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Reaching for the Starlings: 15 social entrepreneurs to watch in 2021

More and more entrepreneurs are setting their sights on purpose-driven businesses to drive a real change in the world or society. They’re either charities, social enterprises or traditional for-profit businesses with ethical values at the heart of what they do. 

In partnership with Starling Bank, the Reaching for the Starlings campaign shines a spotlight on exciting entrepreneurs making waves in their industry in the UK. Here are our 15 social entrepreneurs to watch in 2021.

Sophie Slater & Susanna Wen - Birdsong London

Sophie Slater and Susanna Wen run Birdsong London, an ethical and sustainable fashion brand launched by Sophie in 2014. The clothing is designed for ‘women who dress in protest - against the fast nature of fashion’. The fabrics used are sustainably sourced, while all staff are paid a London Living Wage. Birdsong also publishes impact reports and transparency figures, outlining what it costs to create its garments.

Marika Chaplais - Breadwinners

Marika Chaplais is the founder of Breadwinners, a grassroots charity making and selling artisan bread and baked goods to provide employment and training for refugees and young people seeking asylum. Breadwinners operates an online delivery service and appears at farmers markets across London, offering customer-facing training and IT skills.

Kike Onwinde - BYP

Kike Onwinde is the founder of the Black Young Professionals Network, a group with over 50,000 members designed to connect people and provide career opportunities for black professionals. They also seek to improve black role model visibility and work with corporates to tackle racial bias in recruitment.

Ashleigh Ainsley & Dion McKenzie - Colorintech

Ex-Googler and former Silicon Valley executives, Ashleigh Ainsley and Dion McKenzie are the founders of Colorintech, a non-profit built to ‘make Europe the most inclusive tech hub in the world’. Colorintech offers programs that create pathways into the UK’s tech industry. To date, more than 1,200 people have graduated its programs, 84% of which are from a BAME background.

James Boon - Elephant Branded

James Boon is the founder of Elephant Branded, a brand that recycles cement and rice bags into holdalls, satchels and laptop bags. For each purchase, Elephant Branded donates a school bag and equipment to a child in Africa or Asia. It also employs impoverished local villagers to source and make the bags, paying a fair wage and teaching valuable skills to help them out of poverty.

Comet Chukura - Glow and See

Comet Chukura is the founder of Glow and See, a non-profit brand of hi-vis designed activewear. Working with women from BAME or refugee backgrounds who have trouble accessing the labour market, Glow and See creates knitted hats, scarves, snoods and headbands that use glassfibre yarn which reflects light at night. It also uses ethically and sustainably-sourced mulesing free wool.

Amy Buck - Honu

Amy Buck is the founder of Honu, a range of ocean-themed jewellery made from recycled sterling silver. Honu was founded with one mission; to help save endangered sea turtles from extinction. The brand is partnered with the Sea Turtle Conservancy, donating more than $50,000 over three years to fund vital research.

Blue O’Connor - Kings

Blue O’Connor is the founder of Kings, an ethical aftershave fragrance and grooming brands on a mission to inspire and empower men to live healthier and happier lives. All of its products are registered by The Vegan Society, Cruelty Free International and PETA approved. It also funds men’s mental health projects and tackles toxic stereotypes on masculinity, and has co-created over 30 different ‘Talk Clubs’.

Tessa Jennett & Angie Kalou - Lemonade

Tessa Jennet and Angie Kalou are the co-founders of Lemonade, a collection of programmes designed to help young people understand and manage their own mental wellbeing. Lemonade offers 1:1 coaching and workshops that help to develop emotional skills like reflection, self-expression, compassion and resilience.

Jess Thompson - Migrateful

Jess Thompson is the founder of Migrateful, a provider of live or face-to-face award-winning cookery classes taught by expert refugee and migrants chefs. Migrateful has a roster of migrant chefs from 25 countries around the world teaching delicious and authentic recipes and cooking techniques.

Cat Divers - My Pickle

Cat Divers is the founder of My Pickle, a quick and easy way to source support and information on a host of different issues from finances and work to family and bereavement. It has created and maintains a central, publicly sourced and “carefully” vetted database of national support options and inspiring stories.

Dr Kyle Grant - Oxwash

Dr Kyle Grant is the founder of Oxwash, a re-engineered laundry and dry cleaning service that offers net-zero impact washing. Operating in London, Oxford and Cambridge, Oxwash’s innovative technology recycles the water it uses between washes to reduce water consumption and prevent more than 100 million plastic microfibres entering the ocean per day. It also uses electric cargo bikes to offer a flexible, on-demand service that reduces carbon emissions.

Pia Fontes & Benedict Wintour - Steel Warriors

Pia Fontes and Benedict Wintour are the founders of Steel Warriors, a charity that melts down knives confiscated off the streets and recycles them to create outdoor community gyms. Currently with three in London, each outdoor gym’s location is decided based on local knife crime statistics, the availability of free outdoor spaces and gang-neutral zones.

Ella Shone - TopUp Truck

Ella Shone is the founder of TopUp Truck, a mobile zero-waste shop based in Hackney. Using an old electric milk float, the TopUp Truck visits neighbourhoods, allowing people to purchase sustainable, vegan-friendly and plastic packaging-free products from laundry detergent to pasta and cereals.

Aaron John & George Metcalfe - Tranquiliti

Aaron John and George Metcalfe are the founders of Tranquiliti, a platform that uses advanced technology to assess school pupils’ mental wellbeing to create a more connected and positive educational environment. The app asks students to take 5 minutes a week to answer some questions about how they’re feeling and develops a holistic understanding of their wellbeing.

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