The Top 50 Rising Stars of 2011

When times are tough, it only takes a few stars to remind everyone that success is achievable for all. We unveil our Top 50 Rising Stars of 2011: the annual list of the UK's most exciting fast-growth businesses.

Seeking to identify the 50 fastest-growing companies in the UK, the annual Rising Stars ranking is the only such research to consider both profit and turnover growth in its assessment. The Rising Stars have combined sales of £1.4 billion, up 7 per cent on last year’s list, while total profits have reached £287 million,

As Wol Kolade, managing partner of ISIS Equity Partners and GrowthBusiness blogger, comments in his blog post this month, the Rising Stars of 2011 represent ‘some welcome light at the end of a dark economic tunnel’.

1. Cupid

Turnover: £25.7m (+202%) Pre-tax profits: £4.2m (+325%)
Internet Based: Edinburgh

It’s been a busy 12 months for the online dating business formerly known as Easydate. Beginning with its listing on AIM in June last year, Cupid has undergone impressive international development and achieved its goal of generating more than half of its revenues through overseas growth. A placing in April handed CEO Bill Dobbie an acquisition fund that led to the purchase of two German dating businesses for £2.5 million.

This was followed by the acquisition of, which took Cupid into the vast sub-continent. And its latest deal, for two Brazilian websites, is not only potentially lucrative, but also means Cupid is active in seven core international regions. Dobbie says that Cupid is now butting heads with the big online dating players. ‘A year ago we were one tenth the size of Meetic (a European dating website merged into whereas now we have increased that to one third,’ he adds. A truly impressive venture.

2. PowerPerfector

Turnover: £29.7m (+158%) Pre-tax profits: £8.9m (+197%)
Cleantech Based: London

Privately-owned green energy company PowerPerfector is playing a significant role in reducing the UK’s CO2 emissions. Established in 2001, PowerPerfector has developed technology, named voltage power optimisation (VPO), that saves energy, cost and carbon by optimising the incoming electrical supply voltage in commercial buildings. Its main feature is its ability to optimise and improve the voltage for a whole site and therefore cut energy costs.

In July this year, the company marked a significant milestone – VPO saved its billionth kilowatt of energy for PowerPerfector’s clients – the equivalent of turning off the power to London for nine days. CEO Angus Robertson comments, ‘The billion barrier outlines the pivotal role that energy efficiency can play in delivering a sustainable power supply in the future.

We have saved our clients £85 million in energy spend to date, which in the current financial climate is of great benefit.’ And the company expects to sign up more clients to the technology as the leaner economic times continue.

3. GO Outdoors

Turnover: £75.4m (+83%) Pre-tax profits: £4.2m (+250%)
Retail Based: Yorkshire

It seems there is no end to the UK’s growing appetite for outdoor adventure, and Sheffield-based GO Outdoors has capitalised on this increasingly resilient retail space. The outdoor clothing, camping and equipment retailer, which began as the Camping & Caravanning Centre in 1969, has recently opened new stores in Manchester, York and Stoke, and now operates from 30 UK sites.

In April this year, private equity investor 3i acquired a significant minority shareholding in GO Outdoors from YFM Equity Partners, which originally backed founders John Graham and Paul Caplan in 1998 when the business had only one shop.

YFM retained a partial stake in the business as part of the deal that saw 3i inject £28 million. A month later the business secured an additional £30 million package from Lloyds Banking Group.

Chief executive Graham says the business’s ‘unrivalled offering to the market’ has been the key to success. ‘Our strength lies in the fact that we’re able to cater for all levels of outdoor enthusiasts across a number of activities.’ It is now planning to build online retailing.

4. Pathology Group

Turnover: £27.9m (+94%) Pre-tax profits: £1.8m (+88%)
Recruitment Based: London

This venture cites itself as the only specialist recruitment consultancy in the world that operates in the pathology space. An extensive pathologist candidate database and the support of leading NHS consultants affords the group the means to supply the NHS with a steady stream of only the highest calibre of pathologists.

