Insider's annual focus on the people who will be shaping the future of business in Scotland over the next 25 years
Ali Smeaton (30), director, AFG Media
Fraser Smeaton (32), commercial director,
AFG Media Gregor Lawson (33), owner, AFG Media
AFG launched in May 2009 selling a range of five single-coloured spandex body suits online - the company now sells 75 different designs, supplies costume retailers worldwide and is on track to sell more than 700,000 Morphsuits in 2011/2012, making it the most popular costume in the world.
The enterprising trio have put their backgrounds in marketing and finance to good use, chalking up almost one million Facebook fans to date and going from £3000 investment to forecast turnover for the 2011/2012 financial year of £11m in just three short years.
Their ultimate ambition for the firm is to become "the Proctor and Gamble of fancy dress" with a portfolio of global novelty brands.
Ali is inspired by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, while Lawson cites his dad as his mentor, saying he helps with decision-making, always gives candid feedback and provides "a kick up the arse when needed".
Favourite quotation: F Smeaton: "Life is a game of inches" - Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday.
Olympic/Commonwealth event: A Smeaton: "4 x 100m relay as if the other three guys were good enough it could be the only event id be competitive in."
Lawson: "100m. It's the big one and I'd love to follow in Alan Wells' footsteps."
Paul Bodger (39), managing director, Anytime Leisure and Cardinal Sports
If you watch Big Brother you may have seen the housemates using gym equipment supplied by Bodger's Edinburgh-based company. Bodger was a sports and fitness equipment sales rep in his native New Zealand before coming to the UK in 1998. He had always admired family friends and then his own employers who built and ran their own businesses and ten years later set up Anytime as a distributor for Star Trac Fitness equipment focusing on the Scottish market.
Last year the father-of-three acquired Cardinal Sports to increase his portfolio to include sports clothing and accessories.
Turnover is set to exceed £4m and the company, which employs 20 staff, is expanding into Ireland.
Favourite quote: "If you wake up in the morning and feel on top of things go back to bed until it passes."
Steven McLeod (36), founder and chief executive, Aurora Hotel Collection
Stirling boy McLeod started out at the tender age of 14 as a dishwasher and kitchen porter at a local hotel before going on to qualify in hospitality and hotel management at Edinburgh's Queen Margaret University.
From there his career took him to Dunblane Hydro, St Andrews' Old Course Hotel and the Stirling Highland before he joined Macdonald Hotels, where he became the youngest hotel manager in the group. His achievements were recognised in 2000 when he won a coveted Acorn Award from Caterer & Hotelkeeper magazine.
He struck out on his own in 2005 with the purchase of Airth Castle, the first of five properties currently operating within the chain. Last year saw him take over Solsgirth House near Dollar, and two more five-star venues - the Cairn near Auchterarder and The Colessio in Stirling - are due to open in 2012.
McLeod is still on the acquisition trail and has some deals in the pipeline which should help him achieve his ambition of reaching 20 luxury properties in his portfolio.
In his downtime he likes to spend time with his partner and his horses.
Olympic/Commonwealth event: "I would be an international show jumper - risky, competitive, adventurous and, of course, looking elegant all the way!"
Dr Rita Ahmad (35), founder, Bath Street Dental
Ahmad's burgeoning chain of surgeries started with her purchase of the struggling 100-year-old Bath Street private dental practice in Glasgow in 2003 and now numbers six with a further four NHS dental surgeries as well as Bath Street Beauty, which provides cosmetic enhancement treatments and cosmetic dentistry. The group turns over more than £2m a year and employs 45 people. Ahmad's long-term goal is to grow the portfolio to around 12 dental practices and "breathe life back into old struggling practices to provide patients with excellent standards of care in modernised practices".
The Scottish Asian Business Awards 2010 entrepreneur of the year dedicated her award to her late grandfather, Dr Mohan Lal Poddar, who taught her "to be humble, hardworking and to respect every person and that life and the business world would reward me".
That respect for people is evident in Ahmad's membership of the Scottish Women's Circle, a group dedicated to campaigning, raising funds and focusing attention on countries where violence against women is still encouraged.
