Ten of Britain’s fastest-growing private companies picked up prestigious awards yesterday at our 23rd annual Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 awards, held as a virtual interactive event, with welcomes from Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Sir Richard Branson.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, surrounded by products from some of the Fast Track 100 companies, told guests via video link: “These awards are about celebrating the extraordinary contribution that entrepreneurs make to our economy. Through sleepless nights and uncertain times you’ve built your businesses from the ground up.”
Encouragingly, 80% of guests polled were very confident (42%) or confident (38%) about their company’s prospects over the next 12 months.
Sir Richard Branson, who has supported Fast Track 100 for all 23 years, congratulated the guests on their success and encouraged them to continue to do things differently: “The pandemic may have thrown a wrench into your plans but try not let it crush your spirits – you are here today because you persevered,” he said.
The Fast Track 100 ranks the UK’s 100 private companies with the fastest-growing sales. Pre-Covid-19, companies on the league table (published on 1 Dec 2019) grew their sales by between 44% and 284% pa to a combined £3bn.
Managing rapid growth, responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and the importance of culture were some of the key topics on the agenda of the founders and entrepreneurs running the UK’s 100 private companies with the fastest-growing sales who attended our virtual Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 awards event.
Guests & sponsor welcome
325 guests attended the virtual awards event, including founders and entrepreneurs from star alumni of the league table, such as BrewDog, Cazoo, Five Guys, Grenade, Missoma and Revolution Beauty.
Guests were welcomed by Juha Jarvinen, chief commercial officer, at title sponsor Virgin Atlantic, who said: “It’s fair to say we are operating in a truly different world and your recognition in the Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 league table is therefore even more impressive and worthy of congratulations.”
After an opportunity for 1:1 video networking, guests heard from Steve Hewitt, chief executive of Gymshark. The fitness clothing brand was No 1 on Fast Track 100 in 2016 with sales of £13m and valued at over £1bn in August when it sold a 21% stake to US private equity firm General Atlantic. He told guests: “If you embed a data philosophy in your business you will make better decisions. We now ban ‘I reckon’.”
They then heard from Susie Ma, founder and chief executive of Tropic, which sells its range of 200 vegan and cruelty-free skincare products through 16,000 brand ambassadors, who have pivoted online. The company has featured on Fast Track 100 for the last four consecutive years and forecasts sales of £80m. She said: “One of the skills that we have as entrepreneurs is that we move on quickly. We fix the problem, we move on, and we learn from it.”
Both speakers joined Oliver Shah, business editor of The Sunday Times for Q&A.
Guests joined small virtual breakout discussions to share their thoughts on the challenges and opportunities presented by the pandemic, with sponsor representatives facilitating the conversations.
The 10 companies singled out to receive special recognition for their achievements were:
- WhiteHat, which places apprentices with over 300 employers in the UK, including Zoopla and Facebook, has raised $20m from investors, won the Ones to Watch award, sponsored by Virgin.
- Tokamak Energy, which is accelerating the development of low-carbon commercial fusion power, won the Disruptors to Watch award, sponsored by Barclays.
- Charlotte Tilbury Beauty, which sold a majority-stake to Spanish group Puig in June in a £1.1bn deal, won the best management team award, sponsored by BDO.
- Boxpark, which has turned unused land at three London locations into retail, bar and street-food sites, making £3m profits last year, won the effective use of capital award, sponsored by BGF.
- Tropic, which has pioneered vegan and cruelty-free beauty products and is forecasting sales of £80m and profits of £17m next year, won the outstanding achievement award, sponsored by Charles Russell Speechlys.
- Cult Beauty, which grew exports 139% a year to £51m last year, driven by smart social media and demand for its exclusive brands, won the excellence in international ecommerce award, sponsored by DHL Express.
- Needle & Thread, which has tapped into demand for special occasion clothes, attracting customers in 40 countries, won the SME export award, sponsored by Heathrow.
- VetCT, which has pioneered remote analysis of pet X-rays, helping animal hospitals and vets provide a better and faster diagnosis, won the innovative business award, sponsored by The Office Group.
- Mowgli, the home-style Indian restaurant chain with 11 sites from Liverpool to Oxford, won the emerging brand award, sponsored by The Sunday Times.
- Chilly’s Bottles, whose stainless-steel water bottles are popular across the UK and Europe, and which grew sales by 284% a year to £31.2m in 2019, won the fastest-growing company award, sponsored by Virgin Atlantic.
League table award certificates
All companies on the Fast Track 100 league table, our 10 Ones to Watch and 10 Disruptors to Watch, received a league table award certificate to recognise their success.
These were shipped carbon-neutrally with the help of main sponsor DHL Express in a goodie box, with gifts from our sponsors and Fast Track 100 alumni companies: BrewDog and Cobra beer, Eden Mill G&T, and Graze snacks.
Recognising the achievements of all these companies is made possible by support from our sponsors Virgin Atlantic, Virgin, Barclays, BDO, BGF, DHL Express, Charles Russell Speechlys, Heathrow and The Office Group.
More information on the league table
The 2020 Sunday Times Fast Track 100 league table supplement will be published with The Sunday Times on 6 December, with an awards event in May 2021.
For company nominations please enter your details here
For opportunities to meet and build relationships with the founders and directors of these fast-growing private companies, see sponsorship opportunities for Fast Track 100