CEO Louie Evans says, ‘In the four years we’ve been around we’ve made big steps in terms of developing the company, as a different skill set is required as you grow from a small company into a medium-sized one. It starts with having a good product and being passionate about what you do, getting good people on board and seizing opportunities and gaps in the market.’

See also: Ten of the world’s most inspirational business leaders

5. Alliance Pharma

Turnover: £49.9m (+60%) Pre-tax profits: £16.4m (+90%)
Pharmaceuticals Based: Wiltshire

Acquisitions have driven growth at this pharmaceuticals company. CEO John Dawson claims that the purchase of Cambridge Laboratories in 2010 had a ‘big impact’, adding 18 new prescription products to the company’s portfolio.

The business’s expertise lies in its dermatology and urology and oncology products, which Dawson explains form the ‘bedrock’. Of the pharmaceuticals industry, he says, ‘It’s not as affected by general economic factors as other sectors and there’s a fair amount of innovation, so it’s buoyant.’ Alliance intends to remain on the acquisition path, adds Dawson.

6. Fine+Rare

Turnover: £52.8m (+89%) Pre-tax profits: £3.3m (+200%)
Sector: Retail Based: London

As the co-founder of an international wine trading business, you would think that life would be non-stop long lunches. Not so, says Fine+Rare chief executive Mark Bedini – he’s too busy winning new business.

Fine+Rare offers products from all over the world to its large client base, which is chiefly from the UK and Europe. But it is growing in the Far East where it boasts an office in Hong Kong. The business is currently seeking to attract some ‘heavyweight’ investors to continue development of its online trading platform.

Bedini credits the surge in revenue and profit last year to the ‘emergence of China as a major player’. He adds, ‘We were also coming out of the credit crunch, so on the back of the China surge there was a return to confidence in the UK and other traditional markets.’ Bedini and buyer Bud Cuchet founded the company in 1994.

7. K3

Turnover: £43.8m (+20%) Pre-tax profits: £4.6m (+45%)
Software Based: Manchester

Chief executive Andy Makeham has presided over a transformational year at K3. Following an intensive period of building its internal infrastructure, which involved some careful management team integration, the Manchester-headquartered business is fuelling growth by targeting acquisitions that will deliver more customers. It has the funds to do so – its surprisingly helpful bank recently matched a placing pound-for-pound to give the company a handsome war chest. ‘In the past six months we’ve been offered almost an acquisition a day,’ says Makeham.

8. IQE

Turnover: £72.7m (+38%) Pre-tax profits: £6.3m (+200%)

Sector: Semiconductors/Technology Based: Cardiff

The rapid adoption of smartphones has seen semiconductor business IQE achieve rapid growth during the past year. In 2009 it had to endure de-stocking in the supply chain. But 2010 saw new markets open up as 3G smartphones became widespread – IQE currently supplies chips for devices from the iPhone to a raft of Android products.

Chief executive officer Andrew Nelson says that the versatility of semiconductors has meant that IQE has been able to ride the waves of various technological surges, with its products capable of being applied in a number of different ways. With further growth now coming from tablet computers, Nelson says growth for the next year looks assured.

9. Nexus

Turnover: £32.9m (+71%) Pre-tax profits: £4.2m (+102%)
Transport Based: Leeds

Neil McCrossan is steeped in the transport sector. Over three decades he’s done it all, from being a driver at Swan National to vice- president of sales and marketing at National Car Rental. He always wanted to run his own business, though, and achieved this goal in 2008 via the management buy-out/buy-in of short-term vehicle rental company Nexus.

Since the £11 million deal (backed by private equity firm Isis), McCrossan has made two successful bolt-on acquisitions and continued to grow sales. The acquisition of FMG Support transformed the scale of Nexus and it ‘burst through the glass ceiling’, hoisting profits from £1.2 million to £2 million. One of its most recent claims to fame was supplying two caged tipper trucks for an episode of the BBC series The Apprentice.

See also: Have you ever wondered what secrets make top business leaders so successful?

