By Marcus Leach

Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of the economy. It was therefor no surprise that David Cameron said 'there’s only one strategy for growth we can have now, and that is rolling up our sleeves and doing everything possible to make it easier for businesses to grow, to invest, to take people on'.

Further to that we need to start recognising the people who are rolling up their sleeves and pushing the economy forward, which is where the Great British Entrepreneur Awards come into play.

In a nutshell, the Great British Entrepreneur Awards celebrate entrepreneurs and recognises their achievements. Fresh Business Thinking caught up with Simon Burton, the man behind the awards, to talk to him about entrepreneurism in the UK, and just why we need specific awards for entrepreneurs.

Fresh Business Thinking: What is the purpose of the awards?
Simon Burton: I think the purpose of the awards is recognising and celebrating entrepreneurs. We talk a lot in the UK about entrepreneurs and why they are important, and yet we don't actually do much to genuinely acknowledge who they are and what they have done. This is particularly the case if they don't want to be the type of entrepreneur you see on reality TV programmes, and I am not sure reality TV has anymore to do with being a real entrepreneur than Pop Idol has to do with being a real pop star. I think it is important therefore we have some awards that are about genuine entrepreneurship, genuine people who are making a difference with their business, and we need to celebrate them in a serious context.

FBT: Are you hoping that the awards will generate more genuine entrepreneur role models?
SB: Exactly. I think entrepreneurs take what they do very seriously, and therefore if they are entered for an award it needs to be genuine recognition for their achievements. I think the level of interest we have had already has been very high, both from people who I would regard as being already within the entrepreneur community, but also the type of entrepreneur that we want to target. There are people who are doing amazing business, that you might not have heard about, but you should be proud about as they are British, they are creative, they are clever and solving problems.

FBT: Do TV entrepreneurs give a false impression of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?
SB: I think that the kind of interest on TV and in the media in general on high profile celebrity entrepreneurs is a good thing. But I think there is a double-edged sword there as it is also important that we recognise there are a lot of very good entrepreneurs and business people who don't want to be on TV. Maybe they feel their business isn't as glamourous as those we see on TV, but yet these businesses are no less important to Britain, and they are not in it for the media coverage, they are in it because they are passionate about their industry. Whilst I applaud what the media has done in terms of making business a more accessible, main stream topic, I want to make sure we don't lose the real, everyday entrepreneurs in the process.

FBT: So, in that light, the awards are there to recognise the day-to-day entrepreneurs who are the lifeblood of the economy?
SB: Exactly. We have made sure, in terms of our judges, that we have got real entrepreneurs, we have got people from all industries and backgrounds. All of these areas entrepreneurs touch and have an influence in, and for me what is really important is that the act of of being an entrepreneur, a risk taker, in order to create a business, jobs and wealth, is a good thing. It is good for the economy, it is good for all of us that there are these people who take chances to create opportunities and create wealth. We should be rewarding these people whether what they do is glamorous or not.

FBT: Can more be done from a younger age, specifically at a school level, to encourage students to go down the entrepreneurial route?
SB: I think it is important not to let the word entrepreneur just mean a business person. In my eyes an entrepreneur is born out of a moment in time or a need, it isn't something you can study an NVQ for. Whilst I don't believe entrepreneurs are born and not made, because many are also made, I don't think it is something that you can learn in class.

FBT: What's the key to being a successful entrepreneur in the UK?
SB: I think the key is to believe that there is a way of doing something differently, doing it better. For me entrepreneurs ask difficult questions and are able to find answers to them. They can recognise they might not be in the perfect position, but they are still prepared to answer those questions. They are a source of energy, they have an energy that overcomes any kind of technical deficiency they have, as they are focused on solving a problem, on doing something better, doing something more creatively. I think when you do that you get an economy that is better oiled, that has more opportunity. I do think we are a nation that gets that ideology, we are a nation that is heavily vested in people who run smaller businesses. I hope that the awards will encourage some small businesses to be slightly braver and more ambitions on how they go to the next level and become genuinely entrepreneurial.

To fond out more about the awards, or to enter them, please click here.

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