COMPANIES: Ink to Moonpig

Published by Directorzone Markets Ltd on January 29, 2018, 9:00 am in News, Other


Wednesday January 1st 2020

IMAGE: courtesy of Skitterphoto on Pexels


Sportswear - Online greetings cards - Travel media

- Mamma Mia! - Nursery chain -

Coffee shops


PlayerLayer £5m | Moonpig £85.8m | Ink £58m | Littlestar Services £11.4m | Kids Planet £13.1m | The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs £8m


News about 6 UK growth companies and/or accelerators + turnover in the GRID marketplace 21st – 27th January 2018:


PLAYERLAYER: Sportswear - Nottingham

Kit maker PlayerLayer at full stretch | Peter Evans, The Sunday Times. January 21, 2018

DZ profile: Playerlayer Limited

Business: sportswear business that supplies kit to clubs, schools and universities. PlayerLayer is popular with universities and public schools, where sports teams design their own kit and casualwear. It sold customised leggings in Selfridge’s during the Rio Olympics in 2016. …designs customised strips for teams including British speed skating, England lacrosse and London Blitz American football. The brand has become popular in China, where students studying in Britain return home wearing their university sports kit.

Launched: 2008

Location: Nottingham

Founders: set up by three childhood friends,

Staff: 50

Financials: In the 12 months to last March, the business posted sales of £5m.

Investment: has raised £7m to help it expand overseas. PEMBROKE VCT, a venture capital fund that has backed the CHILANGO Mexican restaurant chain and FIVE GUYS burger bars, was among the big backers in the fundraising round.

News: Joe Middleton, the chief executive, said PlayerLayer would use the cash to grow the business in Europe and China — and fuel its ambition to become a great British sports brand.



MOONPIG: Online greetings cards - London

Sales fly at Moonpig | The Sunday Times. January 21, 2018

DZ profile: Limited

Business: online greetings card retailer. Wikipedia: “…with the first profits being made in 2005. … in 2007 the company was responsible for 90 percent of the online greeting card market in the United Kingdom, with nearly six million cards shipped. In July 2011, Moonpig was bought by PHOTOBOX for £120m in a cash and shares transaction. In August 2013, a private developer discovered a vulnerability in the Moonpig API that made it possible for outsiders to retrieve the personal information of all three million of its users.”

Launched: 2000

Location: London

Founder: Nick Jenkins

Staff: James Sturrock, managing director

Financials: Turnover soared 17% to £85.8m in the year to the end of April. Pre-tax profits were up slightly to £18.5m

Investment: its first full year under the ownership of private equity firms ELECTRA and EXPONENT.

News: 2017 saw the 100 millionth order placed on the site since launching in July 2000. Growth was fuelled by the increasing popularity of its gift range, including flowers, food hampers and personalised stationery.



INK: Travel media - London

Magazine publisher Ink eyes £70m bonanza | Ben Harrington, The Sunday Times. January 21 2018

DZ profile: eSubstance Limited (Ink)

Business: a contract publisher which publishes inflight magazines for airlines including easyJet, Thomas Cook, Virgin Atlantic and American Airlines

Launched: 1994 with just a handful of small clients, including British Mediterranean Airways.

Location: West Hampstead, London

Founders: entrepreneurs and co-chief executives Simon Leslie, 49, and Michael Keating, 47

Staff: 300

Financials: Insiders claim the business generated operating profits of £7.9m from revenues of £58m in 2017, valuing the company at between £60m and £70m.

Investment: Investment firm ENDLESS paid £8m for a 53% stake in Ink in 2015. Leslie, Keating and James Campbell, the company’s finance director own the remaining 47% of the business.

News: The owners of Ink have appointed corporate finance advisers from KPMG to look into “strategic options” for a multimillion-pound sale or float of the business.




Thank you for the money from Mamma Mia! | Sabah Meddings, The Sunday Times. January 21 2018.