10. Wiggle

Turnover: £86.8m (+56%) Pre-tax profits: £10.5m (+42%)
Retail Based: Portsmouth

In the late 1990s, during the birth of online retail, Harvey Jones and Mitch Dall quickly recognised the opportunity that the internet presented as a sales channel for cycle accessories, and co-founded in 1999.

Wiggle acquired a loyal following and within five years had a turnover of £11 million. In the summer of 2008, Wiggle started to push overseas sales, translating the website into different languages and handling other currencies.

Within six months, international sales had increased tenfold. Since then, sales have risen notably, with the company reporting a massive increase in turnover from £33.15 million in 2009 to £86.79 million in the year ended 31 January 2011. Profits have also soared from £4.51 million to £10.53 million in the same period.

11. Primesight

Turnover: £50.1m (+63%) Pre-tax profits: £5m (+121%)
Advertising Based: London

Outdoor advertising business Primesight has been operating since 1984 and boasts over 20,000 advertising boards placed throughout the UK. The purchase of competitor Titan’s roadsdie assets in September 2009 doubled the size of the business.

CEO Naren Patel observes that audiences aren’t declining in the outdoor sector, which puts Primesight in a ‘good place’. ‘Most of our energy is going into the digital space – it’s an exciting area,’ he says, explaining where the company’s focus will lie in the coming 12 months.

Internally, the business is keen to foster a culture of communication. The emphasis is on establishing goals that are ‘realistic but challenging’ and that everyone can work towards, says Patel.

12. Judges Scientific

Turnover: £16m (+42%) Pre-tax profits: £2.8m (+75%)
Sector: Science/Manufacturing Based: West Sussex

Growth at scientific instrument manufacturer Judges Scientific has been driven primarily by acquisitions, a strategy that CEO David Cicurel says is the only realistic route to achieving the £50 million market cap he is striving for.

Cicurel is optimistic that the next year will see two new business purchases, adding that there are an array of attractive targets for his venture to choose from. But it’s not all about buy-and-build.

Cicurel says much of Judges Scientific’s success can be attributed to being located in a thriving sector. ‘We are on an up escalator right now,’ he argues. The recent uplift in sales and profits would seem to add a lot of weight to this claim.

13. La Fosse Associates

Turnover: £7.5m (+129%) Pre-tax profits: £726,339 (+15%)
Sector: Recruitment Based: London

La Fosse Associates serves the technology sector and was founded by CEO Simon La Fosse in 2007. Its growth trajectory has been impressive and its plans include expanding beyond its two offices and increasing employee numbers tenfold. ‘I want to reinvest as much profit as I can in growing,’ he says.

‘The truest measure of growth for me is people.’ And to keep them happy he says that 40 per cent of the business’s equity is made available to the ‘people that help run it’. It’s this opportunity for wealth creation that La Fosse believes will sustain his venture.

14. INTO University Partnerships

Turnover: £10.3m (+71%) Pre-tax profits: £708,000 (+291%)
Sector: Education Based: Brighton

John Sykes, group managing director of INTO University Partnerships, estimates that there are four million students studying outside their home countries.

Founded in 2006 by current chairman Andrew Colin following an initial joint venture with the University of East Anglia, the business has expanded rapidly and now operates 12 university-based study centres across three continents.

He says the company’s ‘robust management’, £250 million investment in learning centres, and a global sales and marketing infrastructure has helped its growth and reputation for academic excellence.

15. Your Golf Travel

Turnover: £27m (+64%) Pre-tax profits: Approx. £900,000 (+350%)
Travel Based: London Durham

University friends Ross Marshall and Andrew Harding founded Your Golf Travel after graduating. The duo used their industry contacts to set up the golf packages business, financed by credit cards and their own ‘limited savings’.

The company boasts a high recurring booking rate, with 51 per cent of people who booked with them in 2009 doing so again in 2010. Data capture technology is now helping to target customers.

