Food & Drink

Europe’s New And Next Retail Moguls

This list highlights founders from across the U.K. and Europe who have not just weathered the pandemic but found opportunities in a crisis.

In Forbes’ sixth-annual 30 Under 30 Europe list, we highlight the retail industry’s rising stars who have defied a pandemic to transform how Europe shops.  

Daniel and Melanie Marsden started Lounge Underwear from home cutting the fabrics for their first range of comfortable but edgy lingerie by hand. That first £1,000 order has mushroomed into an ecommerce juggernaut with sales of $69 million (£50 million) in 2020. 

The husband and wife pair’s bootstrapped strategy has seen sales of the Birmingham, England-based business explode with traditional retailers shuttered by lockdowns, and savvy influencer-led marketing helping them to expand to new markets. “It’s kind of essentially just put rocket fuel on the ship,” said Daniel Marsden. “Our product lends itself perfectly to people chilling at home so in a weird way even though it’s a horrible situation, it’s like the perfect storm for us.”

The 2021 30 Under 30 Europe Retail & ECommerce list highlights how Daniel and Melanie Marsden and other entrepreneurs have carved out their own careers, and business empires, in a year that has super-charged ecommerce, and forced traditional retailers to tear up the rule book. 

This list highlights founders from across the U.K. and Europe who have not just weathered the pandemic but found opportunities in a crisis. Giada Zhang, 25, launched Mulan Group’s online store in a week after Italy’s lockdown hit the Asian packaged foods business’ 6,000 network of vendors.

Zhang, who was born in China, and grew up working in her parent’s restaurant in Cremona, Italy, also led a campaign to tackle a flare-up of anti-Asian racism. “My aim was really to promote more and more common sense, less racism, and to dispel disinformation. And what was really nice is that through my voice, I convinced Italian President Sergio Mattarella to visit a Chinatown to empower my message,” said Zhang, who has also donated meals to medical workers in Lombardy, one of Italy’s worst-hit regions.

“I really think food is a universal language. And after all the difficulties I had in integration in Italy, I see my job today to promote food as a super powerful tool for intercultural dialogue,” said Zhang.

The boxing gym was a refuge from racist bullies for Ben Amanna as a child in Coventry, England. The passion and pride he developed for the sweet science inspired him to launch his own line of boxing-focused workout gear. “So I was training for a fight at the time running the street in an Adidas track suit and I remember thinking that I want people to know I’m training for fight and the more I looked into it there wasn’t a brand that represented boxing for how I knew it to,” said Amanna, CEO and founder of BOXRAW.

Amanna rolled with the closure of boxing gyms across the continent for much of the last year to coach BOXRAW to $6.89 million (£5 million) in sales in 2020. Amanna now has his eye on challenging the sportswear industry’s heavyweights. “I realized this commonality with major sports brands they tend to focus on one sport when they begin and when they own that space and start to branch out,” he said. 

The pandemic has also brought existential threats to some of the list-makers. Raphael Chow was building momentum with his app-solution to help tourists claim back sales tax when the pandemic canceled international travel,  and the U.K. axed the tax break derailing Wevat’s plans. Hong Kong-born Chow is ready to bounce back with a relaunch in France this summer and could profit from British shoppers seeking a post-Brexit tax-free shopping bonanza. 

“I see my job today to promote food as a super powerful tool for intercultural dialogue.”

Giada Zhang, Founder of Mulan Group

This year’s list was compiled with Europe News Editor Iain Martin and Katherine Love, manager of editorial operations. Hundreds of nominations and recommendations from industry experts, and former Under 30 alumni were reviewed to make up a shortlist. The finalists were selected with the help of our judging panel that included Russian ecommerce billionaire Tatyana Bakalchuk, founder of Wildberries, French jewelry entrepreneur Valérie Messika, and Pascar Sivam, founder and CEO of Danish watchmaker Nordgreen and 2019 30 Under 30 Europe alum. 

Special thanks to Forbes Contributors Mark Faithfull, Kate Hardcastle, Natalie Berg, Gulnaz Khusainova and Catherine Erdly for their recommendations and insight.

For a link to our complete Retail & ECommerce list, click here and for full 30 Under 30 coverage, click here. 

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