Millionaire food firm boss from Blackpool has one GCSE and turned down Dragon’s Den

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Wayne grew up in a one-bed council flat in Blackpool and received one GCSE throughout his education

 

Wayne Starkey and James Whiting set up The Skinny Food Co
Wayne Starkey and James Whiting set up The Skinny Food Co (Image: The Skinny Food Co)

An entrepreneur from Blackpool who left school with only one GCSE is now running a firm worth £20 million with his city business partner – and has even rejected an offer from Dragon’s Den.

Wayne Starkey has become a millionaire after setting up The Skinny Food Co with James Whiting from Bartley Green, Birmingham.

The company has announced a turnover of £17.2 million for the 2020/21 financial year this month, with that figure expected to rise to £35 million this tax year.

 

Wayne, 42, from Blackpool and 30-year-old James began the business in May 2018 after being inspired to create the range after seeing diabetic family members lose their favourite foods due to a lack of alternatives available, BirminghamLive reports.

The pair invested £3,000 of their own money to begin The Skinny Food Co and in the first 12 months, they sold over a million bottles of their healthy table sauces.

The Skinny Food Co now hosts 225 sauces and syrups, high protein, low sugar snacks, cooking sprays, flavoured coffees and takeaway sauces.

Their products are also stocked in supermarkets across the UK including Morrisons, Co-op, Home Bargains, TK Maxx, SPAR, B&M Bargains and Lidl.

Wayne and James have been invited to present on Dragon’s Den twice, but most recently declined the opportunity last year.

They are determined to have a 350-strong product line by the end of 2021, and to produce 500 products within the next five years.

The pair have twice been invited to present on Dragon’s Den, most recently last year but declined the opportunity.
The pair have twice been invited to present on Dragon’s Den, most recently last year but declined the opportunity. (Image: The Skinny Food Co)

For Wayne and James, the journey has consisted of a lot of hard-work and perseverance.

Wayne grew up in a one-bed council flat in Blackpool and received one GCSE through his education.

James became established at the healthy food delivery service, MuscleFood. But it was a personal tragedy that fuelled his entrepreneurial path after he and his partner’s son was still born in 2014.

James then lost both of his grandparents and his mother in consecutive years.

James said: “The hurt was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I was working for six or seven different companies at a time, often completing 16-hour days. It acted as coping mechanism for me – it’s how I first met Wayne.”

James was recognised for his drive and determination earlier this year on Forbes’ latest ’30 Under 30’ list.

He said: “I still struggle to switch off and work very long hours, but I’m proud of what we have been able to achieve to date and am excited for the future. It feels good to be making a difference to the lives of others.”

Wayne added: “It’s been truly overwhelming, and we’re excited for what’s to come. We recently announced partnerships with Rugby League’s Wigan Warriors and the EFL’s Nottingham Forest, and as a team are growing week-in, week-out.”