With the launch of a couple of sister companies, and, the focus is on building those brands and marketing the group of companies. Marshall observes, ‘Now our technology is more sophisticated, the future of our business is going to be technologically driven.’

16. Thunderhead

Turnover: £25.7m (+40%) Pre-tax profits: £5.1m (+76%)
Communications software Based: London

Launched in 2001 by chief executive Glen Manchester, the expansion of the international operations in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

There has been a remarkable take-up of Thunderhead’s communications platform in North America, a market that accounted for half of its revenues last year. Manchester says, ‘Becoming customer-centric is an increasingly important objective for organisations in all sectors.

Social media and mobile internet are radically changing the nature of customer communications, as well as increasing competition by enabling new business models.’

17. BrainJuicer

Turnover: £16.3m (+38%) Pre-tax profits: £2.2m (+33%)
Market research Based: London

Market research business BrainJuicer has spent the past decade building up credibility in the market, a strategy that CFO James Geddes says is starting to pay off. ‘We do things a little differently,’ he says. ‘We go beyond what would be normal quantitative research.’

With the company geared towards clients at the larger end of the spectrum, Geddes says that BrainJuicer’s progress can largely be attributed to organic growth, with offices set up in seven countries around the world. With its industry reputation solidified, the Central London-based business can now look to cash in on its hard work with consistent future expansion.

18. Skrill

Turnover: £43m (+57%) Pre-tax profits: £19m (+37%)
Business services Based: London

Launched in 2001, Skrill was the first e-money issuer to be awarded an electronic money licence from the Financial Services Authority.

Originally Moneybookers, the business has been rebranded and now counts nearly 100,000 merchants as users of its payments service, including global partners such as eBay, Skype and Thomas Cook.

The company prides itself on its delivery of full technical support, proven anti-fraud measures and reliable customer service.

19. TBG Digital

Turnover: £23.8m (+47%) Pre-tax profits: £25.4 m (+46%)
Advertising/Marketing Based: London

TBG Digital is a global marketing and technology company specialising in Facebook advertising and social media marketing.

It was founded in 2001 by Simon Mansell and now has offices in London, San Francisco, New York, Paris and Hamburg, managing campaigns for more than 90 advertisers.

Chief operating officer Kate Lavender describes the year so far as ‘insane’, and with projected sales for 2011 expected to hit £59 million (up from £24.5 million in 2010), it is easy to see why.

20. Solid State

Turnover: £21.2m (+57%) Pre-tax profits: £1.2m (+130%)
Electrical components Based: Kent

CEO Gary Marsh is proud of the performance of his business over the past year – especially the triple- digit hike in profits.

Among other achievements, the group acquired Rugged Systems – a business that supplies mobile computer, communications and display services – and this outfit is already delivering a return.

Marsh says the company is looking to build on its three key sectors of battery packs, general computer systems and the component market with some ‘solid’ projects in the pipeline. Organic growth is likely to be the way forward this year.

21. iEnergizer

Turnover: £30.1m (+42%) Pre-tax profits: £9.9m (+41%)
Business process outsourcing Based: Guernsey

In only its first year on AIM (it raised £37 million at float), business process outsourcing (BPO) company iEnergizer has seen revenues jump by 42 per cent.

The Guernsey-based outfit operates most of its business from India and has looked to grow its international client base with a focus on the US and the UK. Chairman Sara Latham says iEnergizer has concentrated its efforts on producing ‘sustained top-line growth’, while also maintaining operating margins at more than 30 per cent, which she reveals is a unique performance for a BPO company. As is the fact that almost all of the reported revenue increase has been derived from organic growth.

22. Abcam

Turnover: £71.1m (+25%) Pre-tax profits: £25.8m (+48%)
Sector: Biotechnology Based: Cambridge

Early in 1998, in a laboratory at the University of Cambridge, Jonathan Milner was working as a post-doctoral researcher when he and a number of others in the laboratory came up with the idea for a web-based antibody company of like-minded scientists. Abcam – a hybrid of antibody (ab) and Cambridge (cam) – was born.

