David Cameron has praised the Newspaper Society Local Business Accelerators campaign as a “phenomenal success” as the Express & Star announced its two winning businesses.
The Prime Minister said: “Last year’s Local Business Accelerators campaign was a phenomenal success and showed what a huge range of strong, growing businesses there are across the country.
“It is a huge credit to the papers taking part that they are offering real support to their local businesses. They play a vital role in local communities and are uniquely placed to boost their local economy in this way.
“Last year’s national winner Ilkley Brewery has gone from strength to strength, growing its sales by 140 per cent and I hope this year’s winners will go on to enjoy similar success. I would like to congratulate all the local winners and wish them all the best for the national final.”
Nationwide, winning businesses have won the LBA prize of free advertising and mentoring from local business leaders, as well as the chance of progressing to the national stages of the competition which will see the overall LBA winner receive mentoring support from Dragons’ Den’s Deborah Meaden.
In the Black Country, Oldbury-based events company Second City Music and Wolverhampton design agency eighty3creative will now benefit from marketing support from the Express & Star as well as expert advice from a three-strong team of local business mentors.
Guidance and advice will be provided free of charge by Mike Dell, a former president of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce and a senior director of a string of manufacturing companies; Johnathan Dudley, Midlands managing partner of accountants Crowe Clarke Whitehill; and Paul Hunt, managing partner of Brierley Hill-based law firm Higgs & Sons.
They will be working with students Dan Rowsell and Chris Selvey, who have been running Oldbury-based Second City Music for three years.
The mobile disco and events company grew out of their first foray into business running a vending machine selling sweets and then a cyber cafe at Oldbury College of Sport.
Dan said that the Accelerators programme would help to give their business a push and to grow.
“It will help us to run more efficiently and to develop a business plan and marketing,” he said. “One of the main things we need to do to improve our advertising.”
Dan, aged 21, who is studying theatre performance and event design at Birmingham City University, and Chris, 19, who is on an ICT management course at the University of Wolverhampton, run students night at venues in Oldbury and Birmingham.
Both are DJs and offer music of all kinds at the events they co-ordinate.
They have residencies at Gosta Green, Aston, on Saturdays where they run a club night and at The Crosswells pub in Langley where they put on a student night each Friday.
“As long as the money is OK we will go anywhere to put on an event.
“In the long term we hope to expand to have our own venue,” added Dan.
The second company that will benefit is eighty3creative, started in November 2008 by directors Amie Whale and Craig Slater.
The Staffordshire University graduates’ business is based in an office at Wolverhampton Science Park’s Creative Industries Centre in Glaisher Drive.
Art director Amie said they had chosen the name because they were both born in 1983.
“We offer a fully disciplined design agency producing corporate identities, website design and development, branding, brochure design and print,” she explained.
“What makes us different is we get to know you and your company. We are a friendly, approachable, creative agency. We aim to deliver cutting edge design to all, despite size, budget and field.”
Eighty3creative now has three employees and its growth was assisted by a Princes Trust loan.
Amie added: “One of our clients, Ashton and Bentley Baths, had their products shown on Grand Designs. We helped create their whole branding from name creation, company identity, photography art direction, website and much more.
“We continue to work with them and assist their business with new ideas and we are currently in the process of re-developing their website.”
She said that Accelerators would help the small agency to achieve its big ambitions: “It will help raise our profile within the West Midlands.
“The mentoring will help us develop our business skills and give us a push into getting in front of the bigger clients we would love to work with.
“We have the capabilities to work with bigger clients but we need more exposure through the advertising. Hopefully it will create a knock on effect, we’ll get more work and in turn take on more staf,” she enthused
The judges also gave a special mention to runner-up Mr Spanners, a garage services firm based in Brierley Hill run by Scot Hamilton, an 18-year veteran of HM Forces using his technical training to start his own business.
Supported by the Government and private sector’s Business in You campaign, Local Business Accelerators has seen 500 local newspapers join forces to provide a boost to promising young businesses.
Deborah Meaden, the campaign’s national ambassador, said:“The first LBA created hundreds of business success stories across the UK and I am confident that we will see hundreds more again this year, as the winners receive the campaign prize of free local newspaper advertising and mentoring.
“We need to do everything we can to support small business owners and entrepreneurs and LBA is helping to do just that.”
In addition to the main prize of a year’s mentoring from Deborah Meaden and a free ad campaign in their local paper, this year’s overall LBA winner will take home: £10,000 from the Business Growth Fund; 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; free business broadband and wifi access for a year and the design and management of a website from BT.