After leaving school at the age of 16 with 3 GCEs, I realised I had the innate desire to start my own business. I was lucky to have an employer that saw something in me and encouraged me to further my education by studying for an HNC in engineering. After finishing my studies and working for one more employer, I started my own business in North London.
For 35 years that was my life, 24hrs a day seven days a week. During that time,
I bought and sold several businesses, and it grew to a substantial group of companies with three divisions within the UK.
At the age of 56, I deemed it time to move on and sold the business as part of an MBO. I remain involved to this day as a Director of two of the company within the original group.
My latest adventure is in owning a cycle shop. Up to this point, I had no experience in retail or the cycling industry. What I am finding interesting is that all the basics that served me well in my primary business still apply. I have a passion for helping to maximise the potential of a business and the people involved in them. I have professional skills with People, Customer Service, E-commerce, Engineering, IT, Financial Planning and Strategic Planning.
Claire Austin is Managing Director of Austin’s Funeral Directors.
Austin’s was established in 1700 and Claire is the tenth generation to run the independent family business. Having expanded in recent years, Austin’s now operates ten funeral arrangement offices throughout north and east Hertfordshire and owns Harwood Park Crematorium in Stevenage.
Claire has led Austin’s to win thirteen business awards, including the FSB Service Excellence Award in 2012. In the same year, Claire was named National Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur of the Year.
Phil Wallace has been Group CEO of Lamex Food Group since the 1980’s and has overseen a rise in sales from
£5 million pa to over £1.2 Billion per year in his 50 years at the company.
Starting in a small office above a shop in East London, Phil grew Lamex by employing great people and opening over 20 offices around the world, importing and exporting food products in large quantities.
Lamex are now one of the largest private companies in their field in the world, with frozen fruit processing factories in Greece, Serbia and Chile adding to their position as market leaders in meat, poultry and honey.
The Company are particularly strong in the Far East, with China one of their biggest markets. Phil also has a keen interest in football and bought Stevenage Football Club in 1999 when it was close to closing due to financial difficulties.
He has since taken the Club into the EFL, upgrading the stadium along the way and adding some of the best training facilities outside of the Championship.
Stelio Stefanou OBE, DL.
Stelio Stefanou came to the UK aged six with his Greek Cypriot parents. His career in the oil, construction and public service industries culminated in the sale of his business, Accord plc in 2007.
He then established a philanthropic charity, the Stefanou Foundation, with the aim of tackling the root causes of intergenerational disadvantage affecting those without a voice or struggling to tell their story. The Foundation’s innovative programme, For Baby’s Sake, works with both parents, starting in pregnancy, to break cycles of domestic abuse and traumatic childhood adversity.
An academic evaluation led by King’s College London (published May 2020) described For Baby’s Sake as the ‘first’ to ‘fill an important gap’ inprovision through ‘unique’ features which ‘overcome key limitations’ of responses to domestic abuse.
Stelio is one of Hertfordshire’s Deputy Lieutenants and chairs the Lieutenancy Business Panel for Hertfordshire. He was High Sheriff of Hertfordshire in 2016/17. He is Vice Chairman of the UK Cyprus Enterprise Council.
Third generation Managing Director of the RO Group, a diversified family owned business investing in commercial property and trading businesses. The RO, based in Potters Bar, has been in existence for nearly 90 years and in that time has owned, backed and developed more than twenty different businesses ranging from retail to financial services, and house building to renewable energy.
As an organisation our approach is characterised by the founding principle of being ‘In business to do business’, and as such we are always enthusiastic about exploring fresh opportunities and supporting individuals / teams with new ideas that are complementary to our own experience.
Geoff Hill, owner and founder of Astute Electronics Ltd: a one-man operation in Billericay, that has become a global electronics supply-chain partner employing over 180 people across 10 countries, with a turnover in excess of £80m.
Geoff’s story began in 1989 when he identified a gap in the market to help the Aerospace & Defence industry with their hard to find components. His passion and innovation to bring customers solutions to fit complex requirements has gained the trust of the world’s largest Tier 1 suppliers.
A keen sportsman, Geoff plays golf and supports Chelsea. Outside of Astute, he supports a range of philanthropic activities including the Armed Forces Para Snowsport team and a film-project to advance understanding of Parkinson’s disease.