Money makers: A better drinks business

Kirsty Loveday
Kirsty Loveday: delivering something better

“People were just going out and drinking to get drunk. I saw an opportunity to deliver something better,” Kirsty Loveday tells Liam Kelly in The Sunday Times. Leeds-born Loveday went into the drinks industry upon graduating.

But she wanted to take a more personal approach – “talking to the people who are drinking the brand, or who are in the bar” – and get them to “drink better but a lot less”. With £50,000 raised by remortgaging her London house, Loveday bought the distribution rights to Hangar One, an American vodka. That’s how Love Drinks was launched in 2007.

The firm acquires the distribution rights for premium spirits, wines and beers on minimum five-year contracts, and sells them to bars, restaurants and wholesalers. A decade later, the firm is making pre-tax profits of £350,000 on sales of £5.8m, and supplies brands to Waitrose and the American Bar at the Savoy in London.

The workforce has grown to 16 and she still owns the business, save the 10% she gave to her parents. “There are so many kind people… who want to offer help,” she says. “You don’t have to do it all on your own.”

The master of “big reveals”

When The Shard skyscraper was unveiled to crowds in London with a mesmerising laser show in 2012, there was no one in the capital scurrying around faster than Anton Jerges, says Alex Lawson in the Evening Standard.

The marketing entrepreneur had also arranged a VIP dinner a few miles away that night, attended by former London mayor Ken Livingstone and a clutch of Qatari royals, at which a live orchestra attempted to play along to the Shard’s glistening lights. It was tough, says Jerges. “It turns out light and sound travel at different speeds!”

But Jerges is no stranger to “big reveals”, having overseen launches for Qantas and Jaguar’s Formula One team. Jerges began working in advertising in the 1980s, and struck out on his own in 1997 with long-term business partner Del Manning. Their agency, Qudos, rode the dotcom bubble and the growing telecoms market.

After six years they sold out and started Collider, bringing in TV industry veteran Tony Kelly as chair-man, to focus on product launches and brand repositioning. It’s not all been plain sailing: in 2015, their accountant “skipped the country with company money”, says Lawson. Yet Collider has nonetheless flourished. Annual turnover has tripled to £6m in the past three years, and is nearing £7m this year.

Healthy profits from medical tourism

People have been travelling for medical treatment for thousands of years, says Hazel Sheffield in The Independent. Thanks to Google and cheap flights, “medical tourism”, as it’s now called, has never been easier. Last year the industry was reckoned to be worth £14.9bn, and it is estimated to be growing at 18.8% a year.

One increasingly significant player is Berlin-based start-up Medigo. It was founded by Ugur Samut in 2014 and has since connected more than 60,000 patients with doctors in 18 countries for procedures ranging from brain surgery to tummy tucks. It has raised over €10m in funding, and expects to turn a profit next summer.

“We are there to help people,” says Samut, who is originally from Istanbul and studied marketing in Barcelona. “We don’t charge the patient and we insure them [in their home country] in case something goes wrong.” Similar firms have likened themselves to “Airbnb for medical tourism” – but it’s not a comparison Samut is keen on.

“Unlike Airbnb, capacity is not the issue: we just want the best hospitals,” he says. Prior checks are carried out and a support service is offered. “We’re not listing hotels… We’re asking people to get surgery that might be life-threatening.”

How virtual reality is transforming surgery

When it comes to augmented and virtual reality, Ed Barton has “been there and got the T-shirt”, says Eleanor Peake in Wired. His Brighton-based start-up, Curiscope, produces The Virtuali-Tee – a T-shirt printed with a stylised “QR code” (a sort of barcode for smartphones) in the shape of a rib cage. Hover your phone over the T-shirt, and you can explore the chest cavity and peer at the heart, lungs and veins.

The 28-year-old and his co-founder Ben Kidd came up with the idea in March of last year, and raised £74,000 on crowdfunding website Kickstarter to go into production. They have since raised a further £780,000 in seed capital, and have sold over 3,000 of the T-shirts on Kickstarter.

But augmented reality is about much more than quirky T-shirts. Two weeks ago the world’s first surgery that uses a related technology known as “mixed reality” was performed at the Royal London Hospital, says Kat Lay in The Times. Professor Shafi Ahmed was assisted by two experts: one standing at another London hospital, the other in India. All were wearing a Microsoft HoloLens headset, and to Ahmed his advisers in the surgery appeared as blue avatars in the operating room.

On this occasion the procedure was relatively straightforward. But in more complex cases “we can imagine people giving advice would be very helpful [who otherwise wouldn’t be able to]”, says Ahmed, who is known as the “virtual surgeon” for his use of the technology.

He is the founder of Medical Realities, a start-up that uses immersive technology, such as this, to train surgeons. “Surgeons had embraced robotics to help them operate and [Ahmed expects] a similar welcome for mixed reality technology,” says Lay.