Fiona Pratt (42), founder, Bibi's Bakery
Pratt's decision to start her own business was made easier after three years of commuting from Fife to her sales team leader job in Edinburgh. Coming from a family of self-employed people, she realised that if she was going to do something different she couldn't do it working for someone else. While running four gift shops, including a café, she noticed the success of cake sales and spotted a gap in the market.
Bibi's Bakery - which is based on the ethos of freshly baked, handmade cakes made from natural ingredients - was born and now has three outlets in Aberdeen, St Andrews and Edinburgh.
Mother-of-four Pratt is looking at the possibility of developing a franchise operation and is continuing to develop the business' web presence. She is also hoping it will be third time lucky at the 2012 National Cupcake Championships - Bibi's has been a finalist twice in past years but has yet to claim the top prize.
Joe Tree (40), founder and CEO, Blipfoto.com
Tree's early career saw him involved in various aspects of the media and he went on to start his own digital design agency in 1995, which operated successfully until BlipFoto took offand took over in 2011. Its premise is simple - take one photo a day and share it with the world. It now boasts a community of tens of thousands of users and reaches more than a quarter of a million casual visitors each month.
Two years ago Blipfoto was little more than a hobby for Tree and two work colleagues. The turning point came when it won a BAFTA Scotland award in late 2009 - on the bus home from the ceremony they took the decision to devote themselves to it full time. Since then the business has raised investment; built a scalable business model; created a range of exclusive print on-demand products; and increased its audience by more than 600 per cent.
In his downtime Tree spends time with his five-year-old daughter, tries to cycle a few times a week and also takes "the odd photo or two".
Olympic/Commonwealth event: "I'm going to say rowing, because it's a bit like working in a start-up - you're all in a boat which could sink at any moment, exerting masses of energy and relying on one person to steer you in the right direction. But my real answer is beach volleyball."
Dominic Jack (36), chef patron, Castle Terrace Restaurant
Jack is a recent addition to the elite band of Scottish chefs in possession of Michelin stars - there are currently only 16 across the country.
He is far from a novice, however, having started his career at Gleneagles and worked in various Michelin-starred kitchens in Haslemere and France before being headhunted in 2005 to become chef de cuisine at Istanbul's Swissôtel. He returned to Scotland in 2008 to work alongside old Gleneagles colleague Tom Kitchin in his eponymous Leith restaurant before opening Castle Terrace in July 2010.
The restaurant's 'from nature to plate' philosophy showcases Scottish produce which Jack treats with the precision and attention to detail learned during his time in France.
Gaining a Michelin star within eighteen months of opening and adding Most Innovative Restaurant of the Year and Scottish Restaurant of the Year at the 2012 Scottish Restaurant Awards to last year's Newcomer of the Year gong all shows he's achieving his ambition of pushing the boundaries of fine dining.
Out of the kitchen he loves spending time with three-year-old son Oscar and the rest of the family.
Favourite quotation: "Home sweet home."
Craig Clark (38), CEO, Clyde Space
Clark founded the Glasgow-based miniature spacecraft systems supplier in 2005 after spending 11 years working for Surrey Satellite Technology. He had worked on over 20 missions, mainly in the design and build of small satellite power systems, before going it alone.
His company pioneered the online spacecraft shop on which you can buy a satellite with your credit card and it is currently developing an advanced nanosatellite platform called UKube-1 which will be Scotland's first satellite and is due for launch next year.
His customers include international universities, commercial companies and government organisations. Some 80 per cent of its sales are outside the EU and over 95 per cent are outside the UK. The company now employs 20 staff and Clark wants to grow it into the leading nano-spacecraft company in the world.
Favourite quotation: "Imagination is more important than knowledge - Albert Einstein."
Rae Younger (33), managing director, Cognity
As a ten-year-old Younger was inspired by an uncle who gave him some huge boxes of bits and bobs including old radios, motors, gearboxes, aero parts, Meccano and engines - he spent whole summers taking things apart, fixing them and tinkering. That set him on the path to engineering and a degree in mechanical engineering with computer aided design at Aberdeen University.
