WHAT do an allergen-testing laboratory, a clothing company specialising in Scandinavian childrenswear and a bespoke kitchen manufacturer have in common?
They have all been shortlisted in the Yorkshire Post’s Local Business Accelerators campaign alongside four other young businesses with growth potential.
The lucky seven have been invited to present before a Dragons’ Den-style judging panel at the Yorkshire Post’s headquarters on Monday.
Our panel will pick three winners and each will receive free advertising in Yorkshire’s national newspaper and free mentoring from Yorkshire business leaders.
Local Business Accelerators is a national campaign devised by the Newspaper Society to give a shot in the arm to small businesses and help invigorate local communities.
It has been backed at the highest level by the Prime Minister David Cameron who said: “Local newspapers play a vital role in their communities and are uniquely placed to support small businesses, giving them the boost that they need to grow, which is good for local areas and good for the economy as a whole.”
Mr Cameron said the scheme rewards entrepreneurship and creative thinking in business.
The competition, now in its second year, is open to promising companies which are no more than five years old.
The Yorkshire Post received 33 entries and on Friday hosted the first judging session with judges Paul Ayre, managing partner of Gordons, Roger Marsh, head of PwC’s office in Leeds, and Alan Young, regional director at Yorkshire Bank, who will choose and then mentor the three eventual winners.
The panel praised the breadth, diversity and range of sectors and said the entries represented a “creativity and entrepreneurialism that’s clearly alive and well right across the region”.
After assessing the entries, the panel chose Kozi Kidz, an online clothing retailer from Doncaster which sells outdoorwear for children. Its founders come from an unusual background – they both worked in the film industry for major Hollywood studios.
Compliance 365 of Wakefield was also shortlisted. It has developed cloud-based energy audit and certification services aimed at helping businesses and organisations save money on energy bills and reducing carbon.
Another shortlisted company is Vimaster, a logistics training provider based in Morley. Its services include commercial vehicle training as well as instruction in health and safety, compliance and first aid for public and private sector clients.
Genon Laboratories, based in Halifax, was shortlisted for its work in the increasingly important allergen-testing marketplace. It works with food manufacturers across the world, helping them to comply with new EU legislation on food labelling.
Approved Foods, of Sheffield, started out at a market stall. It has moved online and sells short-dated grocery goods like tins of soups, rice and pasta crisps and generates annual sales of £2m. It buys in large quantities and passes on savings to customers.
Polkadoodles, of York, also made the shortlist. The online retailer and wholesaler sells card-making and papercraft materials. Designer Nicky Hall has a background in advertising and packaging and has worked with high street brands and blue-chip companies.
The final company to make the shortlist is Yorkshire Handmade, which produces bespoke furniture. It has a showroom in Driffield and sells through a network of independent kitchen outlets in England. The judging panel wants some of the other companies, like Nourish Me Now, to apply again next year.
LOCAL Business Accelerators campaign backers include the Prime Minister, Dragons’ Den entrepreneur Deborah Meaden, CBI director general John Cridland and Business Secretary Vince Cable.
Last year’s inaugural competition was won by the Ilkley Brewery, backed by the Yorkshire Post.
Dr Cable said: “The Ilkley Brewery doubled sales on the back of local newspaper advertising. This has been powerful support.”
The Newspaper Society said 500 titles registered for the campaign this year. Together they received 1,900 entries.
“Local press and local businesses have been partners for decades,” said society president Adrian Jeakings.