Essence of the Entrepreneur

Hannah Prevett discovers an antidote to awards scheme fatigue

As I put down the receiver to yet another PR trying to sell me a story about yet another business awards programme, I breathe a sigh of relief. I, like most people, see the value of giving credit when credit is due. However, there are pertinent questions to be asked about the validity of such award programmes. Are they a valuable exercise, weeding out the businessmen and women of the future, or merelyanopportunity for alcohol-saturated, back-patting excess?

I only need look as far as the Growing Business awards programme to keep my cynicism in check. For the past two years the Fast Growth Business Awards have been recognising and honouring the achievement of some of the UK’s leading businesses. And the search for this year’s Young Guns, which endeavours to seek out the brightest young entrepreneurs in the UK, has begun in earnest. Previous winners include Jamie Murray Wells, who founded Glasses Direct and Seb Bishop, president of advertising giant MIVA.

It’s not just Growing Business which is recognising talent among the UK’s entrepreneur community. BT’s Essence of the Entrepreneur competition is in full swing and there are some great prizes up for grabs, not just the usual glitzy trophy and three course slap-up meal. The judges will be dishing out accolades for the best male, best female and best young entrepreneurs, along with the most original business concept. They’ll also name an overall winner – the outstanding entrepreneur of the year award – who will walk away with a £20,000 business grant from BT Business.

If its history is anything to go by, the competition is likely to attract the rising stars of an increasingly celebrated entrepreneurial culture here in the UK. In its first year, Essence of the Entrepreneur 2006 saw Jennifer Irvine scoop an award for The Pure Package, a bespoke meal service which delivers three meals and two snacks to its clients doors every day. Originally started in her kitchen, Irvine now caters for Michelin-starred chefs, top athletes and A-list celebrities.

Clearly, being part of such a high-profile business awards scheme has paid dividends as far as Irvine is concerned. “Winning Essence of the Entrepreneur was a huge honour and really boosted our confidence,” Irvine told Growing Business.

For Kerrie Keeling, the programme’s first ever female entrepreneur of the year award in 2007, the experience has given her business a welcome boost. A Woman’s Touch is a property maintenance company where the bricklayers, electricians and plumbers have “a woman’s eye for detail”, are polite and won’t leave your house looking like an explosion in a paint factory.

“The exposure my company has received as a result of the award has been phenomenal, leading to some major opportunities that are still ongoing a year later,” she affirmed.

The quality of the judging panel for the BT scheme suggests the winners they choose will be thoroughly deserving of our attention. So if you fancy the likes of Peter Jones giving your entrepreneurial skills the once over, get applying. There might even be a drink in it.

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