His first role after graduation with SPS International (now MI Swaco) was as a trainee design engineer designing downhole tools and wellbore cleanup equipment, which saw him put to work in the workshop stripping, cleaning and rebuilding tools. That gave him an in depth understanding of tools and he quickly learned the importance of good design.
No doubt those experiences have played a part in him doubling turnover at mechanical engineering design consultancy Cognity and growing from a single staff member to eleven employees since launch in June 2010.
His interest in shooting, mountain biking and cars and spending time with the family helps him unwind.
Favourite quotation: "Quality means doing it right when no one is looking" Henry Ford
Kenny Murray (36), managing director, Coretrax Technology
Murray left school at fifteen and started out as a yard boy for an oilfield rental company before moving into nondestructive testing and then going offshore to work on drilling rigs. Back on dry land he started at the bottom once more as a workshop hand for an oilfield service company, progressing through various roles before moving into global sales.
Evidently no stranger to hard work, that stood him in good stead when Coretrax Technology, which provides oilfield services to the completion, cementing, abandonment and wellbore clean-up oilfield sectors, opened its doors in April 2009 - Murray was the driver, tool technician and salesman all rolled into one. The load is now spread across twelve employees, with a view to that doubling in the next twelve months. Turnover is forecast to be £3m to £4m this year and global expansion is on the cards.
Recent months have seen the firm's stock increased to more than 1000 tools and it has introduced an R&D department and a graduate scheme to try to introduce more young people to the industry.
Olympic/Commonwealth event: "High diving, it looks like fun."
Patrick Gilmour, production director, DipNation
Jeremy Williams, commercial director, DipNation
Juliet Williams, sales and marketing director, DipNation
Jeremy and Juliet Williams had been inspired by the variety of dips available abroad and decided they could offer something new in the UK. So they brought in Juliet's brother and chef Patrick Gilmour to create the recipes. They launched the Fife-based business in 2009 and now supply their products to farm shops, delicatessens, garden centres and Tesco stores.
The company produces a range of dips that use an imaginative mix of fresh ingredients. Within its Chunky Dip range it combines dairy with nuts creating not only unusual flavours but a unique chunky texture making it different from anything else currently on the UK market.
The company plans to grow through both increasing its distribution and through the launch of new products.
Brian McNicoll, (30), founder, Dynamo Games
McNicoll launched Dundee-based game developer Dynamo Games in 2004. Three years later it won a prestigious Scottish BAFTA trophy when its mobile phone version of Championship Manager, the football management simulator, was voted the best interactive title.
It has expanded beyond the hand-held gaming space into the world of online social gaming and released its first fully-owned Soccer Tycoon game onto Facebook in 2010.
Last year it launched Beauty Town based on themes and advice offered in Channel 4 lifestyle shows and targeted to promote positive body image amongst women around the world.
Dr Richard Tipper (48), CEO and co-founder, Ecometrica
Gary Davis (32), operations director and co-founder, Ecometrica
Tipper and Davis had both worked in environment-related organisations before they founded Ecometrica in 2008. The former worked on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change before founding a business providing advice on greenhouse gas management, land use and forestry. The latter was one of the UK's first greenhouse gas analysts. Ecometrica started life as a specialist consulting firm in greenhouse gases and has successfully evolved into a fully fledged environmental software company offering intelligent software to clarify environmental impacts. Their ultimate ambition is to allow everyone to account for their greenhouse gas emissions accurately.
The business employs 20 people and is looking to international growth. Since 2008 it has had an office in Canada and while it has been slow to take offthey say it is starting to see very positive signs.
Olympic/Commonwealth event: (Tipper): "Cycling, for the speed."
Olympic/Commonwealth event: (Davis): "Table tennis because it is awesome."
Martin Hutchinson (29), managing director, Equip4work
Hutchinson's Dumfries-based online and mail order business supplies office furniture, lockers, cupboards, and shelving.
Founded in 2004, the company - which involves five other members of Hutchinson's family - has two distinct channels for B2C and B2B customers. Its aim is to supply everything a business would need to operate from office furniture, warehouse and workshop products, to health and safety and cleaning equipment.
The company has more than 100 delivery vehicles operating throughout the UK every day.
