This list highlights founders from across the UK and Europe who have harnessed the pandemic-driven shift in online shopping to build the future of retail and ecommerce.
In Forbes’ seventh-annual 30 Under 30 Europe list, we highlight the rising stars who have ridden a sea-change in shopping habits to build the retail and ecommerce brands of the future despite challenges faced by Covid-19.
Former Burberry product developer Jenna Meek29, teamed up with influencer Jessica Hunt25, in the depths of the pandemic to launch the beauty brand REFY in November 2020. Even with mask mandates and lockdowns, millions of customers have since bought its makeup directly from the Manchester, England-based brand or in Sephora stores across the United States.
REFY’s tight product line, which focuses on eyebrow- and lip-shaping kits inspired by Hunt’s makeup routines, proved an early success, selling out in weeks despite fierce competition from established giants and emerging brands in the beauty industry. “We will never develop anything that already exists on the market. We will never imitate, we will always innovate, ”says Meek.
Restocking as the pandemic strained supply chains proved a challenge for the brand, which now sells a product every five seconds. “We all learned so much during this time and were able to adapt our ways of working in a more efficient way whilst being able to buy enough stock to cover our sell-out launches,” says Hunt.
In the midst of this, Meek also faced having to pivot her cosmetic glitter brand Shrine, which she launched in January 2016. With festivals and concerts canceled by lockdowns around the world, she successfully refocused on stay-at-home trends like hair dye kits , selling semi-permanent dye drops in shades like aqua and hot pink.
The 2022 30 Under 30 Retail & Ecommerce list shows how entrepreneurs from across Europe have plotted their own paths as brick-and-mortar retailers struggled and digital challengers surged ahead.
Monty George25, and Dan Beckles24, skipped college to launch online furniture store Furniturebox straight out of high school in 2015. The Wiltshire, England-based pair has never taken on external investors, instead relying on savings and earnings from George’s eBay trading to grow the Habitat and Dunelm challenger.
George and Beckles’ furniture is now sold directly through their website, and via Amazon, Tesco and Wayfair, helping them hit $ 20 million in sales last year. “Being solely online we were able to operate throughout lockdowns and adapted quickly to the evolving situation,” says George.
The pandemic-driven surge in orders has also set up the next stage in the company’s evolution, helping it grow its team, sign on a new 88,000-square-foot warehouse and expand internationally.
Sustainability continues to be a major focus for these founders, who not only want to build products with a low environmental impact but also want to extend the lifespan of goods already in the ecosystem.
South Africa native Georgie Hyatt, 28, and her cofounders have raised $ 2.3 million from investors for their play on the booming fashion rental business. Their London-based Rotaro works with consumers and brands to rent and resale clothing and has partnered with tree-planting program Ecologi to offset the impact of its operations.
The circular economy continues to grow in unexpected areas like kids’ bikes thanks to the work of founders like Alexandra Rico-Lloyd26. The mother of three set out to address a common frustration for parents when faced with her children quickly outgrowing their expensive bikes. Now Bike Club, which was launched out of Rico-Lloyd’s London apartment in 2016, has 40,000 monthly customers and partnerships with department store John Lewis.
While as in many booms, those selling the shovels to enable the growth of other retail brands have prospered. High-school dropout Oliver Edholm, 19, has raised $ 20 million from top-tier investors like EQT Ventures and Tiger Global in just two years for Stockholm-based Depict, which helps smaller online stores compete by offering Amazon-style product recommendations to customers. Traditional brick-and-mortar businesses like bakeries have also received a helping hand in launching subscription and delivery plans thanks to London-based founders Alex Zhou27, and Lorenzo Sani24, or Shopscribe.
This year’s list was compiled by Europe news editor Iain Martin; Isabel Lord, assistant editor; and Katherine Love, senior manager of editorial operations. Hundreds of nominations from industry experts, and the Under 30 alumni network were reviewed to make a shortlist. The finalists were selected with the help of our judging panel that included Maria Raga, CEO of fashion marketplace app Depop; Midas List Europe investor Frederic Court, founder of Felix Capital; and Milan Daniels, cofounder of online fashion outlet Otrium and 2019 30 Under 30 Europe alum.
For a link to our complete Retail & Ecommerce list, click hereand for full 30 Under 30 coverage, click here.
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