The rise of the home business

You don’t have to look too hard to find stories of great British businesses that started life from home.

Shaun Pulfrey started Tangle Teezer from his two-bedroom flat, packing the first of his globally successful hairbrushes in the kitchen with his mum.

Andrew Ritchie created prototypes of his folding bicycle in the bedroom of his flat overlooking London’s Brompton Oratory – hence the name of the company, Brompton Bicycle.

Julie Deane started her Cambridge Satchel Company from home in 2008 with just £600; now it’s a global brand.

Songkick was founded in 2007 by Pete Smith, Ian Hogarth and Michelle You in Hogarth’s parents’ attic; the three friends who thought it was too hard to find out when their favorite bands were coming to town have now created the definitive online live music resource.

When Graham Hobson started a business developing orders for prints from digital photos, it began in the family garage; Photobox went on to become the UK’s leading provider of personalised products.

When Will King first began his toiletries business King of Shaves, he filled hundreds of small plastic bottles every day with shaving oil at his kitchen sink with a hand pump.

Tiffany London started her company at her kitchen table with £1,000 of startup capital. Her luxury maternity wear business Tiffany Rose won a Queen’s Award for International Trade in 2013.

Britain’s homes are alive with the sound of business.

There were 2.9m home businesses in 2013 – that’s 59 per cent of all businesses. Put another way, says Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, “70 per cent of new businesses in the UK start from home.”

Collectively, she adds, home businesses “contribute £243bn in turnover to the economy,” accounting for £1 in every £11 of turnover.

While there has always been a considerable number of home businesses – around 1.1m have been trading for over 20 years – their growth in the numbers rising fast.

It’s estimated that there are approximately 500,000 more home businesses than existed in 2010. And increasingly, says Jones, “business owners want to grow from home too.”

From kitchen table to supermarket: home food business

“There are many fantastic food businesses that have started from home and gone for gradual growth,” says Tessa Stuart who conducts in-store product research for many successful food brands.

The Northern Dough Company started out making pizzas at their kitchen table three years ago. Now their “make your own pizza” products can be found on the shelves of Waitrose.

Chris and Amy Cheadle, founders of The Northern Dough Company

Chris and Amy Cheadle, founders of The Northern Dough Company

The Lancashire-based company is the brainchild of husband and wife team Chris and Amy Cheadle. The idea for the business came after they hosted “make your own” pizza dinner parties for friends.

Jayne Hynes, a former chartered surveyor and mum-of two, is about to launch her own range of healthy frozen baby and infant food into Sainsbury’s stores across the UK. Kiddyum was started and continues to be run from the kitchen table at her Manchester home.

Lucy Woodhouse and Merial Durand came up with a recipe for frozen Greek yoghurt lollies and took their concept to Sainsbury’s.  Claudi & Fin was stocked in 300 stores for the first time this summer.

Elisabeth Mahoney’s kitchen is the centre of  One Mile Bakery which delivers handmade artisan bread, seasonal soups and preserves within a one-mile radius her Cardiff townhouse home.

Popa Singh started Mr Singh’s Sauce in the garden shed. It has now outgrown the family shed – it is now a multi-million pound operation selling to Tesco, over 300 independent stores, and retailers across the globe – but remains family run.

The beauty of the home business: literally

Mother-of-two Fiona Wood set up Naturally Cool Kids in 2011 from her home near Leeds and in just three years has built a British-made natural skin care range that sells in John Lewis,Tesco Nutri Centre, Amazon and dozens of independent stores. With advice and support from UKTI, she now exports her products to Sweden, Malta, Gibraltar, Poland and Australia.

Oliver Bridge, a London-based Oxford University graduate, who launched his first business aged 15 (from his parents’ home), has just raised £160k to launch Cornerstone which delivers razors and shaving cream on subscription – the venture is based in a flat shared with his girlfriend.

Children: the inspiration for many home businesses

Designed by 28-year-old former investment banker Jennifer Duthie, Blackpool-based Skribbies are children’s shoes that can be customised every day. Kids can draw all over their shoes, wipe it off and draw something totally new on them.

Mum-of-three Jo Hockley, spotted a type of children’s bike on a trip to visit Belgian relatives, but could not find anything like it in the UK on her return. The ingenious German-designed product allows active toddlers aged 1-3 years old to develop cycling skills indoors and out.

