YOUNG businesses across Oxfordshire are being urged to sign up to a major campaign which could give a massive boost to their future prospects.
The Local Business Accelerators (LBA) initiative is launching in the Oxford Mail and its sister titles across the Newsquest Oxfordshire group for a second year following its highly successful debut in 2011.
It will see three of the most promising businesses in the county being offered free advertising for a year along with advice and mentoring from top business experts.
LBA represents a national drive worth £15m across more than 500 local and regional newspapers spearheaded by the Newspaper Society. It is again being backed by Deborah Meaden, a judge on TV’s Dragon’s Den.
Ms Meaden will then become a mentor and consultant to one lucky business picked from the hundreds of regional winners.
Last year’s competition saw three Oxfordshire winners picked from almost 40 young businesses who entered.
They were Banbury-based corporate health monitoring specialists Healthy Performance, Headington building firm Savvy Maintenance and Renovations and Shakespeare’s milkshake bar in Oxford city centre.
Savvy Maintenance and Renovations is moving into new offices in Headington following major growth over the last year. It has been working on major playground projects with Oxford City Council and the new site for Ruskin College in Old Headington.
Director Stephen Dunne said: “We are taking on more people, so needed more space and our turnover is now about £700,000 – double that of last year.
“We got a lot of good feedback from the Accelerators campaign and it really helped with our marketing and workload. I would absolutely recommend people enter it as it did us a lot of good.”
The judges of the competition will be Mike Jennings, who runs the Jennings business parks across the county, Brendon Cross, managing director of Witney-based STL Communications and Bob Urwin, of Oxford letting agents Martin & Co.
They will work alongside Newsquest Oxfordshire’s business editor Andrew Smith to review and shortlist entries before awarding the winners the prize of free advertising and business advice. They will also go on to mentor the winning three businesses.
The campaign has been backed by Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron, as well as the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King.
Mr Cameron added: “The Local Business Accelerators campaign has provided tremendous support to fledgling businesses across the country and I am delighted it will be running for a second year.
“Local newspapers play a vital role in their communities and are uniquely placed to support small businesses, giving them the boost they need to grow, which is good for local areas and good for the economy as a whole.
“I hope more young businesses put themselves forward over the coming months and get involved with this innovative scheme, which rewards entrepreneurship and creative thinking in business.”
'Dragon' will mentor winner
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'm 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.”
'Support was great shakes'
Amee Thomas of Shakespeare’s milkshake bar in Oxford city centre, said: “My mentor Mike Jennings has been a huge support for me over the last year and has always taken the time to be a friend as well as a guide when I’ve felt overwhelmed with the task of running the business alone.
“I think he has taught me above all that to be a successful entrepreneur you have to learn to take the rough with the smooth, and that keeping the passion for your business alive helps you achieve your goal.”
How to get involved
- Businesses aged between one and five years can enter the competition
- If you run such a business, or know anyone who does, and want the chance to receive invaluable business support and advertising space in Newsquest Oxfordshire’s titles, visit accelerateme.co.uk for more information and how to enter. Entries close on November 16
- If you want to speak to us about advertising in any Newsquest Oxfordshire publication, please call 01865 425275