Young Guns in business shooting for the top - do you know one?

Young Guns – go for it!

Monday, 7th December 2015, 2:39 pm
Howard Freeman and Marie Cooper, business person of the year 2015

If you can remember the classic 1983 track by pop legends Wham! you’re too old to be in our new list of the best young bosses.

We are launching a hunt for the region’s Young Guns – the precocious, talented few who are successful beyond their years. The ones with the determination, resilience, energy and pluck to succeed at one of the most difficult jobs there is.

Richard Mills

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They are turning dreams into reality and doing it very well indeed – creating wealth and, crucially, jobs.

The search comes just days after a strong showing by youthful leaders in The Star’s Business Awards. But we need YOU to make it complete – if you know a young commander of a rocketing firm get in touch!

The full list will be included in The Star’s bumper annual supplement Business Survey on Wednesday, January 20.

Emma Killilea, founder of Delicious Alchemy in Sheffield

But first, here’s a taster of the ‘Young Un’s’ doing the business, starting with Marie Cooper, aged 39.

Marie is finance director at cryogenic valve manufacturer Parker President in Sheffield. She won Business person of the year at the Sheffield Business Awards last week. Her firm also won the excellence in manufacturing award and the outstanding business of the year.

Marie was recruited as finance manager 10 years ago, just after a major restructuring programme. She stepped up and led the department so well she was asked to become one of three directors at what was then the Flow Group that spearheaded a management buyout of sister companies, Bestobell and Conflow, to form President Engineering Group Ltd. She continued developing the business, introducing a dedicated PR agency to raise its profile and entered and won a number of awards, including ICAEW young finance director of the year 2013 and the ultimate business honour – a Queen’s Award for International Trade 2015.

She is also an ambassador for the Cutlers’ Company and has mentored Bradfield High School who won the innovation award at the Get up to Speed event for teenagers.

Hayley Gillbard, managing director of Crystal Clean Service Ltd., outside the firm's new premises.

Inventor Richard Mills is losing count of his awards after developing two, completely new, hi-tech health devices.

The Sheffield-born businessman, aged 42, was showered with honours after developing the Swellaway, a computerised device to beat swelling. It is so good Manchester United star Wayne Rooney has ploughed hundreds of thousands of pounds of his own cash into it.

But that wasn’t enough for Richard who can’t rest if a problem needs solving. An insomniac for years, he has just launched the ‘SleepCogni’ to combat sleep deprivation. It won best use of technology at the Sheffield Business Awards last week.

Again, big names have endorsed it, this time Heaven 17 star Martyn Ware.

Ashley Tate, founder of Fit Property and Split The Bills

The device, which features a hoop on an arm over the sleeper, produces sounds – developed by Martyn – and light patterns designed to send people to sleep. It also monitors heart rate, mental alertness, skin temperature and movement.

Richard also has the backing of international sleep expert and founder of the London Sleep Centre Dr Irshaad Ebrahim – who said he gave SleepCogni his backing “within minutes”.

Richard said: “SleepCogni actually desensitises the user through a mathematical sequence of sound and light patterns that use the opposite wavelengths to those that normally stimulate you. NASA has recently used the same LED technology on the international space station, which helps astronauts differentiate between day and night.”

Back it on crowdfunding website Kickstarter now. SleepCogni goes on general sale in August.

Emma Killilea turned a debilitating condition into a money-spinning company which has just opened its own factory in Sheffield.

The 43-year-old is an extreme coealiac who risks being hospitalised by contact with gluten, a protein found in wheat.

Master Cutler Craig McKay

She set up Delicious Alchemy to make gluten-free food which opened a £350,000 facility on Atlas Way, Brightside, earlier this year.

It was the culmination of nine years of hard work for Emma. The company, which employs 32, also has a head office and food labs in Canada House on Commercial Street in Sheffield city centre.

Craig McKay could not have been more surprised than if Alex Ferguson had asked him to play for Manchester United.

But here he was, the 37-year-old boss of steel products firm Evenort, being asked to be Master Cutler, the head of the historic Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire.

Naturally he said ‘no’. The job involves a year leading the 390-year-old organisation, whose members manage the Premier League of manufacturing firms in Sheffield City Region, employing tens of thousands of people and collectively turning over billions.

As ambassador for industry, it includes lobbying government, encouraging youngsters into the sector through an education programme and raising thousands for charity.

It also involves up to 500 appointments, speeches, factory visits, openings, meetings, events and many, many dinners up and down the country.

Which might sound like a perk until you have to do 13 in a row.

It’s a year out of the day job running your company and it’s self-funded, with the incumbent paying all travel and accommodation expenses and a host of other costs.

So, perfectly understandable he should refuse the honour – initially. Craig, now 45, relented and eight years on he has just been elected Master Cutler – one of the youngest ever.

Ashley Tate left school aged 16 and set up a student lettings company, Fit Property, which is still going strong.

But it is his second company that is really making waves.

He set up Split the Bills in 2011 while living with friends in a student house – today it has 40 employees and 15,000 customers.

Ashley, aged 27, set up a scheme that makes it easy for people living in a shared house to pay utility, broadband, television licence and satellite bills.

He said: “It’s not that I have a talent for organising payments, it’s just I found it a hassle when I was sharing a house and I looked for a way to fix it.”

The company, on Arundel Street, Sheffield, takes a flexible approach to payments if people are waiting for a student loan.

Hayley Gillbard set up Sheffield cleaning company Crystal Clean Service when she was 18 – seven years later she has 65 employees.

The firm has been so successful that it moved to some bigger premises in Neepsend in the summer.