High-end clientele fly in from all over to spend an average £4,000 per visit on bespoke bras and knickers at Luna Mae, says Kitty Knowles for Forbes. The most extravagant item in the upmarket London lingerie shop is a £6,000 cream corset. But even that pales in comparison with founder Claudia Lambeth’s (pictured centre) upcoming debut swimwear line (one ornate swimming costume will set you back £50,000).
“Walking into department stores [in 2012], I felt really looked up and down,” says Lambeth, who was 22. “I thought, God if I feel like this at my age, what does someone who’s had a few children going to feel about buying lingerie?” Luxury brands were typically off the rack, which often made them uncomfortable. “You get a really pretty bra on the outside but on the inside its all raw edges, bits of elastic sticking out, and bulky underwire casing. I really wanted to refine it.”
So, Lambeth launched a tailoring service, offering scratch designs to clients in their hotel suites from £1,200, or £680 for semi-bespoke, personalised items. She used her modest savings to get the business off the ground before going on to raise £680,000 in funding from the likes of Will Hobhouse of fashion brand Jack Wills. Lambeth built up a black book of hundreds of customers and opened her first showroom next to Claridges in Mayfair in 2016, and her boutique on Belgravia’s Elizabeth Street last year.
“Our clients love it that we are British, and everybody comes to London at some point during the year,” says Lambeth of her often repeat customers. It’s not surprising, then, that with eight staff and around 500 clients, Luna Mae is thriving.
Trawling for profits from job adverts
Andrew Hunter set up Adzuna in 2011 with Doug Monro to trawl the web looking for job adverts. “Jobs were scattered over job websites, recruitment companies, individual business’s sites,” Hunter, 36, tells the BBC’s Sarah Finley. Adzuna collated the ads, making them easier to find. The startup received a boost in 2013 when they were asked to build an iPad app for David Cameron to provide the prime minister with real-time data on jobs and housing markets.
All was going well until 2015 when Hunter was diagnosed with cancer. “It was so surreal”, he says. “One minute I was worrying about a technical issue [at work], the next day I was in hospital having treatment.” Hunter sold enough of his shares to buy a drug that was not available on the NHS, and by June 2017 he was back at work. “It was a tough time”, says Monro. Adzuna makes most of its money today from firms paying to advertise jobs and by charging companies a fee every time it refers a jobseeker to their own websites. Operating in 16 countries, with seven million registered users, annual turnover has grown to £12m.
Mighty oaks from little pencils grow
In 2012, Michael Stausholm, 48, discovered a plantable pencil on crowdfunding website Kickstarter, says Anthon Schrader on Business Insider. Once the pencil became too short to write with, it could be planted, giving life to flowers, vegetables and herbs, thanks to a biodegradable seed capsule at the bottom. The Dane contacted the founders – three students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology – who agreed to allow Stausholm to sell and distribute the pencils in Europe.
Stausholm launched his startup, Sprout, in 2013, which proved to be more successful than the business across the Atlantic, and Stausholm ended up buying the full rights from the students for an undisclosed amount. In five years Sprout has sold ten million pencils, which are still made in Minnesota for the American market, as well as in Poland. In 2017, the company made a profit of DKK2m (£235,000). Besides being environmentally friendly, “this confirms that we’re economically sustainable as well”, says Stausholm.
Transforming Brazil’s slums
Rubens Menin, the Brazilian billionaire, co-founder and chairman of housebuilder MRV Engenharia e Participacões, was named EY World Entrepreneur of the Year 2018 ahead of 56 finalists from 46 countries last Saturday to become the first South American to win the accolade, says Harriet Agnew in the Financial Times.
The 62-year-old, who “looked visibly moved” at the awards ceremony in Monaco, said he was “deeply honoured” and that “there are no words” to describe his joy. For their part, the panel of independent judges said they had reached their decision due to Menin’s work in bringing housing to some of the poorest communities in Brazil.
Having witnessed the spread of slum areas, known as favelas, in Brazilian cities during the 1970s, Menin set out to transform housebuilding in Brazil from, as he put it, a “quasi-artisanal” activity into a “true industry”. So in 1979, at the age of just 21, he co-founded MRV. Using the “concrete wall method”, a system praised by the judges as an innovative approach, MRV was able to erect a four-storey building with 16 housing units in ten days. The company has since built more than 320,000 houses and blocks of flats in the country, allowing more than a million people to realise their dream of home-ownership.
“Throughout my life, I have pursued the purpose of bringing the dignity of home-ownership to people who until now could not afford it,” said Menin. ”A healthy construction sector benefits countless people around the world.”
Since 2008, MRV has been part of the Brazilian government’s social housing programme called Minha Casa, Minha Vida (My House, My Life), an initiative that has delivered three million houses to Brazilians. So successful has the company been that one in 80 people today live in a property built by MRV in 150 cities across the country.
Last year, revenue for the business, which employs 24,000 people, came to $1.4bn, while net profit grew to $197m from $13m a decade ago. In 2014, Forbes put Menin’s net worth at $1.2bn.