Emily Walters (29), director, EWMultimedia
Walters changed tack somewhat after studying physical science and engineering at Dundee University and spending some time working in film. Just six months after her 2006 graduation she established web management consultancy EWMultimedia in response to growing demand for affordable, engaging websites that improve the online experience and increase revenues.
The company offers ecommerce, competitive intelligence, search engine optimisation, social media and monthly web management services and is expanding into e-learning with more creative solutions for authoring material and delivering it across government organisations.
Walters' ambition is to continue to implement new ideas and technologies, keep the business specialised and sustainable and, ultimately, to make it work on a global scale.
In her own time she is a passionate skier.
Olympic/Commonwealth event: "Running - the determination, motivation and discipline to win in a highly competitive environment align closely with my approach to my business."
Mark Hogarth (35), creative director, Harris Tweed Hebrides
Hogarth's extraordinary career has taken him from modelling for Vivienne Westwood to being a researcher for former energy minister Brian Wilson. But since 2007 he has been revitalising Harris Tweed after Wilson led a rescue of the ailing company with the backing of oil millionaire Ian Taylor.
Harris Tweed Hebrides has enjoyed 50 per cent growth over the past two years with Hogarth describing his role as making the fabric relevant to a younger audience without sacrificing the integrity of its heritage. He has worked hard to get a foothold for the company in the fast expanding BRIC economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Wilson, who chairs the company, has been a great mentor to Hogarth together with its finance director Murdo McMillan.
Olympic/Commonwealth event: "Cycling. You cycle for hours and in the end it's a real fight to the line. Business can often be like that."
Henrietta Ludgate, managing director, Henrietta Ludgate
The luxury fashion designer from Inverness has had a hectic three years since launching her label. Her dresses regularly made headlines when celebrities including Downton Abbey star Elizabeth McGovern, Colin Firth's wife Livia Giuggioli and supermodel Laura Bailey wore them.
In 2011 she opened her own brand store in London and plans to expand operations at home and abroad. Her label is already sold as far afield as Kuwait and Japan though the majority of stockists are in Europe.
Ludgate's emphasis is on quality of design and Scottish craftsmanship and her ambition is to build a couture house of the future and create classic pieces that are handed down through the generations.
Olympic/Commonwealth event: "Gliding - if it is not an event it should be!"
Anton Manley (35), director of strategic accounts, HEROtsc
Manley is steeped in call centre culture, having started on the phones at Kwik-Fit Insurance services as a young Glasgow Caledonian University candidate. He soon progressed to team leader, then operational floor manager and later established its outsource operation. He transformed it from a service-based unit to a highly profitable service and sales department.
In 2009 he joined HEROtsc as account director of its Sky account when it had just 250 staffproviding customer services. Since then it has expanded its Sky operation to more than 1300 employees, enabling HEROtsc to reopen its Greenock operation and restore 250 jobs which had been lost due to a previous client's decision to move its business to the Philippines.
His mentor has been dad, Tony, who was in the gas detection and mine safety industry. "As a lad he would take me into his office and devote time to giving me a real flavour for the world of business."
Olympic/Commonwealth event: "The decathlon - the ultimate Olympic challenge."
Leigh Wilson (37), owner and CEO, Jetlogic
While working for super-yacht company PrivatSea Wilson was headhunted by a private jet company where she worked for a few years before spotting a gap in the market in 2009. Her company, Jetlogic, aims to fill that gap by providing private jet charter services to a worldwide clientele which includes celebrities, sports stars and executives. Turnover in the first full financial year topped £6m.
Jetlogic's success has allowed Wilson to give back; she provides investment, advice and support to small start-ups to help them develop their own businesses.
Her inspiration is her late father who pursued his passion for aviation by putting himself through "all manner of hoops" to secure a job in air traffic control and then working hard to rise through the ranks. She is also impressed by the positive approach of Richard Branson, who she met through her dad as a teenager, though she admits she didn't, at the time, understand "who he was or what he stood for".
Olympic/Commonwealth event: "The heptathlon: because it's a complex blend of disciplines and requires understanding, recognising, and working with, not only your strengths, but also your weaknesses; much like running a small business in today's financial climate."