The idea was that the company would sell the best antibodies in the world. Milner says, ‘Our business model continues to deliver strong and defensible growth and we are actively expanding our product offering to include more than just antibodies. We aim to become a world leader in protein detection and regulation.’

23. Cath Kidston

Turnover: £50.4m (+61%) Pre-tax profits: £12.2m (+130%)
Sector: Retail Based: London

Since opening her first Cath Kidston shop in London’s Holland Park in 1993, aged 34 and with a mere £15,000, the retail entrepreneur has consistently grown the brand and the business.

There are now 42 shops and concessions in the UK, two in Ireland, 15 in Japan and four in Korea. In the UK, the business expects to see continued growth in all channels, with a particular emphasis on increasing its brand presence through its retail outlets and online.

24. Inspired Thinking Group

Turnover: £12.9m (+40%) Pre-tax profits: £1.1m (+12%)
Sector: Marketing Based: Birmingham

Simon Ward founded marketing services provider ITG in September 2009. Despite only officially launching its full range of services early this year, the business already boasts an impressive array of blue-chip clients, including KFC, Marks & Spencer, Asda and Nationwide.

In June 2010, an injection of capital from ISIS Equity Partners enabled the business to complete the acquisition of Total Marketing Services. ITG has grown rapidly by using its software platform, MediaCentre, to deliver additional marketing services and efficiency gains to existing retail customers.

The business continues to benefit from a strong pipeline of new business opportunities after winning a number of significant new clients and aims to continue rapid revenue and profit growth for the foreseeable future.

25. Balhousie Care Group

Turnover: £15.9m (+25%) Pre-tax profits: £4m (+50%)
Sector: Residential care Based: Forfar, Scotland

Balhousie Care Group is the largest privately-owned operator of nursing homes in Scotland. Led by its chairman, entrepreneur and philanthropist Tony Banks, the group currently has 22 homes across Aberdeenshire, Angus, Dundee and Perthshire.

Banks says, ‘We are constantly looking at ways of developing and expanding the business, and we have new homes on the way as well as improvements scheduled for several existing ones. It’s been the hard work of our employees at every level of the business that has allowed us to be as successful as we are.’

26. Argus Media

Turnover: £41m (+26%) Pre-tax profits: £13.8m (35%)
Sector: Market data Based: London

Founded in 1970, Argus, formerly known as Petroleum Argus, had a transitional year highlighted by the appointment of former ExxonMobil executive Dennis Houston as a non-executive board director.

In a move taking the price information and market data business into the fertilisers and chemicals sector, Argus acquired FMB Consultants in what chairman and chief executive Adrian Binks described as a deal expanding the company into commodity market reporting beyond energy.

27. Andor Technology

Turnover: £42.7m (+28.9%) Pre-tax profits: £5.8m (+25.8%)
Sector: Electronics Based: Belfast

Andor Technology is a leader in the scientific digital camera market. Andor was set up in 1989 out of Queen’s University in Belfast, and now employs more than 260 people in 16 offices worldwide, distributing its products to 10,000 customers in 55 countries.

In July, Andor announced the launch of the latest addition to its New iStar range of high-performance, intensified ICCDs, a major technology used in digital imaging and the fastest of its type in the marketplace.

28. White Stuff

Turnover: £83.7m (+43%) Pre-tax profits: £15.9m (+76%)
Sector: Retail Based: London

Ski fanatics George Treves and Sean Thomas, who sold T-shirts in the Alps to fund their lifestyle, started outfitter White Stuff in the 1980s.

Since then, the retailer’s offerings have diversified. No longer an adolescent business, White Stuff has grown steadily and professionally, with 75 shops selling smart-casual clothes and accessories. Despite tough times in the retail sector, the business posted a significant jump in profit last year.

29. Mobile Interactive Group

Turnover: £78m (+15%) Pre-tax profits: £1.1m (+207%)
Sector: Technology/IT Based: London

Mobile Interactive Group (MIG) is a privately-owned UK technology company providing platforms and services across the mobile industry.

