Money makers: Why I told the Dragons “no deal”

Rimi Thapar © LoveRaw
Rimi Thapar: not so desperate

Rimi Thapar, 34, had been making good money as a hedge-fund marketer for Merrill Lynch, says Siofra Brennan in the Daily Mail. “It was a nice life, with a good salary, but I never wanted to be one of those people who gets hooked on the salary then can’t do anything else,” says Thapar. “I remember… watching a cookery show and thinking, ‘I could do that’”, adding that she found the labelling and ingredients used in processed foods “really confusing”. So, in 2013, she bought a blender and started “messing around” in the kitchen, working around the clock to fulfill her first order of 500 boxes of her snack bars from WholeFoods.

“I spent £600 on ingredients, a blender and some packaging. I designed everything, including the packaging, myself, as I didn’t have the money to pay anyone.” Last year, she went on TV show Dragons’ Den, seeking investment to take her vegan food company, LoveRaw, global. She rejected an offer of £49,000 for a 40% stake. “We weren’t in such a desperate position,” she says. “Today, the business is worth £1.75m and, when I say that, I can’t quite believe it – that the little idea I had has become this exciting business.”

Speedy loans for entrepreneurs

Greg Moshal, now 35, was 16 when he launched his first business, leasing pool tables to schools in his native South Africa, says Jamie Smyth in the FT. He later moved to Australia, but like many entrepreneurs, struggled to secure bank loans.

“It was clear the loan products for small businesses were just not good enough,” says Moshal. He, and joint CEO Beau Bertoli, 34, set out to solve that problem in 2011 with Prospa, their Sydney-based online lender. Last year, Prospa provided over A$500m (£273m) in small-business loans, which are funded by bundling the loans together and selling them on to institutional investors. Interest rates start at around 12%, stretching into the mid-20s depending on risk.

Prospa’s draw is its speed in processing applications, with funding coming the same day. “We aren’t necessarily cheaper than a bank, but we offer speed, convenience and more access to credit,” says Bertoli. A A$25m funding round last year valued the business at A$235m, and the lender is now testing the waters for a stockmarket listing. “This is a business that requires capital and one option is to go down the public path,” says Moshal. “We are currently exploring the best options.”

Growing profits from bushy eyebrows

Vanita Parti, 49, used to travel from her home in South Kensington to Ealing, west London, where she grew up, to get her eyebrows threaded, says Laura Onita in the Evening Standard. “It was still considered something that Indian women knew about and did, but it wouldn’t appeal to Westerners, which seems crazy now”, says Parti.

With £10,000 of savings, Parti set up Blink Brow Bar in 2004, first gaining floorspace in posh chain Fenwick, followed by Harvey Nichols and Selfridges. Since then, her 200 staff have groomed over 20 million sets of eyebrows. There are now 24 walk-in bars in Britain, as well as two in America. Four more are in the pipeline this year.

Sales totalled £6.9m in the year to March 2017, with almost £8m projected for this year, helped along by the trend for bushy brows à la model Cara Delevingne. There should be other opportunities for growth as well: Blink Brow Bar is making a big push next month to sell more day creams, candles and eye makeup. Parti still owns all of the company, having grown it organically – but she is “constantly thinking” about selling part or all of the business. “I don’t want to miss the moment,” she says.

The bounty hunters on bug patrol

“James Kettle is a bug hunter – not of the insect kind, but of software,” says the BBC’s Mark Ward. He is what is known as a “white hat hacker”. Kettle scans through pages of code looking for mistakes – weaknesses that criminals could exploit to break into a company’s network and steal data. Instead of exploiting the flaw for criminal purposes, he reports the vulnerability, and receives a reward.

Kettle is now one of the top-earning bug finders on HackerOne, a service that matches hackers with companies and governments looking for experts to test their software for weaknesses. White hat hackers can earn more than $350,000 a year, while “bug bounty programmes” pay out $50,000 a month on average – some go as high as $1m a year to avoid their software and websites falling victim to criminals.

Facebook is one company that “is willing to pay the price to find the next Cambridge Analytica [the company at the centre of a scandal involving its user data]”, says Alfred Ng on tech news website Cnet. On Tuesday of last week, the social network launched its own bug bounty programme, offering rewards to those who report apps that abuse data on Facebook. “While there is no maximum, high impact bug reports have garnered as much as $40,000 for people who bring them to our attention,” Facebook’s head of product security, Collin Greene, said in a post on Facebook’s website.

Appearing before the US Senate over the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said “bounty programmes are an important part of the security arsenal for hardening a lot of systems”. Bug bounty hunters will be out to prove him right.