Julie Inglis (38), director and co-owner, Kube Networks
Inglis spent ten years in the recruitment industry before establishing her own property and consultancy business. She founded communications provider Kube Networks with business partner and mentor Fraser Ferguson in 2006 and its revenues have grown at a rate of some 30 per cent in a year.
The Glasgow-based company now employs 14 people and Inglis' ambition is to ensure it reaches its full potential in terms of its position in not just the Scottish market but also the UK.
Inglis' biggest inspiration are her two children and she says whatever obstacles are put in your way it is possible to have a career and be a mum.
Favourite quotation: "My own - 'you have one life, live it'."
Audrey Corfield, managing director Scotland, Ireland and Isle of Man, Marsh
Corfield has made her mark as one of the all too few senior female managing directors in Scotland. She joined the insurance broking industry after graduating in business studies from Strathclyde University and worked for Sedgwick in London. In 1998 she moved back to Glasgow to join Willis and four years later joined Marsh.
She has been in her current post since 2010 and says her role in its Scottish growth is to provide strategic direction and guidance to colleagues and clients. Corfield says that although Marsh is a global business its nature is very entrepreneurial and she always encourages her colleagues to "think like an owner."
Outside work the weekends are normally spent indulging her two young daughters and doing a bit of shopping, eating out with friends and holidaying.
Olympic/Commonwealth event: "Synchronised swimming. It demonstrates that, with great teamwork and a strong work ethic, everything comes together beautifully and delivers great results."
Mark Greenaway (28), director, MGB Services Ltd
Greenaway started his facilities management company two years ago after finishing his apprenticeship and his clients now include Cushman & Wakefield, DTZ, Pinsent Masons, Tods Murray, Baker Tilly, Capita and Veolia Environmental Services.
He has been inspired by lingerie magnate Michelle Mone, who spoke at the Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust Young Entrepreneur Awards where Greenaway was runner-up in his category. "I was inspired by the way she started up her business from nothing and overcame so many problems," he says.
He has ambitions to become a main player in the facilities management business and admires ECG Facilities which started offsmall and is now substantial.
Favourite quotation: "Never say never."
Sarah Finlay (25), owner, Miss COCO
Geography graduate and former model Finlay completed a business internship with the University of Glasgow, Colombia University and Scottish Enterprise in 2009 before starting her luxury chocolate company in 2010.
She has a hand in all aspects of the business from manufacturing and retail to marketing, accounts and management, and has adapted the business model, moving from predominantly manufacturing to also including retail and chocolate parties, to offset the effects of the global recession. The plan is to keep running chocolate parties across central Scotland and franchise the Miss COCO model across the rest of the UK.
In her own time she likes eating out with friends and family and outdoor pursuits like ski-ing, scuba diving, horse-riding, running with her dogs and walking with friends.
Olympic/Commonwealth event: "Three day eventing - I love it! It tests all aspects of horsemanship: determination, courage, teamwork, endurance and stamina."
Mark Williams (34), managing director, NWH Group
Williams joined his family's haulage business when he was just 15, was handed the reins at the age of 21 and admits he has been on a steep learning curve ever since. Together with his siblings and "a fantastic team of employees" they grew the business to a pre-recession turnover of £24m in 2007.
However, over the last three years turnover dropped by a third and the father-of-three has dedicated his time to restructuring and consolidating his Dalkeith-based company which employs 185 people. It is now in a stronger position and Williams believes it is well placed for when the economy recovers.
Nevertheless the company still operates on a large scale, recycling 250,000 tonnes of commercial and industrial waste a year and offering a wide range of services from skip hire to road sweeping.
Olympic/Commonwealth event: "Football - as a fan it would be fantastic to have the opportunity to play alongside the professionals whilst representing team GB."
Sam Sarkar (34), director, Sarkar Defence UK
Sarkar has had a colourful, varied career to date - as well as jobs as a waiter, in a call centre and with Chivas Brothers Whisky he has also been a NATO submariner and a zookeeper - which must have helped when it came to taking the plunge into the business jungle.
