Most Successful UK Businesswomen
From Denise Coates, the founder of Bet365, to Valerie Stark of Huggle, British women have excelled in business. Get to know their triumphs, challenges, and enduring legacies with this roundup of the UK’s most successful businesswomen. Some are veterans of the scene, while others bring new ideas and innovation. Either way, they all play a role in shaping the UK’s corporate world.
Denise Coates of Bet365 is no stranger to the world of gambling. Her father, Peter Coates, purchased three betting shops that grew to become the chain Provincial Racing. Denise worked in the cashiers’ department during her uni years and took on the role of accountant after graduating. She saw the power of the online world and bought the domain bet365.com in 2001.
She then launched the online betting site to great success. Bet365 leads the world of online gambling with sports betting, slots, poker, bingo, and more. Bet365’s innovations are popular among players of all levels and can be found on almost any comprehensive guide to live casinos.
Bet365 has brought Coates tremendous fortune. She has an estimated net worth of $7 billion and also runs a charitable foundation.
Emma Bridgewater is a renowned figure in the world of pottery. She owns the Stoke-on-Trent ceramics company that bears her very own name. Bridgewater founded her business in 1985 when she couldn’t find a suitable gift for her mother. The simple idea of creating pottery and handcrafted goods that celebrate everyday life resonated with her market. Since then, Bridgewater and her team have produced charming, hand-painted designs that captured British hearts and sensibilities.
Bridgewater’s goods are high quality and authentic, helping her business thrive and become a symbol of British ceramic artistry. In a country that bears a long tradition of pottery and ceramics, that’s a big deal! Her success is a mix of modern business acumen and preservation of heritage and tradition.
Bridgewater’s studio work can be found online, in brick-and-mortar stores run by the company, and through stockists that supply shops across the country with these charming pieces of functional art.
Valerie Stark is in the business of friendship. More specifically, she founded Huggle, a location-based app that pairs people—via friendly or romantic meetings—through their favourite places. She was inspired to start the app after feeling lonely in Moscow and London, despite her best efforts to build a friend group.
Huggle is one of Britain’s best social discovery apps and draws in young people hoping to connect with each other. Making friends as an adult is hard! Huggle makes it a bit easier. Start also serves on the board of the dating app Bumble and acts as an advisor for Badoo, another dating app.
Mary Perkins co-founded the British optician chain Specsavers alongside her husband, Doug, in 1984. As a trained optometrist, Mary Perkins knows eye health. However, she also understands business. Specsavers is one of the world’s largest optometry chains, selling millions of eyeglasses and contact lenses annually.
There are over 2,000 Specsavers branches and 35,000 employees, and the company’s 2020/2021 revenue report shows it made over £2.6 billion that year. As for Mary and Doug, they have a net worth of about £2.1 billion.
Margaret Barbour became chairman of the clothing firm J. Barbour & Sons in 1972 and transformed public perception of the company’s clothing. Once considered outdoor wear exclusive to dock workers, sailors, and cyclists, the waterproof wax clothing J. Barbour became a status symbol under Barbour’s leadership.
This fashionista is worth £537 million and uses much of that money for good. Barbour established the Barbour Foundation in 1988, a body that supports charities and other causes in Northeast England. It also donates to research efforts concerning chronic illness.
Moreover, with the help of her daughter, Helen, Barbour began The Women’s Fund in 1999. The fund supports benefit and social services programs targeted toward women in need. It’s estimated that Barbour has donated over £26 million to charitable causes close to her heart.
Karren Brady first rose to fame as Alan Sugar’s partner in The Apprentice. She is a big name in the football club industry, a position and distinction she worked hard to achieve. Starting in an early advertising sales role, Brady rose through the ranks to become Birmingham City Football Club’s managing director in 1933. Brady sold the Club in 2009 for £82 million and joined the West Ham United Football Club board in 2010. Brady is currently West Ham’s vice-chairman.
Brady is also the author of four books and is well known for supporting women who want to get into the business world.
This impressive line-up of the United Kingdom’s most successful businesswomen is just a tiny slice of the pie. There are so many already established names out there and up-and-coming women who are sure to pave the way for even more accessibility and equality in the once male-dominated business world.
These individuals have proved their entrepreneurial brilliance, dedication to hard work and innovation, and impactful contributions to a wide swath of industries. Whether it’s football, eyeglasses, online betting, or even ceramics, these women prove they can do anything—and more. No matter how you dice it, British businesswomen are a global powerhouse to be reckoned with.
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