Jo-Hockley 800x500

Jo reckoned the product would have wide appeal in the UK, not just for her own children. Today, Toddlebikes are stocked in independent stores as well as in John Lewis.

Ann-Maree Morrison’s three children were the motivating factor for the business and the source of the business idea. As her boys regularly lost their belongings, she decided a company producing labels for everything – rather than just clothing – would do well.  Labels 4 Kids has outgrown the home and now has an office and storage facilities.

When Sam Farmer went shopping for cosmetics for his teenage children, he hated the “pink, pouty and submissive packaging aimed at my daughter and the steel grey, macho stuff intended for my son.” He left determined to do something about it, going back to school, studying cosmetic science and formulating a unisex range, specifically for adolescent skin and hair.” His products – all made in Britain – are now stocked in SpaceNK.

Home decor flourishes as a home business sector

Victoria Cramsie got the idea for Paperboy Interiors from her two boys, makes stylish wallpaper and is building a new challenger brand to the established names such as Sanderson and Laura Ashley.

Linda Harking creates exclusive and individual bespoke text and photography wallpaper and personalised printed gifts made from her Basingstoke home.

With help from the Princes Trust, Staffordshire-based Lorna Horton  started up her own brand of printed fashion accessories featuring her own prints from original art work.

Lisa and Tida Finch, style-conscious identical twins, started making laser-cut jewellery from a living room studio shared with two friends. The young fashionistas are now selling in Urban Outfitters with pieces appearing in major Hollywood films.

Turning existing skills into a home business

Pudsey-based mum and former call centre adviser Tracey Marshall turned her embroidery hobby into Thread Squirrel in 2013, after first taking six months out to learn new skills and work out how she was going to monetise her skills. Today, the 52-year-old Yorkshirewoman’s map-inspired embroidered cushions and gifts are selling like hotcakes around the world on online craft platform ETSY and Not on the High Street.

A conscious decision to leave the rat race

Lara Young gave up her corporate life as an over-worked commercial lawyer to pursue her two passions – design and fitness. She launched GymLuxe last year and has already seen her British-made products perform at top level – on former Olympic gymnast and Dancing on Ice contestant Beth Tweedle.

Former city gilt trader Julia Hunter gave up the rat race to bring up her three children in the country.  She became frustrated with carrying her cushions in and out of the garden in the unpredictable English summer weather.  So she made some from waterproof oil skin.

All her friends wanted them as well, so she patented her secret waterproof system and set up Oily Rag.  She now supplies John Lewis and a number of independent stores.

The internet is the engine 

Stewart Rose runs his wine-related gifts online store with independent outlets across Britain and the world from a home office in Cheltenham

Diminutive optometrist Jess Jeetly is has built up an online retail store providing flattering clothes from smaller women.

Children’s author and illustrator Shoo Rayner has embraced the web from his shed, from where he attracts millions of people to his YouTube videos, drawings and ebooks.

All ages and types – the home business rainbow

Home businesses are being run by men and women of all ages. Corby Kuffour, a student at Queen Mary University, launched UK fashion sales website with two friends, running the business from respective student digs.

Melissa Mailer-Yates, the 55-year-old former portrait painter to the Queen’s corgis, is now running a company that turns Shakespeare’s characters into animated cartoons for young children. She has just received the 20,000th Start-Up Loan.

Former Exeter University graduate Ed Vickers started social enterprise Jollies Socks  – when you buy a pair of socks, another pair goes to a homeless person. Running the business from the family home, Jollies Socks are now being sold nationwide through John Lewis.

A converted garage in Dorset, former pharmacist Niamh Barker runs The Travelwrap Company around a husband and six children. The luxury Scottish cashmere travel wraps are being sold online to eight countries outside the UK and wholesale to 15 countries.

The home business that thinks big

Most home business don’t have employees but around 300,000 do have one or more employees. Many will remain modest enterprises. But others will expand – and  eventually leave home for an office.

Yet bedrooms, sheds and kitchens will always be the cradles of tomorrow’s mightiest enterprises.

After all, Jeff Bezos began a business called Amazon in an uninsulated, converted garage of his house and he built his first desks out of old doors.

Read more about how to start a home business.