Money makers: tennis ace turned tech investor

Andy Murray © Getty images
Andy Murray: serving winners

Former world tennis number one Andy Murray has had a frustrating year, says David Prosser for Forbes. However, while a hip operation in January has prevented him from getting back on the court (whether he’ll make it to Wimbledon still remains to be seen), Murray has been busy adding to a growing portfolio of companies in which he has invested through the equity crowdfunding platform Seedrs, where he is also on the advisory board. He now has stakes in more than 30 early-stage ventures.

“Success for me is seeing the businesses grow and expand – it’s less about just getting a good return on my original outlay although obviously that is nice too,” Murray tells Prosser. “I know that with start-ups there is a high chance of failure, so I don’t expect all of them to make it, but I try to only choose businesses that have an idea that I really believe in.” His areas of interest include health, wellbeing and nutrition – and dogs.

Murray has also given his financial backing to his first tennis-specific business, says Kristy Dorsey in Scottish Business Insider. The brainchild of Matt Willcocks, 45, Deuce is an app that matches players with coach-led sessions and courts at nearby clubs and parks. It is scheduled for launch the week before the Wimbledon championships early next month. “Tennis is such a great sport with so many benefits… but we simply don’t have enough people playing in this country,” says Murray. “We need to fill empty courts with people playing more often, and Deuce uses today’s technology to do this in a simple, welcoming and affordable way.”

Making a million from pet food

“I genuinely believe I create an environment that makes people want to work with me and brings out the best in them,” Eddie Milbourne, 60, tells Natalie Graham in the Financial Times. “I think it is because my journey is so credible.” Milbourne started off repossessing cars aged 17, but found he could make more money trading them.

After becoming a pet-shop owner in 1984, he launched Pet Plus in 1989, importing chew toys from Asia, and Premium Pet Foods in 1992, distributing American pet food brand Nutro. By 2002, Milbourne had made his first million-pound profit. Disaster struck in 2008 when Mars bought Nutro and didn’t renew the distribution licence. So, the following year, Milbourne started Symply Pet Foods, supplying high-quality dog and cat food to independent pet retailers.

Turnover for the Chesham-based company employing 22 staff has gone from £950,000 in the first year to £21.5m in 2017. Canagan, its pet-food brand taken from the ancient Celtic word for a wolf pup, sells to more than 30 countries. Customers include the Queen and the president of Ireland.

I spotted a gap in the jewellery market

With her husband out of work, a heavily pregnant Kendra Scott started designing jewellery from the spare bedroom at their home in Austin, Texas, says the BBC’s James Jeffrey. It was 2002, and she had just $500 to set up the business. Scott, then 28, realised that jewellery was either very expensive or really cheap, leaving a gap in the market. “Every woman, no matter where she stands economically, wants to feel confident and beautiful,” says Scott. So, after the birth of her son, she went door to door selling to boutiques. “I sold out in the first day,” she says. “From there, I had a business.”

Hiring talented people helped her business grow – “seven of my original employees – all women – are still with me today”, she says. In 2010, the first branch of Kendra Scott Design opened in Austin, but with a difference. “Jewellery stores are known for being intimidating and formal, with velvet ropes and closed cases”, says Scott. “I wanted to create an experience that was warm, interactive, and most of all fun.” So, customers are encouraged to try on the jewellery, and even design their own. Today, the business is valued at more than $1bn.

Jennifer Garner and One Upon a Farm pouches

The poor should go green too

“In my work with Save the Children, where I have been an ambassador since 2008, I have visited a ton of families in rural America, and kids just do not have access to fresh, organic food,” actress Jennifer Garner, 46, tells Stephen Bronner in Entrepreneur. “I understand that business drives change and wanted to find a company that could get nutritious food out to kids.”

That new company is Once Upon a Farm, which offers a range of cold-pressed organic baby foods in America. In 2015, Garner met Cassandra Curtis and Ari Raz, who had themselves created a similar company in 2012. “I realised we all shared the same idea of building a brand that could drive positive social impact,” says Garner, the company’s chief brand officer.

Shunning heat pasteurisation, which “zaps nutrients and taste”, the firm instead presses the fruits and vegetables under high pressure “to lock in flavour, texture and nutrients, while keeping food fresh and safe”. “Our long-term goal, and something I’m the most passionate about, is to be able to offer Once Upon a Farm products to lower-income mothers,” she says. “We can’t just talk about feeding the top… 50% of kids. We have to talk about how to give that nutrition to the bottom half.”