Inspiring entrepreneurs in the Thames Valley

Being able to succeed in the corporate and business world requires certain skills. You need a strong work ethic, networking skills, business acumen, a problem-solving mentality, the ability to communicate well and sometimes not afraid to be ruthless.

To become a successful entrepreneur, you need all of these skills. Plus a few more. You also need vision, resilience, self-confidence, the ability to seize an opportunity and a preference to immerse yourself in all aspects of the business – from sales and marketing to finance and operations.

Outside of London, the Thames Valley is the UK’s fastest growing economy. With so much going on in the region, it shouldn’t come as a huge shock to learn that the region is a hotbed for entrepreneurial talent.

Here are just five aspiring businesspeople who have gone into business for themselves and are making a difference in the Thames Valley…

1, Sarah Jordan – SHE Underwear, Oxford

Sarah Jordan, an Oxford-based entrepreneur, has found success after founding sustainable fashion company YOU Underwear (Your Own Underwear), a fully ethical company that produces 100% organic cotton underwear for both men and women.

Sarah started the company after visiting Uganda in 2016. She was helping a local company sell toiletries when she realized demand was low due to lack of access to underwear. Her response was to launch her own online lingerie brand. For every pair purchased, two are donated to a charity that provides undergarments to underprivileged adults and children in Africa and the UK.

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YOU is currently a thriving and sustainable business that has customers in over 30 countries and has experienced significant expansion in recent years.

The company’s positive impact is what matters most to Sarah – they have so far donated over 21,000 pairs of underwear, which has helped over 7,000 girls stay in school. Sarah and YOU are currently on track to reach their goal of 23,000 donated pairs by 2023.

2, Kishore Sankla – Solutions4Health, Reading

Solutions 4 Health is a pioneer in artificial intelligence, digital health and clinical health services. Over the past 12 years, the company has grown from a humble start-up to a thriving business that helps 100,000 people improve their well-being every year. They employ over 360 medical professionals led by Founder and CEO Kishore Sankla.

The Reading-based business organization provides innovative and sustainable lifestyle and clinical services that improve healthcare for all, particularly those in critical health conditions. The goal is to help people stay healthy and continue working to prevent disease, minimize demand for hospital services and improve management of chronic diseases.

Solutions 4 Health has received numerous accolades over the years, including the coveted Technology, Health and Innovation Award from the Royal Society of Public Health, while Kishore was named CEO of the Year in Healthcare and Technology by AI Magazine.

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3, Dani Hall – Literary Gift Company, Reading

Dani Hall from Reading was running a bookshop when she spotted a niche in the literary gift market. While still working, she took £1,500 of her life savings and set up a micro-business, curating and selling book-based gift baskets. The Literary Gift Company was born.

Fast forward about twelve years and the business is booming. In 2019, it was valued at more than £1.5million. Of course, Dani no longer runs her old bookshop. Instead, she is focused on running LGC full-time.

Based on Castle Street, the company offers “gifts for book lovers, beautiful gift ideas for readers, writers and literary fans” under the appealing slogan “every gift tells a story”.

Other entries on this list may have made more money, but Ms. Hall’s story (no pun intended) is particularly inspirational. £1,500m to £1.5m is an achievement for someone in the business world who seems driven more by love than hard profit.

4, Glen Dinning – Blue Collar Street Food, Reading

Glen Dinning is a familiar face in Reading. Since 2016 he has run the hugely popular Blue Collar Street Food and regularly hosts street food festivals and events. No wonder the 29-year-old is so popular with restaurateurs in the city of Berkshire.

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Glen expanded the Blue Collar offering in March this year when he and his team opened the Blue Collar Corner on Hosier Street in Reading. The permanent ‘bar and street food arena’ is a most welcome addition to the city center’s drinking and dining offerings, and adds a bit of London flair to the ‘thing’.

5, dr Valarie Jerome – Valarie Jerome Optometrist, Newbury

dr Valarie Jerome was selected last year to be part of Small Business Britain’s #ials100 campaign, a program recognizing the work of 100 women entrepreneurs from a variety of sectors.

dr Jerome established her own practice, Valarie Jerome Optometrists, in Newbury in 2019. After the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, she offered residents of West Berkshire remote eye care and free eyeglass repairs. As an NHS responder, she also collected medicine and shopped for groceries for people home in the Newbury area.

It has been just over a decade since she moved to the UK where she worked in various opticians before starting her own business and proving to be as savvy an entrepreneur as she was an optician.

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