Sarkar Defence, which manufactures tactical body armour, has carved out a real niche for itself since its 2007 inception. The company originally imported stock from India and other countries but problems with delivery times and quality lost the business customers; everything is now made at its Glasgow factory.
The business is on course to quadruple turnover - 90 per cent of which is generated overseas - this year and recent customers include the Italian special forces, the Peruvian Army, the Spanish Navy and the United Nations. The company also recently supplied the US Army in Iraq with 40 specialist de-mining suits.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sarkar - who was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2011 Scottish Asian Business Awards - is keeping his ambitions for the company top secret, saying "ask me again in five years".
Olympic/Commonwealth event: "My wife says I should be in the Olympic 'standing around' team."
Tony Hussain (45), managing director, SHK Property and Investments
Hussain - whose given name is Iqbal; he and brother Ali were fans of The Persuaders as children and Tony took his name from its star Tony Curtis - is an entrepreneur, restaurateur, property investor and developer.
He got his first taste of business when he opened a restaurant at the age of 16 in Dundee where he showed entrepreneurial flair by giving all female diners a flower and offering Dundee's biggest naan bread. He has since gone on to build a significant business in SHK, which develops commercial and residential properties, undertakes sale and lease-back deals and provides interior design services.
Big things are afoot at SHK for 2012 - currently on the drawing board are plans for a £50m leisure and retail park in Dundee and planning permission has been granted for a residential development in Bellfield in Dundee's west end.
Hussain was also involved in a BBC documentary called Jute, Jam and Islam on Dundee's Islamic community; the programme was his idea to respond to post-911 fear of Islam and to show it is not about extremism.
Alan Gooding (33), director and co-founder, Smarter Grid Solutions
The engineering entrepreneur had a strong track record working with PricewaterhouseCoopers and business development company QinetiQ, and commercialising technology as an Entrepreneur in Residence at the Strathclyde University before co-founding Smarter Grid Solutions in 2008.
The company's technology enables wind generators to connect to networks previously considered full and it now has a range of products and platforms to solve various forms of problems associated with the transition to a low carbon and affordable energy system. Its customers include Iberdrola, EON, Elia, UK Power Networks and Scottish & Southern Energy. The Glasgow-based company, which employs 20 people, has just completed its first project in Europe and is seeking accelerated growth through additional expansion in North America.
Olympic/Commonwealth event: "Golf, since it will be introduced to the Olympics after London and it is my main sport now. Although I have played badminton internationally for Scotland in the past."
Keith Wight (44), CEO, SST Sensing
Our second ex-submariner in this year's listing, Wight went on to lead the start-up in Scotland of blood management company Haemonetics before moving onto global healthcare business Ethicon where he was senior QA engineer and operations manager of new medical technology.
Electronic sensor designer and manufacture SST Sensing was started in 2002 and specialises in fluid and gas sensing and control products for original equipment manufacture (OEM) customers. Two years ago the company changed its focus from the UK market to international marketing and changed its sales process so engineers began dealing with customer enquiries. As a result, sales revenue doubled to £3.7m; the customer base increased from around 100 to more than 400; the workforce grew from 16 employees to 45; and exports grew from 15 per cent to 87 per cent.
Wight's free time is spent in the great outdoors salmon fishing or trekking in the Scottish Highlands.
Favourite quotation: "They failed because they started without a dream"
Pete Higgins (47), founder, UWI Technologies
Higgins first got the idea for his packaging smart label after he almost served out-of-date mayonnaise to his young son. The label creates a chemical reaction as soon as a jar or packaging is opened and begins a countdown with a display showing green or red according to whether it's safe to use or not.
As well as food, it also has possible uses for industrial glues and sealants, cosmetics, for blood transfusion and veterinary services, and in the prevention of counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals and high value alcohol.
Higgins and UWI have had some early tastes of success, picking up a £50,000 prize in the Barclays Bank 'Take One Small Step' competition as well as the Scottish Enterprise Life Science Award for Innovation. More success must surely be on its way now Glasgow-born, US-based aviation chief Douglas Cribbes has come on board as a non-executive director to help the company land £1.1m of new investment to support the label's launch into overseas markets.