Everywhere you look, it seems like new start-up success stories are appearing on both online media sources and in more traditional news outlets like magazines, newspapers and television. It seems that the general public just can’t get enough of start-ups – the ‘small time idea made good’ narrative is a popular one, and with crowdfunding successes at an all time high, many people have a personal stake in a local start-up business.
A lot of the start-up success stories publicised around the world are businesses solidly rooted in technology and design – software firms, coding entrepreneurs and online crowdsourcing platforms (such as Uber and People Per Hour) that are changing the way we do business on a daily basis. But what about the non-tech start-ups out there?
There are a plethora of thriving, exciting new non-tech related start-ups who are making a name for themselves in myriad different industries. From edible treats to wearable innovations, successful start-up businesses are not limited to the technological fields. Here are just a few of our favourite non-tech start-ups who are changing the game in their chosen sector.
- Rent the Runway – When it comes to high fashion in the capital, you need to be able to keep up with the richest of the rich if you want to be considered a sartorial force to be reckoned with. As posh designer frocks and Louboutin shoes can be priced in the thousands – and even tens of thousands – there is often a financial impediment to wearing the latest looks. That is where Rent the Runway steps in – this start-up has gone from zero to over 4 million members in just four years time. Boasting a closet worth over $800 million USD, Rent the Runway raised $116 million in venture capital last year alone. Expect big things from this novel rental business.
- Boomf – You might not associate success with marshmallows, but that is exactly what James Middleton (yes, of those Middletons) has done with Boomf. He has leveraged his cute and quirky idea for photo printed marshmallows into a million+ a year company. His marshmallow empire is rapidly expanding to North America and China, and he expects massive growth over the next five years. Puffy, sweet, silly – and very lucrative indeed.
- Air BnB – Undoubtedly the Queen Bee of the non-tech start-up world, Air BnB has skyrocketed past anyone’s wildest expectations to become a leader in accommodation around the world. Founded in San Francisco in 2008, this crowd sourcing platform allows individuals to rent out their spare rooms, entire houses and even a castle or two to eager guests. Despite a few legal hiccups here and there, Air BnB seems poised to take an even larger piece of the hotel industry’s pie as time goes on and more people feel comfortable with renting from perfect – although vetted – strangers. Experts predict that Air BnB is set to grow ever bigger, and customers are thrilled to travel, save money and experience local life in a foreign city.
- Innocent Smoothies – You can’t visit the cold drinks section of a market or corner shop in the UK without noticing the colourful little selection of Innocent Smoothies and juices. From a fledgling company selling fruit concoctions at music festivals to one of the biggest British names in beverages, the team at Innocent are an example of the success that can happen as the result of one ‘Angel Investor.’ They now sell millions of bottles a year and have become the number one chilled juice brand in Germany, Austria and Denmark. With plans for expansion, Innocent has recently launched a line of coconut water and children’s juices.
- Hello Fresh – Do you fancy freshly made, healthy and innovative meal ingredients delivered to your door on a weekly basis? If you said yes, you are not alone – Hello Fresh has 250,000 subscribers across the US, the UK, the Netherlands, Austria, Australia, Germany, and Belgium. Hello Fresh delivers weekly meal kits that have proven to be a huge hit across the globe, and investors agree – Bloomberg reports that they have recently raised €75 million (£54 million) in funding from Scottish investment firm Baille Gifford, lifting their valuation to €2.6 billion (£1.8 billion). Not too bad for a small start-up launched only in 2012!
- Handy – Perfect for people who don’t really know their way around a toolbox and have no idea how to deep clean a toilet seat, Handy provides on-demand cleaning, household chores and furniture assembly. Clients can order freelance cleaners, handy people and skilled service providers to take care of the little chores they just don’t get to on a regular basis, or complete daunting one off tasks. Founded by Oisin Hanrahan in 2012, Handy is now worth over $500 million USD, and has recently rebranded and rolled out a new app.
- Birchbox – Like a child looking forward to a box of candy, women (and some men) all over the UK, Ireland, Spain, France and the US look forward to their Birchbox subscription arriving each and every month. Packed with deluxe samples of hair care, make up, skin products and other handpicked goodies, this company is gaining accolades with its subscribers all around the world. Launched in September 2010, they now ship thousands of boxes each month and are looking to expand even further.
If you are a non-tech small to medium sized enterprise, you are not alone. More and more businesses across every industry imaginable are utilising the start-up model. While some people might automatically imagine technological products and software innovation when they think of start-ups, the above examples prove that the start-up world is anything but limited to tech. Non-tech start-up businesses are lucrative, successful and paving the way for the future of entrepreneurship in the UK and around the world.