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LDC reveals winners of the 2021 Top 50 Most Ambitious Business Leaders programme

13 Oct 2021

The LDC Top 50 Most Ambitious Business Leaders programme seeks to uncover the UK’s most exceptional entrepreneurs and there has never been a better time to celebrate the mid-market.

The 2021 programme, which is now in its fourth year and supported by The Times, received more nominations than ever before this year and the judging panel had the difficult task of trimming 50 finalists down to just eight award winners.

First up is the Most Ambitious Business Leader of 2021 – Emilie Vanpoperinghe, founder of Oddbox. Emilie founded Oddbox with her husband in 2016 to tackle global food waste and since then the company has grown to deliver more than three million boxes of surplus, unwanted or misshapen fruit and vegetables to customers across the UK.

The judges commended Emilie for not only growing a business that is creating jobs and generating economic value, but for rapidly building a brand that is committed to tackling food waste – one of the biggest contributors to climate change. It is Emilie’s ambition to save 150,000 tonnes of produce by 2025.

Rob and Mart Drake-Knight, founders of Isle of Wight-based Teemill, won the Sustainable Impact Award for creating a circular economy for T-shirts. Their business model ensures that every item is returned at the end of its life and turned into a new top, meaning there is zero waste.

The Innovation Award was won by coder-turned-entrepreneur Praveen Karadiguddi, founder of software company Scrumconnect. The judges were impressed by Praveen’s ability to create ambitious technology projects in weeks, not years, and for building a culture of intensive improvement that ensures freelancers always have the most relevant technical skills.

Next up was the People First Award, which was awarded to Andy Gough, CEO of North East-based eQuality Solutions. Andy was recognised for his ambition to “keep removing barriers in education, employment and life”, and for building a company that gives those with mental health issues or disabilities access to life-changing support to help them succeed in higher education.

Rod Neale, founder of Circular Computing, was difficult to beat for the Green Disruptor Award. His company takes old laptops and turns them into remanufactured ones that offer 97 per cent of the performance of a new device for a fraction of the carbon footprint or cost. His pioneering business is creating a sustainable solution to the world’s growing e-waste problem and he has the capacity to make 10,000 laptops a month.

Former TV presenter Trinny Woodall picked up the Digital Disruptor Award for her online make-up brand, Trinny London, which has become a global e-commerce business in just four years. The judges praised her ecommerce nous, which has helped the business grow 1,300 per cent over the past three years.

When it comes to international expansions, the judges recognised Chris Bagnall, founder of global media agency Transmission, as the winner of this year’s International Ambition Award. Chris launched offices in San Francisco, Singapore and Sydney in 2019 and Transmission now has 12 offices around the world, helping clients such as Microsoft and HP to sell in complex markets, such as China and India.

And finally, the One to Watch Award, which recognises the leader destined for great things, was awarded to Dr Eric Mayes, CEO of Endomag. Eric is on a mission to improve the standard of cancer care by providing patients with more accurate, convenient and less expensive solutions for diagnosis and treatment.

This year’s programme has shown the determination and ingenuity of business leaders across the country, and the judges noted that many of this year’s Top 50 demonstrated ambition beyond their own ventures; they wanted to make a bigger impact, be that environmental or social.

John Garner of LDC said: “It’s good to see that the challenges of the last 18 months have not dampened the dynamism and entrepreneurialism of the UK’s business leaders. They’ve shown innovation across all areas, proving that difficult times are a catalyst for adaptation and new opportunities.”

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The mid-market is the backbone of the UK economy, and having backed the ambitions of British businesses for more than 40 years, we know just how important it is to celebrate the individuals behind these firms. I’d like to congratulate all of the Top 50 for 2021, especially our award winners, as they show exactly what Britain’s entrepreneurs and business leaders are capable of.”
John Garner
LDC

You can find out who features in this year’s Top 50 and read more about their stories of resilience, strategic excellence and export success here.