunding, business loans and organisations like Entrepreneurial Spark, are able to make their dreams a reality. We look at five of Scotland’s most talented under 30’s.

JOSH LITTLEJOHN, 28, SOCIAL BITE

Staff who work at the Social Bite cafe in Rose Street, Edinburgh. (left to right) co-founder Alice Thompson, Pete Hart and brother Joe Hart and co-founder Josh Littlejohn. Picture: Jane Barlow

Staff who work at the Social Bite cafe in Rose Street, Edinburgh. (left to right) co-founder Alice Thompson, Pete Hart and brother Joe Hart and co-founder Josh Littlejohn. Picture: Jane Barlow

Social Bite owner and founder Josh Littlejohn took his inspiration from Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammad Yunus and even went to visit the Professor before embarking on his own social enterprise.

Social Bite is a sandwich cafe chain which donates all its profits to charity and as well as feeding Scotland’s homeless.

“Social Bite’s fundamental sense is about creating a different kind of business. Because we’re a business in every other way - the food has to be good and well priced and we have to make a profit”, Littlejohn explained to The Scotsman.

“The econmic system which we have at the moment, and the definition of business we have generally, is about maximising profit for private gain. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that definition, but in my opinion it’s just too narrow.”

We have felt thoroughly supported thanks to Scotland’s startup network throughout our entrepreneurial journey

Kara Nisbet, co-founder, Articulate Language Camps

There are now five Social Bite chains across Scotland all which have menus designed by Michelin Star chef Mike Mathieson and a quarter of its staff are formally homeless.

Littlejohn added: “We’ve been pushing against an open door with our catering division as Scottish businesses generally want to do good and this is a really easy way to make a difference by switching their catering to a charitable contractor.”

LOUIS SCHENA, 26, SWIPII

Originally hailing from Paris, Louis Schena met fellow Swipii co-founder Chitresh Sharmamet while studying a Masters degree in International Marketing at the University of Strathclyde.

Picture:  Louis Schena and  Swipii co-founder Chitresh Sharma

Picture: Louis Schena and Swipii co-founder Chitresh Sharma

Initially, the pair started to develop an idea for a website and app that would help students who were new to a city, discover which nightclubs to go to. Although the idea changed, they knew they always wanted to support local businesses.

The end result was an innovative customer loyalty company which customers can use in any of the merchants linked with Swipii. The project redefines customer loyalty by creating custom and unique loyalty rewards programs which are tailored to individuals businesses.

Swipii officially launched late May 2014 and was successful from the start. Within the first few months, thousands of users signed up and 45 local merchants bought into the program.

“The big picture is to create a billion dollars company on a global scale and be the best marketing tool for brick and mortar SMEs and enterprise” Louis explains.

Picture: Kara Nisbet

Picture: Kara Nisbet

Louis and Chitresh secured investment from a local technology entrepreneur and began to develop their business plan with guidance from Business Gateway and Strathclyde Entrepreneurial Network.

Swipii has recently hit 650,000 customers checkins. The company has seen its system installed in over 600 independent retailers throughout the UK, with over 135,000 people joining their loyalty programmes.

Louis welcomed the milestone, saying: “Hitting 650,000 users is a huge milestone for us, Swipii has become the fastest growing company in this space. We’ve brought in a bunch of improvements to Swipii in that time as well, and we’re looking forward to hitting the 1 million mark soon!”.

KARA NISBET, 26, ARTICULATE LANGUAGE CAMPS

Articulate Language Camps provide clubs, summer camps and school programmes offering tuition in English, French, Spanish, German and Italian, for learners aged three to 17. Local weekly language clubs to week-long residential camps which bring together learners from across Europe.

Kara Nisbet, 26, and her business partner Thomas began the project in 2012 while in their final year as a modern languages teaching student.

Picture: Eddie Robb, founder of Make It Social

Picture: Eddie Robb, founder of Make It Social

“We loved how young people engaged with languages through having fun and learned without even realising it. We knew that there was nothing like this for language education in Scotland and decided to start our own summer language programme to bring young native speakers together so they could share their language and culture.”

The camps offer a unique teaching experience through digital media projects, such as animation and podcasting, and adventure activities which take learning into the great outdoors. A scaled-up version of its summer camps for 2016 saw £2,000 worth of camp places reserved within the first four days.

Kara explains that the summer camps will be changing: “In 2016 we will also be expanding our summer camps to Germany. We’re already scaling-up, with the help of Entrepreneurial Spark, and moving forward we will work to see our camp model grow both here and throughout Europe with additional locations and languages.

“We have felt thoroughly supported thanks to Scotland’s startup network throughout our entrepreneurial journey. We’re continuing to take advantage of the support available as we grow. We truly believe that Scotland is one of the best places in the world to start a business as a young person. Nous avons de la chance!”

KIRSTY GILLIES, 28, ANGELIC GLUTEN FREE

Kirsty Gillies left her job as an accountant for Ernst & Young to embark on a change of career. After suffering from a gluten intolerance, she spotted a gap in the market for a range of quality gluten free bakery protects and decided to set up her own company, Angelic Gluten Free.

“I baked over 200 recipes before we launched our first range of cookies” Kirsty explains.

The company provides customers with gluten free alternatives to sweet snacks as well as a support community and gluten free recipes. Products are made from 100 per cent natural ingredients and are gluten free, egg free and dairy free.

“Our products are currently available in over 500 independent outlets in the UK, including Holland & Barrett, Wholefoods Market and EH Boots. We also export goods to a number of countries including Hong Kong, Denmark, Germany and Finland.”

The business is completely owned by Kirsty, funded through personal capital and a business loan.

EDDIE ROBB, 27, MAKE IT SOCIAL

“I was always the guy given the title of ‘group leader’ when it came to arranging anything with my friends. Weekend trips. Holidays. Even going to a gig. It was on me to arrange it with the group. More often than not I’d be left out of pocket and chasing friends to pay me back”, Make It Social creator Eddie Robb explains.

Make It Social was created to remedy the stress of social booking and solve consumer frustrations faced by Eddie and millennials alike.

The project allows potential guests to create a group, invite friends and share the cost of the activity hassle free.

After Beta testing,the company have now launched version 2 of Make It Social which allows people to set up all of their groups of friends and arrange multiple activities within the group.

“For example, now you can book a villa, a flight and a music festival ticket with your friends and only pay your share”, Eddie says.

“Our aspiration is to make it simple for people to do more things with their friends. Buying tickets to see the new James Bond, ordering in pizza to watch the football or arranging a ski trip with your friends should be simple and achievable within 2 or 3 clicks... not the hours/days that it currently takes.”