Having invested about £20 million in technology in the past seven years, the company is now seeing the fruits of its labour.

It has built a mobile payment platform, a mobile commerce platform, a mobile customer response management system, a mobile application development environment, a digital technology platform and a mobile advertising system.

Clients include Twitter, Facebook, O2, Vodafone, Sky and ITV.

30. Aconite

Turnover: £4.27m (+45%) Pre-tax profits: £670,000 (+10%)
Sector: Software Based: London

Aconite provides software products and consulting services for businesses that manage applications on chips in smart cards, tokens or mobiles.

As the phasing out of magnetic stripe cards continues across Europe and further afield, the business has secured major contracts with financial services providers in the product localisation and marketing of its ‘chip and PIN’ technology.

CEO Mike Woods founded Aconite in 2002 after 20 years of experience in the banking and retail industry.

31. Fuse8

Turnover: £5.1m (+12%) Pre-tax profits: £684,000 (+14%)
Sector: Digital design Based: Leeds

In its first year of trading on AIM, website design company Fuse8 achieved its fifth consecutive year of growth, as well as making its maiden acquisition.

The move to becoming a publicly listed company – through a reverse takeover – was one that CEO Nigel Hunter says was about achieving integrity in a market that is often construed as a bit ‘smoke and mirrors’.

32. SnackTime

Turnover: £7.7m (+15%) Pre-tax profits: £1.3m (+555%)
Sector: Food & Drink Based: Berkshire

This Berkshire-based business spent seven years as a private company before floating on AIM in late 2007. Substantial progress was made in 2010 when CEO Blair Jenkins completed the purchase of Snack in the Box, a deal that eliminated a major competitor in the process.

The recent acquisition of hot beverage vendor Vendia for £11 million has brought the company closer to becoming Europe’s leading chilled and hot beverage vending machine provider.

33. Immunodiagnostic Systems

Turnover: £50.2m (+35%) Pre-tax profits: £37.5m (+36%)
Sector: Biotechnology Based: Boldon, Tyne & Wear

IS provides innovative immunoassays and automated immunoanalyser technologies for use in clinical and research laboratories worldwide.

CEO Ian Cookson attributes the success of the company partly to the worldwide growth in vitamin D testing, which represents about 60 per cent of its total turnover. He expects the company to grow by 15 to 20 per cent in the next 12 months.

34. A1 Pharmaceuticals

Turnover: £33m (+22%) Pre-tax profits: £1.8m (+40%)
Sector: Pharmaceuticals Based: Essex

Co-founder Carmen Lewis left school at 16 with no qualifications and took a job at a local deli, a move that ignited her interest in business.

It was while slaving away at the check-out that she came up with the idea to sell own-label over-the-counter products to independent pharmacists. Alongside her co-founder (and husband) Gary, she launched A1, risking all their joint savings in the process.

With turnover now at £33 million, the goal is to double the business in five years.

35. Solar Communications

Turnover: £7.5m (+20%) Pre-tax profits: £315,280 (+47%)

Sector: Telecommunications Based: Chippenham, Wiltshire

Solar provides telecommunication solutions to businesses, including videoconferencing, networking and computer telephone integration. Its solutions help customers save money, increase productivity and improve customer service and interaction.

The company’s customers operate across a range of sectors, including health, education, legal, travel, manufacturing and finance. Chief executive Mark Colquhoun took the helm when the business was loosing money and has since turned the company around.


Turnover: £30.2m (+15%) Pre-tax profits: £7.3m (+33%)
Sector: Travel Based: London

Cheapflights, an online travel price comparison website, has achieved consistently high revenue and profits growth since being established in 1996.

Despite the intense pressure of operating in the hyper-competitive world of travel, the business has grown organically out of cash flow without external funding or borrowing. In recent years, Cheapflights consolidated its international operations and now has eight websites that cover ten countries.

