Gazelles can help firms leap forward

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MANY small businesses are being buffeted by a “perfect storm” of tepid economic growth, plummeting consumer confidence and rising costs. But with a little help from Yorkshire’s best known entrepreneurs, they could leap like gazelles.

The Connect Gazelles group has been set up to provide ambitious Yorkshire entrepreneurs with top level mentoring.

Connect Yorkshire, the organisation that supports fast-growing businesses, has devised a programme that could provide a boost for grassroots and established companies. The company has launched Connect Gazelles, an initiative that puts entrepreneurs in touch with people who can help their business to expand.

The initiative forms part of Connect Yorkshire’s next phase of development. It will remain a not-for-profit company but will be solely funded by the private sector. In the past, it has received funding from the regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, which is being scrapped as part of the coalition Government’s austerity measures.

Connect Yorkshire has launched the Connect Gazelles Leeds group to provide ambitious entrepreneurs and fast growing SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) across the region with a range of services.

More than 20 business leaders have committed to the Connect Gazelles group as Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs), including Larry Gould, the chairman and chief executive of Leeds-based translation and interpreting firm thebigword,

Deidre Bounds, the entrepreneur and founder of ethical travel website and Sean Riddell of EMIS, the Aim-listed provider of software to the healthcare sector.

Connect Yorkshire’s chief executive Nick Butler said: “This is an exclusive concept aimed at helping fast track companies.” The launch event attracted 70 entrepreneurs to the LNT Group headquarters in Garforth, Leeds. The LNT Group was founded by Batley-born Lawrence Tomlinson.

Over the last 20 years, Mr Tomlinson has developed LNT into a £100m turnover business employing 1,500 people across five divisions – Ideal Care Homes, LNT Construction, Ginetta Cars, LNT Software and LNT Solutions.

Mr Tomlinson said: “Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely place, particularly in the early days.”

Connect Yorkshire’s chairman Richard Doyle added: “Growing businesses need help more than ever in the current climate but also need to keep an eye on costs. While the economy is very challenging there is always success to be had for those who have the desire, foresight and sheer determination to get ahead.”

Mr Butler said yesterday: “The Connect Gazelles provide a brilliant answer to SMEs’ many problems when seeking business advice. The response has been phenomenal – there is clearly a need for a meaningful support group at this level to provide help.”

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