By Francesca James, Great British Entrepreneur Awards

A lot has changed in the last month and that’s just putting things mildly. The COVID-19 pandemic has seen entrepreneurs facing unprecedented challenges with many businesses concerned about getting through these tough times.

Like many of you, I run a small business and have had moments over the past few weeks of fear, uncertainty and worry for my own sanity and for my teams, dread over tough conversations and having to make difficult decisions in a changing landscape.

As the founder of an awards programme that has championing, celebrating and connecting entrepreneurs as part of its DNA, I have thought long and hard about what is the right course of action to take given the current situation.

For those less familiar with The Great British Entrepreneur Awards, we’re far more of a community than ‘just’ an awards programme. And while that is important to us year on year, there’s never been a time in our existence when it’s been so important and needed nor that we’ve seen the community so mobilised and strong.

Over the past few weeks, many of our worlds have been turned upside down and while we are used to dealing with set-backs and having to masterfully pivot as entrepreneurs, this set of challenges is unique in that none of us are fighting this alone. With our events off the table, we’ve been busy bringing our community together online for virtual learning, peer-to-peer exchange and continuous community building. This has been done with the support of many of our judges and supporters including the founders of New Covent Garden Soup Co, King of Shaves and Cobra Beer to name but a few.

Celebration is at the heart of our community and although we know that this is probably not at the forefront of most businesses at this time, we also feel that now, more than ever, that entrepreneurs and innovators must be supported, encouraged and championed.

In ‘normal’ times, our ‘business as usual’ would see us visiting eight cities in September to crown regional Great British Entrepreneur Awards winners who would then go on to compete at the national final. Those alumni (finalists and winners) would go on to join a growing and supportive community of entrepreneurs and their mentors and would be invited to further events, create connections, be inundated with media and collaboration opportunities and would proudly call themselves a Great British Entrepreneur. We know that our ‘business as usual’ isn’t right for right now and so we’ve reimagined it, putting the needs of the entrepreneurs we work with at the heart of every decision.

So, without further ado, I present to you…..

The Great British Entrepreneurs 2020 Reimagined.

Entry period: We’re extending this. The deadline was May 2020, it’s now July 2020, giving entrepreneurs an additional two months to apply.

Don’t forget, when applying for an award you’re often looking in a rear view mirror. The past few weeks may have taken their toll and it can be hard to focus on achievements that may be overshadowed by fear and uncertainty but it can be a positive exercise in reflection to review your accomplishments to date. Don’t forget, there are very few businesses that have not been affected by COVID-19 – we really are all in this together and our judging panel will be sympathetic to that and, more importantly, the community will be supportive.

Regional Awards: This is a BIG change for us. We’ve decided to take our regional awards programme online and we’ve done this for a few reasons:

  1. Firstly, because it allows us to bring all of the regions together for one big online event at a time where community and national unity is vital.
  2. Secondly, because there is absolutely zero cost for entrepreneurs to attend and children, partners, cats and dogs can join in the fun too and of course, the home bar is cheaper!
  3. Social distancing can be maintained
  4. We realised that a very positive outcome of this is that our sustainability will improve significantly which can only be an incredibly good thing!

We’ll still be joined by our Great British Entrepreneur Awards hosts and we have a number of tricks up our sleeves to ensure that the magic of a “in real life” event is brought to you in your kitchen, lounge, dining room or garden.

National Final: We will meet again!

We have confirmed a date for our national final, November 23rd 2020. Taking place at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel and to conclude the 2020 Global Entrepreneurship Week, this will be the biggest celebration of entrepreneurship Great Britain has ever seen and will invoke the spirit of patriotism at a time of national unity.

In addition to the evening activity, the day leading up to the ceremony will give entrepreneurs the opportunity to listen to talks from industry experts and inspirational entrepreneurs, meet suppliers and spend time with their peers as part of our Great British Entrepreneurs LIVE sessions (originally planned for May, but now part of our reimagined plan).

The evening will then feature the GBEA national final, bringing together entrepreneurs from all across the UK along with an all-star roster including the founders of some of Great Britain’s most well-loved brands.

This will be the BIGGEST celebration of entrepreneurship that Great Britain has ever seen and we can’t wait to see you there to celebrate your achievements.

Anne Boden, founder of Starling Bank says that “As an entrepreneur myself, I know there is strength in businesses coming together to support each other. The UK has a strong and enduring business community with a determined will to survive, and the Great British Entrepreneur Awards embody the spirit of our long history of entrepreneurialism and enterprise. Even though the Awards have changed this year, we believe that they will still be a huge source of support and celebration; shining a much needed spotlight on amazing businesses across the UK and the people that run them.”

The spirit, innovation and kindness we have experienced over the last few weeks has been incredible and we would like to thank you all for that support. It has made us even more determined, along with our partners to work our socks off to make the GBEA community stronger over the next few months and ensure that entrepreneurs and their businesses thrive in the future.

Stay safe!

Team GBEA

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