DZ profile: Littlestar Services Limited

Business: the firm behind the film and stage productions of Mamma Mia! — the hit stage musical that is gearing up for its second film adaptation. Since its conception in 1999, Mamma Mia! has toured 450 cities, and has been seen by more than 60m people. After its launch in Helsinki in May — where it will be shown in Finnish — it will have been performed in 16 languages. It will return to the big screen for its second movie instalment, which will see Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Amanda Seyfried reprise their roles from the first film, 10 years ago.

Launched: 1996

Location: London

Financials: Turnover rose to £11.4m in the year to March 31, up from £8.2m a year earlier. Profit jumped from £639,862 to £2.6m. Paid more than £2m to Abba’s Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson ….mostly made up of royalties, and payments for promotional and marketing work..

Investment:  Show producer Judy Craymer and her company CRAYMER EAST controls half of Littlestar and received £1.6m



KIDS PLANET: nursery chain - Cheshire

Mother knows best about nurseries | Liam Kelly, The Sunday Times. January 21 2018.

DZ profile: Kids Planet Group Ltd

Business: chain of 22 nurseries across northwest England, opening at 7am and closing at 7pm,  which will grow to 27 by the end of this year. Kids Planet has upwards of 3,000 children on its books.

Launched: 2003

Location: Lymm, Cheshire

Founder: Clare Roberts, 40, spent £1m on two nurseries in Widnes and Warrington in September 2008 with the backing of her father, John Hoban, who had recently sold his stake in Holyrood, another nursery provider.

Staff: more than 700. Kids Planet is a family affair. Roberts’s sister, Lucy Kaczmarska, joined as its early years director, having left teaching.

Financials: turned over £13.1m last year and made a pre-tax profit of £1.3m.

Investment: Roberts and her family still own the company, save for a small stake held by the BUSINESS GROWTH FUND, the equity investor owned by five British banks, which last autumn injected £10m into the company to fuel growth.


1. Roberts went back to university to study early years teaching part-time while she ran the Warrington nursery, which her eldest daughter attended.  Ofsted has recognised the quality of the nurseries she set up: following its past 16 inspections, the education watchdog has rated Kids Planet establishments “outstanding”.

2. Roberts is also trying to change what nurseries do. Last year she launched a smartphone app that lets parents monitor their child’s learning progress, “rather than just coming to parents’ evening twice a year and getting a report”.




Coffee trio perking up London’s caffeine addicts using premium brew with a phew | Laura Onita, The Evening Standard. January 22, 2018

DZ profile: Department of Coffee and Social Affairs Limited

Business: 21 coffee shops in London, Manchester, Bristol and Chicago. The coffee beans, which come from countries including Colombia, Cameroon and Uganda, are roasted in-house by head roaster Dumo Mathema.

Launched: 2010

Location: London

Founder: Stefan Allesch-Taylor, who is not involved in the day-to-day running of the business. The financier set up shop after several of his ventures, mostly in financial services, were hit by the economic crash.

Staff: 200-strong team. In 20111 it was ticking along with just two shops, in Leather Lane Market and Carnaby Street, when he passed on the baton to chief executive Ashley Lopez, who was just 24 at the time ….hails from Chicago. She had been working at Fairfax, his former investment bank in Mayfair, after having graduated from Queen Mary University with a masters in law and finance in 2010. and looks after a

Financials: Turnover should reach £8m this year, Allesch-Taylor reckons, although the venture has yet to turn a profit. “It’s growing rapidly,” he adds.

Investment: Lopez has grown the business with no outside investment. Selling out to a coffee emporium is out of the question. “Every member of staff we’ve got would resign if we did,” she says. Allesch-Taylor owns 90% of the company. This year, he wants to reduce his shareholding to 51% and split the rest with senior employees.


1. Lopez plans to open more shops at home and overseas, and expand the membership club, a workspace-cum-coffee-shop with a £1359 annual fee. There are plans to expand in America and possibly Japan.

2. In November, the firm gobbled up smaller rival TAP and its four London cafés in Wardour Street, Tottenham Court Road, Russel Square and Rathbone Place. Its parent company is DOCASA, which is listed on OTC Markets Group in New York.