“We were both 25… All my friends were becoming stockbrokers and bankers, and I did the obligatory year in the City and absolutely hated it,” Peter Osborne, 75, tells Emily Brooks in The Daily Telegraph. “I wanted to do something more exciting and entrepreneurial. [Brother-in-law] Antony [Little] was the design side and I was the business side, but there was quite a lot of overlap between the two of us.”
Together they set up decorating company Osborne & Little in 1968, opening a showroom on King’s Road, London, two years later. Today, textiles now account for more than three-quarters of the business, while pre-tax profits for the year to the end of March 2017 came to £73,000 on sales of £33.8m. Little retired in 2002.
Known for their statement-making wallpaper, one early design, Speed & Fury, perfectly encapsulated the late 1960s, with its pink and orange tigers, leaping through mint-green hoops, on a gold-foil background. “There was a gaping hole for somebody to supply some exciting, quirky wallpaper,” says Osborne, who is the father of the former chancellor, George Osborne.
“At the time, the alternatives were Lincrusta, William Morris… all very nice, but it needed something younger and zippier. That’s when we plunged in and did all this really exciting stuff,” says Osborne. “I’m not saying you could sell it nowadays; it was definitely of its time.”
Two stars will back dreamers
One is a 32-year-old former AC Milan midfielder and star of the Japanese football team that reached the last 16 of this summer’s World Cup. The other is a 49-year-old Hollywood star, with an estimated $260m fortune, who has featured in Independence Day, Men in Black, and I, Robot. Together, Keisuke Honda and Will Smith are launching the $100m Dreamers Fund, with Japanese brokerage company Nomura Holdings as the anchor investor (that is, fronting most of the money to get the fund off the ground). Honda said he wanted to “change the lives of people in the US, Japan and the world for the better”.
Honda and Smith, who are managed by the same Japanese company, could also personally interview those in charge of startups that may want to secure investment from the fund, The Japan Times reports. At a press conference after the World Cup closing ceremony at which Smith performed, the actor said of Honda, who has now retired from international football: “Keisuke is the truth… I like his heart. He is a really authentic, good dude.” Let’s hope other investors agree.
Making a fortune from doing absolutely nothing
After sitting through ten minutes of guided meditation called the “Daily Calm” in San Francisco, Calm founder Michael Acton Smith, 43, opens his eyes and asks, “What did you think?” One thought came to mind, says Danny Fortson in The Times: how is this start-up worth $250m? Yet Calm is on a tear. In December, it was named Apple’s app of the year.
It has been downloaded more than 27 million times, and nearly one million people pay the $60-a-year subscription for daily guided meditations, delivered via smartphones. The company has raised $27m from the likes of Ashton Kutcher’s Sound Ventures and pop star Harry Styles. “This can be the Nike for the mind,” says Acton Smith. “We see this business having tens of millions of paying subscribers, and that is a very significant multi, multi-billion-dollar business.”
Cynics might recall the Briton also founded Mind Candy, home of the children’s computer game Moshi Monsters, which went from phenomenon to endangered brand with astonishing speed. He stepped down as CEO in 2014. Still, with levels of depression and stress on the rise in today’s world, Acton Smith now has the wind at his back. The problem, he says, is our primitive survival-led brains are no longer able to cope. “This is almost like a software upgrade for our ancient brains.”
Making $1m from blogging
Texas-based Amber Venz Box, 30, started off as a blogger in 2010, says Emily Chan for Mail Online. “I was a girl who wanted to have a career from blogging, and my ultimate goals were to pay rent and wear cute clothes,” Venz Box explains. That meant persuading brands to pay her for promoting them. So, together with husband Baxter, “we created this very easy tool and said we’re going to create original content for you, and if it converts into a sale, and we can prove that, you pay us a commission on the sales that we drive”, she says.
Her business, rewardStyle, only earns when “influencers” earn – “it’s this virtuous circle where we all win together”. Today, the company works with, among others, British YouTube star Zoella, model Molly Sims, Made In Chelsea star Rosie Fortescue – and Meghan Markle before she closed down her blog, The Tig. Many of her clients now make over $100,000 a year, with a select few making over $1m through rewardStyle, which last year drove $1bn in sales to retailers, says Venz Box. “Whether people know it or not, we’re having a really big impact on the retail industry.”