JUDGES have been sifting through the entries to the Local Business Accelerators competition and have come up with a shortlist packed with entrepreneurial talent.
The second year of the contest for small businesses and dynamic individuals has attracted entrants from across the county giving judges an extremely difficult task.
But the expert panel of business mentors has whittled it down to 11 who will now go forward to the next stage of the competition and be in line for the prizes of three months’ free advertising in Newsquest publications and a year’s free mentoring.
- Website Energisers, Banbury
- Infrastruct CS, Eynsham
- Illustrate My Name, Freeland
- Next Generation Solar, Woodstock
- Oxford Model Store, Abingdon
- Ross and Ross Food, Chipping Norton
- Body Politic, Kennington
- House Hop, Wantage
- The Little Orchard Company, Shenington
- West Oxfordshire Academy of Performing Arts, Witney
- WorldBeatsMusic, Shippon
Judge Brendon Cross, managing director of Witney-based STL Communications, said: “I’ve been really impressed with the quality of the entrants and it’s really encouraging that there are so many excellent start ups, early stage and growing businesses in Oxfordshire.
“I’m looking forward to the judging, to meeting the 11 finalists and to hopefully finding the next Healthy Performance – last year’s overall winner.”
One business owner who was delighted to be shortlisted is Brian Conroy, of the West Oxfordshire Academy of Performing Arts (WOAPA), based in Witney.
He said: “I am just amazed to reach the final 11. If I am one of the winners the mentoring will be particularly appealing.
“I did get some when I first started but now I would like some more to take me through to the next stage. I am operating in a niche market and there are not many people I can approach.
“Over the year I have been running the business I have been learning by my mistakes and it would be good to have someone to talk to about issues when they arise.”
Mr Conroy says the academy, which teaches singing and drama to children and adults at Henry Box School in Witney, has been “going bananas” recently, with more and more people signing up.
He added: “The Saturday morning school is now full and we opened a second school on November 10 on Saturday afternoons.
“We now have three classes for four to six-year-olds and have been asked to set up a class for children with learning disabilities.”
About 50 youngsters have also recorded a CD of songs the proceeds of which will go towards Cancer Research.
Mr Cross and fellow judges and mentors Mike Jennings, of Chalgrove-based Jennings business parks, and Bob Urwin, who runs lettings agent Martin & Co in Oxford, will now interview the shortlist with three winners ultimately selected for the prize package.
An overall winner will then be selected to go forward into the regional round of the competition and, if successful, into the national finals.
One overall star business will be put forward to be in with a chance to gain Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden as a mentor during 2013.
Ms Meaden said: “With last year’s LBA having demonstrated the unique power of local and regional press to provide a meaningful boost to promising young businesses, I am delighted to be supporting the initiative once again.
“The campaign provided tangible examples of the real contribution that local newspapers can provide to young businesses across many different sectors, accelerating their development.
“Enterprise and entrepreneurism in the local community are more important than ever before and I look forward to finding another young business to mentor and drive forward.”
A host of other prizes include:
- £10,000 from the Business Growth Fund
- Free business broadband and wifi access from BT along with the design and management of a website
- One year’s free membership of the CBI
- Free business advice from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales valued at £2,000
- An iPad from Freeagent which is also offering a year’s free access to its accountancy software to each of the national finalists, valued at £300 per finalist.