10 Famous Entrepreneurs in the UK

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The UK and its people have long been known for their shrewd business dealings. 

After all, they ruled more than half of the world at a certain point simply because of their entrepreneurial and mercantile prowess.

Of late, the UK is far more recognized for its writers, musicians, and actors, with the most famous businessmen usually belonging to the Famous companies in the United States nowadays. 

However, the creativity that seems to thrive within the English population has also been transformed into entrepreneurial success.

This article looks at ten famous entrepreneurs from the United Kingdom, with their presence on this list determined by their net worth and relative popularity.

Some of the names on this list may surprise you because they do not fit the mould of a generic businessperson. 

While they are not traditional business-affiliated individuals, they still have to possess the necessary qualities to make their enterprise a success.

An entrepreneur is, after all, more than someone who just came up with a winning business idea.

They also have to lead their team, know how to work with others, and share ideas to grow and develop their business.

Before, we get to the list, here are a few other lists of Young Entrepreneurs worldwide which should interest you:

a. Young & famous Singaporean Entrepreneurs

b. Young & famous  Entrepreneurs from Newzealand

c. Young & famous Entrepreneurs from Germany

With that in mind, let’s look at 10 famous entrepreneurs in the UK:

Simon Cowell

Simon Cowell - Famous Entrepreneurs in the UK

Born: 2, 1947

Industry: Music Entertainment

Net Worth: US$550 million

It’s quite rare for a music executive to become a globally recognized name. There’s perhaps just one person to fit that category, and that is Simon Cowell.

Cowell’s true rags-to-riches story begins in Lambeth, where he was born in 1959. 

He left school rather early to work a slew of menial jobs before he landed the post of postboy for EMI Music in 1980.

He quit in 1983, at the age of 24, having saved enough money to set up a record label on his own. He co-founded Fanfare Records that year along with friend Iain Burton.

Success came quickly for the music-savvy Cowell. 

The new record label landed its first hit in 1986, helping Cowell expand into a multimedia empire that spreads throughout the world with shows such as Britain’s Got Talent (with each country having its name in the title) and X-Factor.

Cowell manages his creations under the moniker Syco Entertainment, which is responsible for producing a host of shows featuring Cowell along with other famous personalities. 

He also judges various reality TV competitions, such as American Idol, with his ventures netting him a cool $95 million every year (source: Daily Mail).

James Dyson

James Dyson - Famous Entrepreneurs in the UK

Born: May 2, 1947

Industry: Home Appliances

Net Worth: $9.7 billion

Vacuum cleaners are synonymous with the name Dyson these days, and that can be attributed to the life and work of one James Dyson.

After growing up in Norfolk, Dyson went to the Royal College of Arts to study interior design and furniture between 1966 and 1970, shifting to engineering later. 

His interest in engineering made him an inventor, and he brought several creations of his to the BBC.

He carried his creative zeal onto vacuum cleaners after being dissatisfied with the ones he was using. 

The Dyson vacuum cleaner was born from that effort, with the Dyson Ball and Dyson Dual Cyclone vacuum cleaners quickly finding popularity.

Dyson’s massive fortune came from these two inventions, and he created Dyson Ltd. in June 1993 to sell them. 

What followed that was a massive fortune that has made Dyson one of the UK’s richest men and one of its most renowned entrepreneurs.

JK Rowling

JK Rowling - Famous Entrepreneurs in the UK

Born:  July 31, 1965

Industry:  July 31, 1965

Net Worth: $1 billion

While JK Rowling did not create a set of vacuum cleaners after being frustrated by other brands, she did create a magical world that has become one of the most recognizable and successful brands worldwide.

The world of Harry Potter, or the Wizarding World as it is known for marketing purposes, came from an unemployed woman’s struggle to bring her imagination to life. 

Safe to say, she succeeded and accomplished far more than she would have imagined.

The Harry Potter books have sold more than 500 million copies worldwide, while the movies based on the books have grossed more than $9.2 billion worldwide, making it the fourth highest-grossing movie franchise ever (source: Wizarding World).

While Rowling has written several other popular books, she continues to be famous for a media franchise that was responsible for introducing fantasy to millions of children worldwide.

Furthermore, in a very shrewd business decision, Rowling has made sure she owns the complete publishing rights to her creation.

Richard Branson

Richard Branson - Famous Entrepreneurs in the UK

Born:  July 18, 1950

Industry: Multinational Venture Capital Conglomerate

Net Worth: $5 billion

Born in London, Richard Branson’s story is one to retell for centuries. He is known nowadays for being the founder and CEO of the Virgin Group, which includes Virgin Mobile, Virgin Airways, and Virgin Megastores. 

However, behind all this was a struggle that has made Branson’s story a modern-day fable.

The now-billionaire dropped out of school at the age of 16 to set up a magazine, which was soon followed by a mail-order record business (records provided by courier – mail those days). 

The record business proved to be fruitful, and Branson found himself running a record store on Oxford Street by the age of 21. However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing from here. 

Branson got into trouble with the authorities for selling records meant for export and his mother had to pay his fines and unpaid taxes by re-mortgaging their home.

Gaining fame for his interviews, Branson had enough money by 1972 to set up Virgin Records, which gave the UK music scene something different in the form of the Sex Pistols. 

The world’s biggest independent record label was followed by Virgin Airways in 1984, before extending to several other businesses. Nowadays, the Virgin Empire has placed Branson amongst UK’s wealthiest.

