Why health and fitness businesses are topping UK start-up sector in Olympic year

Start-up businesses focused on health, fitness and wellbeing are dominating the early-stage firms looking for business support

Why health and fitness businesses are topping UK start-up sector

Around 12 per cent of companies that accessed business-building tools on StartUp UK, a comprehensive national programme of support offered by my company Enterprise Nation and backed by Monzo Business, described themselves as health, fitness and wellbeing, the largest single sector of all.

Why? According to McKinsey’s Wellness Report 2024, the UK health, wellness and fitness market is set to grow by around 12 per cent over the next three years, driven by Generation Z and Millennials’ interest in health and wellbeing and the growing trend in menopause support amongst Generation X.

The interest in health is soaring amongst younger generations as they move into the workforce – and the start-up space. Generation Z are widely tipped to be the most entrepreneurial generation there has ever been, with all the innovation start-ups bring to the economy.

It’s really encouraging to see so many people grasping an opportunity to follow their dream and capitalise on the booming health, wellness and fitness sector, especially in an Olympic year.

What we must do now is ensure they have easy access to relevant, affordable early-stage business support to give this new breed of risk takers the best chance possible to survive and thrive.

According to data from the StartUp UK programme, fashion and jewellery and food and drink were the next largest sectors, (9%) followed by creative and media and beauty and cosmetics (both 7%). Tech followed at six per cent along with arts and entertainment and business services (both 6%).

The start-ups engaging with the free programme operating in the UK and Ireland were mostly looking to increase their marketing and finance skills using e-learning, online training, as well as attending local StartUp Saturday events and connecting with advisers. They are making the most of it.

A good example of this is Clapham-based mum-of-three Laurène Mosely. She launched her sleep-inducing baby soother business SleepaSloth in 2022. It’s a cute sloth-shaped sound machine that helps families manage sleep in young babies by soothing them to sleep with personalised sounds, supporting stressed parents to avoid mental health problems that can emerge from sleep deprivation. 

Laurène saw an opportunity to support young parents to look after their mental health by getting as much sleep as possible. She said: “Sleep deprivation is an important topic that has serious consequences on both physical and mental health and would benefit from further awareness and education, particularly for new parents.

“The idea for the business originated when I was struggling to put my second born to sleep. I’d tried various sleep aids and different techniques and approaches, but none of them really worked. I decided I had to build the baby sleep machine that I wanted for my own children!” 

In the prototype stages, Laurène used tools from StartUp UK to help create a plan to bring SleepaSloth to market.  Now her product is fully produced, she is set to receive her first shipment next month.

She added: “There are just so many aspects to starting your own business that it can feel overwhelming and you don’t know where to start. The StartUp UK programme has been great at providing digestible introductions to completely new topics, as well as going deeper on topics in which I already had some experience. 

“It’s allowed me to get in touch with some of the speakers and presenters to get personalised help and advice. The programme has been invaluable in giving me the confidence I need to operate across all the areas of my new business, so I can help other parents and babies get the sleep they deserve. We are so excited to be receiving our first shipment shortly and seeing SleepaSloth grow in the UK!” 

Another good example of someone helping people feel as well as they can is London-based Sophia Harding, founder of Palm of Feronia, a natural self-care brand focused on the ancient principles of aromatherapy and crystal healing. 

Sophia said: “As a business with a heavier split towards B2B2C (business-to-business-to-consumer), I’m working on growing my D2C (direct-to-consumer) channel, building a community and expanding out to new regions.”

She said she had used business support tool StartUp UK, not to learn and develop personally but to better understand her strengths and weaknesses and finding ways to make the most of her strong points, while outsourcing the things she’s weaker at

Sophia said: “I saw it could help me gain a handle on my finances. For example, understanding how to forecast, knowing what financial data to keep an eye on, etc. Being able to sensibly forecast is a skill I’ve never honed, but I now feel I have the format and understanding to create a solid forecast for the next 12 months.”

Standby for the ride, but let’s make sure there’s well sign-posted support like StartUp UK that can help businesses to reach their potential.

Emma Jones CBE
Emma Jones CBE

Share via
Copy link