By Claire West
Barclays has announced the nine regional winners of its Take One Small Step competition following a public vote.
The winners each receive £50,000 prize money, as well as free support and advice from Barclays, to make their business dreams a reality, whether it's a totally new business idea from a start-up, or an existing business that wants to go to the next level.
Over 5,000 businesses registered to take part in the competition following its launch in March. They were then whittled down to a final shortlist of 27 inspired enterprise ideas across nine UK regions by a regional panel of three judges. The entries, brought to life by videos at www.takeonesmallstep.co.uk , captured the imagination of the public, who were canvassed to vote for their favourite online.
Supporting small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)
The Barclays Take One Small Step competition is at the forefront of celebrating and supporting the nation's entrepreneurial ambitions. Now in its second year, it has recognised the drive, ambition and inspiring ideas of a total 19 winning businesses, crucially teaming business advice alongside a prize pot of £950,000 to help them grow and succeed.
This year, the public voted in their thousands for their favourite businesses, which really reflect the diversity that exists amongst today's established and start-up businesses. From a Willy Wonka-style ice cream parlour based in Bristol to a Roman Fort reconstruction bringing the past to life in Wales, what's clear is that our small firms are as innovative as they are dedicated to succeed.
Charles Francis, founder of ice cream parlour Lick Me I'm Delicious, commented: "Small businesses have the power to do things differently and bring different elements to an industry, giving them the chance to challenge the nature of big corporate businesses. I can't wait to use the money to set up Bristol's first liquid nitrogen ice cream creation parlour!"
Dean Harston from The Roman Fort Project in Wales added: "We decided to enter the competition because Barclays was offering something different to the support that is currently out there for small businesses. The money will enable us to reconstruct a Roman fort to use as an education centre to teach roman history and archaeology to school children across the country."
Other winning ideas included an ingenious heated, club-branded seat cover to make going to a sports match more comfortable and a student pocket guide phone app.
Steve Cooper, Barclays Managing Director of Business and Personal Banking Solutions, said: "Congratulations to the nine winners of this year's Take One Small Step competition. It is a life-changing moment for these deserving businesses and we intend to support them every step of the way in order to help build the next generation of SMEs in the UK.
"The standard of entries has again exceeded our expectations and this year's winners have clearly demonstrated a real flair and passion that has set them apart from the rest. They have displayed a fantastic mix of creativity, ingenuity and business acumen to capture the public's imagination to drive votes and ultimately clinch the £50,000 prize money. I'd like to wish all of our successful business ideas good luck in the future and I hope this competition is a springboard for long term success."
Michelle Mone OBE, one of the UK's best-known and most successful businesswomen and the competition's biggest supporter, added: "The Take One Small Step competition is a fantastic platform for entrepreneurs to showcase their business ideas and I am delighted to have been involved. It has found nine fantastic businesses which I hope use the £50,000 to go on and fulfil their true potential.
"Winning the competition is the first of many steps to success and it is now that the hard work really begins for these nine businesses. But I am confident they all have the drive and passion to succeed.
"A successful business has the power to transform the lives of everyone involved in it and I hope the public who voted in their thousands have been inspired to think about starting a business of their own."
Alongside the nine winners, the remaining eighteen shortlisted companies have been given £3000 to encourage them to keep going with their business idea and will be offered further business support through Barclays.