Alan Sugar

Alan Sugar - Famous Entrepreneurs in the UK

Born:  March 24, 1947

Industry:  Consumer Electronics

Net Worth: $1.5 billion

Born in Hackney, Alan Sugar’s story is another rag-to-riches tale – which has become a theme for many of these UK entrepreneurs. 

Sugar’s wealth lies in consumer electronics, with his import and export business growing massively since he set it up in 1968.

Sugar grew up in a council flat and started working while he was still in school, spending time at a grocery store to earn some extra money. 

He left school at 16 and joined the Ministry of Education as a statistician. 

He started his business with £100, which he used to purchase and insure a van. He later sold the van to purchase a stock of electrical goods, such as car radio aerials.

Sugar launched Alan Michael Sugar Trading (AMS Trading) in 1968. He followed it up by founding Amstrad, a computer brand that he sold for $187 million in 2007 (source: Page 1). 

While his business empire has grown since then, Sugar is far more popular for being the star of the UK’s The Apprentice on BBC.

Denise Coates

Denise Coates - Famous Entrepreneurs in the UK

Born: September 26, 1967

Industry: Online Gambling

Net Worth: $5 billion

Denise Coates’ journey to financial success was quite different from what we have seen on this list. 

Entrepreneurs are usually discouraged from joining their family’s business, but Coates did just that and ended up developing it into one of the world’s most recognizable brands.

She started in the family business: a bookmaking firm called Provincial Racing. 

After working her way up through the company’s ranks, Coates quickly turned towards expansion by purchasing a neighboring chain.

However, she was convinced that gambling would soon go online. 

Coates remortgaged her betting shops in a bid to launch bet365.com, a decision that not only brought her significant success but has made her one of gambling’s most important figures.

Hundreds of thousands of bets are made on the website each year, totaling a whopping $40 billion (source: Oxford Royale). Coates herself earns hundreds of millions each year as CEO of the company.

Phillip Green

Phillip Green - Famous Entrepreneurs in the UK

Born: March 15, 1952

Industry: Retail

Net Worth: $1 billion

Phillip Green is the founder and CEO of the Arcadia Group, a retail conglomerate that includes Evans, Miss Selfridge, Topman, Topshop, Wallis, Dorothy Perkins, and Burton. 

The massive portfolio makes Arcadia one of the UK’s biggest retail players and Green one of the UK’s richest.

Born and raised in Croydon, Green left school at the age of 15 and began working for a shoe importer. The job had him travel around Europe, the Far East, and the US. 

He quit six years later and launched his own business with a £20,000 loan.

The 21-year-old’s first business imported and selling jeans in the UK market. He expanded by buying up bankrupt stock from designer labels to sell from his location. 

Green grew his business from there by purchasing several retail chains and clothing stores. Beyond his financial success, Green was knighted by the queen in 2006.

Green has been subject to a lot of controversy of late due to Arcadia’s treatment of retail store BHS.

Duncan Bannatyne

Duncan Bannatyne - Famous Entrepreneurs in the UK

Born: February 2, 1949

Industry: Health and Wellness

Net Worth: $645 million

Duncan Bannatyne has near-celebrity status in the UK, and that is something he seems to enjoy. However, before he married thrice and decided to live in Portugal, Bannatyne was born in a humble household in Dalmuir, Scotland. 

He left the school at the age of 15 and joined the Royal Navy. Soon after, he left and learned how to repair tractors as his trade.

Bannatyne has admitted to being poor; he didn’t even have a bank account until the age of 30. 

His first business was selling ice cream from a van he had purchased for £450. Success from that led to more vans, and he was able to sell all of them for £28,000. 

He invested that amount into a nursing home business called Quality Care Homes. That investment was another success, and he sold the business for £26 million in 1997 (source: Headspace).

Bannatyne then launched his health clubs, and the Bannatyne Group is the biggest independent health club chain in the UK today. Bannatyne has further invested in hotels as well, but health clubs remain his focus.

Laurence Graff

Laurence Graff - Famous Entrepreneurs in the UK

Born: June 13, 1938

Industry: Diamonds and Jewellery

Net Worth: $3.4 billion

The man behind the globally renowned Graff Diamonds was born in 1938 in Stepney, London. 

Just like many other entrepreneurs on this list, he left school at the age of 15, starting his professional life as an apprentice jeweler.

Graff followed this by getting into a partnership with Schindler’s jewelry shop. There, Graff repaired items of jewelry, such as rings.

He created Graff Diamonds in 1960, with the aim of selling his designs. By 1962, two stores were operating in London, with one of them in Hatton Garden, the center of London’s jewelry trade.

Graff attributes his massive success to how thoroughly involved he is in every aspect of the diamond business. 

Not only does he look for the best raw materials, but he also makes sure to give them everything they need to be the best-finished product possible. 

His efforts have led to Graff Diamonds becoming one of the most well-known jewelry brands throughout the world.

David and Victoria Beckham

David and Victoria Beckham - Famous Entrepreneurs in the UK

Born: May 2, 1975 & April 17, 1974

Industry:  Sports, Fashion, and Cosmetics

Net Worth: $1 billion combined

Easily one of the most popular couples on the planet, David and Victoria Beckham have come a long way from soccer star and pop star. 

8 years after David’s retirement from the sport and decades after Victoria left Spice Girls, the couple has an estimated net worth of $1 billion (source: Standard).

A lot of this comes from the endorsements the two have signed, which net them millions each year. 

However, far more important to their wealth is Victoria’s fashion empire which has seen her work with the best in the business.

David has bought his own soccer club in the US and is currently looking after his MLS-playing team. With more endorsements and investments on the way, the business portfolio of the Beckhams is only going to grow.

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