David Moulsdale, 33, is Chairman and Chief Executive of DCM (Optical Holdings) Ltd, (www.opticalexpress.co.uk). which owns the Optical Express and Eye Clinic/Health Clinic businesses. His company is the fifth largest optical business in the UK and widely recognised as the fastest growing. David founded Optical Express in 1991 in Leith, Edinburgh. Since then the business has grown rapidly and made several important acquisitions. Optical Express now has 143 stores and 20 clinics across the UK. In June 1998 David won The Scottish Business Achievement Award and received the accolade at a ceremony in Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh from The Princess Royal. In November of the same year, he was named Scottish Entrepreneur of the Year after being a finalist in both the Emerging and Entrepreneur of the Year categories previously. The following month Optical Express came second in The Sunday Times/Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 listing after the business achieved a sparkling 197% annual growth in the previous three years. In April 1999, David represented Scotland and won the World Young Business Achiever Award in Portugal. In 2000 Optical Express was recognised as the second fastest growing Scottish business over a ten-year period and in 2001 the company was runner up in the Gazelle listing drawn up by the Business am newspaper for rapid growth over the previous four years. David is also Chairman of the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) New Appeal (Scotland) and is also Honorary Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Stirling. In September 2001, Optical Express began a series of acquisitions starting with the Co-Operative Eyecare Group and in January 2002 went on to acquire Specdeals Opticians and then Drain Opticians. In October 2002, David acquired the entire business and assets of Health Clinic plc adding a further 20 super optical stores and 700 more employees to the existing 1,100 staff. The Health Clinic/Eye Clinic business and Optical Express are now trading separately under the DCM (Optical Holdings) Ltd umbrella. The enlarged business has forecast sales this year of £100m. DCM (Optical Holdings) Ltd has its United Kingdom headquarters in Cumbernauld near Glasgow. Robert Graham, MD of Graham’s Dairy Company. (www.grahams-dairies.co.uk). Robert, 32, moved into the family business, founded in 1939, at the age of 20 after graduating from Heriot Watt in 1991 with a degree in accountancy and finance. He started out learning the ropes, doing everything from working on the production line to making deliveries, before taking up the company reins in 1996. In the past five years the company’s turnover has increased more than fivefold from £3 million to £18 million and staff numbers have risen to over 190, completely doing away with the accepted theory that the third generation tends to be the most likely to bring about the downfall of a family business. During this period there has been substantial investment in processing and distribution facilities in line with increased demand both in the retail, catering and hospitality sectors and in addition to the massive expansion in the liquid milk market – through the middle-ground and supermarket sectors - the company has also introduced its own range of cream, butter, Jersey and organic products for the retail sector. Most recently the company successfully acquired Ayrshire dairy company Stevensons in May 2003, which followed acquisitions of Express Dairies in November 2001 and Fife-based David Wilson & Partners and Edinburgh company Cockburn Farm Dairies in autumn 2002.
The Evening will be Chaired by Tom Hunter. Tom built Sports Division from nothing into one of the UK’s premier sports retailers over a fourteen-year period employing 7,500 people across over 250 stores. He sold the business in 1998 for £290 million; his stake in the business was valued at £260 million. Prior to establishing the private equity vehicle, West Coast Capital in early 2001, Tom invested over £20 million as an “angel” investor in high growth businesses in Property, Retails and Leisure/Branding across the UK, Ireland and Europe. Since its inception West Coast has concluded a number of major property, retail and leisure related deals valued in excess of £1 billion through a range of joint ventures and sole acquisitions (please see www.westcoastcapital.co.uk for details). West Coast Capital had taken a major equity position in leading jeans retailer D2, where Tom is Chairman and a major position in UK gift retailer, The Gadgetshop and more recently acquired the UK’s premier shoe retailer, Office. All three chains are being aggressively built into formidable UK retailers. West Coast now focuses upon major deals in the property, retail and leisure arenas and has moved away from “angel” type investment.