Region’s entrepreneurs outshine rivals

THEY may not have been a match for Posh Spice, but Yorkshire’s entrepreneurs are still towering above most of their UK rivals.

Fourteen of Britain’s top 100 entrepreneurs are based in Yorkshire, according to an influential study by Management Today magazine, which means that only the booming South East can claim to be a stronger base for enterprise in the UK.

Spice Girl-turned-fashion designer Victoria Beckham topped the list of Britain’s 100 foremost entrepreneurs in 2014, largely due to the success of her fashion boutique in London’s Mayfair.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 32 of the top 100 entrepreneurs are based in the South East, but Yorkshire clinched second place among the regions, seeing off competition from the South West and North West, who both had 12 names on the list.

The Yorkshire names on the list include manufacturers, retailers and software firms, and they prove that the spirit of enterprise is alive and kicking in God’s Own County. By contrast, Wales and Northern Ireland only managed three top 100 entries between them,

The top 100 list is based on an analysis of turnover growth and job creation achieved over a five-year period. The highest ranked Yorkshire entrepreneur, at number 12, is Chris Edwards of discount retailer Poundworld, which has flourished in recent years as cash-strapped consumers seek bargains.

In July, Poundworld unveiled plans to create more than 4,000 jobs by opening another 150 stores over the next three years. Founded on a Wakefield market stall in 1974 by current owner Mr Edwards, the retail chain announced operating profits before exceptional items of £6.2m for the year ended March 2014, an increase of £1.6m over the previous year.

Poundworld plans to substantially increase its UK stores, warehouse and distribution capability and overseas supply chain.

At number 31 on the list is Philip Meeson, the founder, and executive chairman of the Dart Group, which is behind leisure airline Jet2.Com.

The son of an RAF mechanic, Mr Meeson always seems to have been reaching for the sky. Jet2holidays, which range from budget catering to five-star luxury hotels, has prospered during times of austerity. The firm recently added 32 new routes connecting its northern UK bases with holiday destinations in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands.

Ranked at number 44 is Andrew Vincent of Yorkshire-based software firm BJSS. BJSS specialises in software development and IT advisory services. The company works with clients in a number of markets including banking and finance, commodities, technology, media and telecommunications, retail and the public sector.

As well as its office in Leeds, BJSS has sites in Manchester, Derby, London, New York, Chicago and Houston. The other Yorkshire entrepreneurs on the list reflect the strength in depth of the county’s business community.

At number 47 are Stephen and Jacqueline Neal of Sheffield steel firm the Abbey Group, while Chris Rea of Rotherham-based AES Engineering comes in at number 59. One place below Mr Rea is Max Smith-Hilliard of meat and poultry firm Forza AW, based in Cleckheaton.

At number 65 is John Jakes of Shipley-based stairlifts firm Acorn Mobility, while Ian and Nicola Warhurst of Barnsley car parts firm Melett are ranked 67th.

Barry and Frances Dodd of Wetherby industrial firm the GSM Group come in at number 75, and Dr Keith Howard of Bradford-based academic publishing firm Emerald is 84th.

Suzanne Marshall Forsyth of York-based Phoenix Software is 85th, while John Coulter and Ann Jones of retailer Warren James are 88th. Cathie Paver of Pavers shoes in York is at number 93.

The final Yorkshire entrepreneur on the list is Stuart Lomax of engineering firm Alco Valves from Brighouse, who comes in at number 98.