37. AppSense

Turnover: £20.7m (+14%) Pre-tax profits: £3.8m (+124%)
Sector: Software Based: Manchester

It has already been a big year for AppSense. In February, following its investment in Facebook, investment bank Goldman Sachs acquired a $70 million (£43 million) shareholding in the software and services business.

AppSense chief executive Darron Antill says the business will use the funds to continue developing, having already grown its global customer base to 4,000 customers.

AppSense specialises in ‘user virtualisation’, a software/service that enables employees of a company to access work documents and programs on any desktop or mobile device.

Its clients include British Telecom, ESPN, JPMorgan Chase and United Airlines. Antill says growth will continue to rise with the increasing use of cloud and mobile device platforms.

38. CableCom Networking

Turnover: £8.2m (+2%) Pre-tax profits: £2.1m (+29%)
Sector: IT and Media Based: Somerset

Founded in 1988, CableCom designs and installs intelligent data networks, which can include cabling delivery and CCTV. It has shown significant growth in the past two years in its core student accommodation market, with its services now reaching more than 200,000 students across the UK.

Moreover, it has successfully moved into the residential accommodation market by securing a seven-year contract with the MediaCityUK site in Salford, Greater Manchester. Directing all of these advances is Mark Burchfield, the CEO who led the management buy-out of the group in 2007.

39. Access

Turnover: £28m (+13%) Pre-tax profits: £5.5m (+25%)
Sector: Software Based: Colchester, Essex

The management buy-out of consulting, software and solutions provider Access UK saw it named ‘Buy-out of the Year’ at the M&A Awards in June 2011.

The £50 million deal, which took place in March, involved the existing management teaming up with Lyceum Capital to buy the company from its founder.

The goal this year is to deliver another period of double-digit revenue growth. CTO Stuart Allsop says, ‘We’ve worked very hard to provide to our customers what they want to receive.

We’re looking to increase our organic turnover, and looking at who we can work with in the marketplace to see if there are any good synergies.’

40. YCO Group

Turnover: £27m (+9%) Pre-tax profits: £588,000 (+1,756%)
Sector: Leisure Based: London

YCO, the only UK-listed super-yacht business, has continued to grow worldwide with the yacht sales and brokerage business undertaking a restructuring aimed at improving cross-selling services amongst its subsidiaries and reducing operating costs by consolidating its board.

Its focus during the past year was centred on bolstering its brokerage arm, a strategy which began with the procurement of four brokers from a competitor. Profit has been achieved despite ongoing global expansion, with a number of new contracts secured in the past year.

41. Blue Earth Foods

Turnover: £14.8m (+363%) Pre-tax profits: £381,000 (loss in previous year)
Sector: Food Based: Redditch, Worcestershire

Blue Earth Foods supplies chilled seafood products to retailers throughout the UK and Europe. The company specialises in sourcing ingredients from responsible producers, monitoring those ingredients from source to end product in its own manufacturing facilities.

Focusing on sustainability through responsible fishing practices has enabled the business to deliver a startling turnaround, with the group moving into the black last year as revenues soared. The company also stands for ‘secure jobs’ and ‘fair wages’.

42. Gibbs S3

Turnover: £10.3m (+456%) Pre-tax profits: £488,000 (loss in previous year)
Sector: Recruitment Based: Surrey

Gibbs S3 is an IT staffing and technology resourcing business founded by CEO Farida Gibbs in 1990. It styles itself as Europe’s fastest growing IT staffing outfit, emphasising its global reach and its impressive roster of FTSE 100 clients. Like most of its peers it was hit hard by the financial downturn, but revenues recovered strongly last year.

43. Aspen Pumps

Turnover: £12.5m (361%) Pre-tax profits: £543,000 (loss in previous year)
Sector: Pump manufacturing Based: East Sussex

Three engineers who were installing air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment established Aspen Pumps in 1992. They found that, during the installation of air-conditioning equipment, it was sometimes difficult to find a route for the condensation water.

As a result, they developed the peristaltic condensate pump and from this they discovered ready-made markets for an easy-to-install, reliable condensate removal pump.

Aspen Pumps has developed a vast range of pumps, designed for all conditions and installations. The turnaround from a loss of £111,000 to a profit of £543,000 last year is most impressive.

44. TranslateMedia

Turnover: £3m (+25%) Pre-tax profits: £20,000 (+43%)
Sector: Communications Based: London

From its five offices on three continents, TranslateMedia provides professional language services to clients in a wide range of industries.

The company has built its own translation management technology to ensure that online programs and documents can be produced in a number of languages.

Led by managing director Rupert Evans, TranslateMedia recently secured a contract to supply translations for all the e-commerce websites belonging to a major clothes retailer.

Its services are supplied to customers including Sporting Bet, RSM Tenon and online hotel booking webste

45. Knomo

Turnover: £3.3m (+45%) Pre-tax profits: £105,000 (loss in previous year)
Sector: Retail/Manufacturing Based: London

A designer and manufacturer of handbags made from the highest quality materials, Knomo has reported an increase in revenue of 45 per cent in the past year and a jump in pre-tax profit from a loss of £16,000 to a profit of £105,000.

The company describes itself as a ‘techcessory’ brand that ‘fuses style with function’ in the design of its laptop-compatible work bags.

Brand manager Caroline Mackay says, ‘We are still a young company and everything, from developing our branding to finessing our product offering, takes time to perfect.

While it is an ever-evolving process, we are closer [to our vision] with our current collection and brand appeal than ever before.’

Five to watch

46. Markco Media

Sector: Marketing Based: Croydon

Markco Media is a web-based marketing and advertising company that operates a voucher and deals network. Founded by Mark Pearson in 2006, the business reports revenue of about £10 million and looks set for significant future growth with plans to launch in more European markets and in China.

47. Mind Candy

Sector: Gaming Based: London

As one of the world’s fastest-growing social online gaming companies and developer of Moshi Monsters, Shoreditch-based Mind Candy is building strongly. In less than three years, Moshi Monsters, a social networking website for children, has signed up more than 50 million children, including 13 million British six- to 12-year-olds.


Sector: Retail Based: Derby

Founded in 1997 by Paul Sisson, the business was originally a chain of 14 high street shops in Derby. In 2003, Sisson launched an online arm,, which was so successful that he sold the shops in 2006 to concentrate on the online business. The company’s sales turnover is more than £40 million a year.

49. AnyJunk

Sector: Collection Based: London

Current-year sales are expected to be around £5 million, up from £4 million last year, for the junk collection business that was founded by managing director Jason Mohr in November 2004.

The business has released an iPhone app and has gained new clients, particularly in the social housing and home renovation sectors.

50. Global Personals

Sector: IT Based: Berkshire

Global Personals owns and operates its own online dating portfolio, including and, and also partners with brands and individuals to power their own dating sites. Revenue stood at £19.4 million last year, up from £13.7 million, but profits dipped in the same period because of the fast-paced growth.

The Top 50 Rising Stars is an annual ranking of UK-based fast-growing companies reporting turnover of between £2.5 million and £100 million and profits of at least £300,000. Sectors not eligible for the Enterprise Investment Scheme, such as property investment and financial services, are excluded, with the exception of nursing homes.

All financials used are from the most recent year-end unless otherwise stated, though efforts have been made to assess the strength of the company’s performance following its latest annual report. The Top 50 Rising Stars is an independent ranking and no company has paid to be included.

Data has been drawn from Companies House and the following sources: Fame, a Bureau van Dijk product. Fame contains detailed information on companies in the UK and Ireland, with software for searching and analysis.

The AIM Guide is a comprehensive publication with details of all public companies listed on AIM* Growth Company Investor – An online investor resource for news and tips on small-cap public companies*.

Contributors: Todd Cardy, Ellie Duncan, Ben Lobel, Hunter Ruthven.

Todd Cardy

Todd Cardy

Todd was Editor of between 2010 and 2011 as well as being responsible for publishing our digital and printed magazines focusing on private equity and venture capital.

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