Former Startups Awards winners join the judging panel – and call for others to enter

Paul Lindley of Ella’s Kitchen and Chemist Direct founder Mitesh Soma, winners in 2006 and 2008 respectively, complete stellar judging team

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  • Ian Wallis

Startups.co.uk is delighted to welcome back the founders of two of the Startups Awards’ biggest success stories, with Ella’s Kitchen’s Paul Lindley and Chemist Direct’s Mitesh Soma (pictured above) joining an already awesome judging panel.

The entrepreneurial pair have both launched new ventures recently and today called on start-up busineses to seize the opportunity to enter the Awards, with the deadline extended to Friday 26 September.

Ella’s Kitchen was named Micro Business of the Year in 2006, the year its colourful products inspired by Lindley’s daughter hit the shelves for the first time.

Since then, the organic baby and toddler foods business has gone on to become an enormous global success, culminating in a multi-million pound sale to US organic and health food giant Hain Celestial last year.

Recalling that very early win, Lindley said: “Winning the Startups Awards was the first of very many awards that Ella’s Kitchen has been honoured to win. As the first it is one of the most special, because it came at a time when I was still very much a one man band, absorbing all the pressures, knock backs and challenges of trying to establish a risky business.

“Winning the award so early in our corporate life gave me tremendous confidence to renew my energy to build the business and a small moment to pat myself on the back and realise others saw our potential, and I wasn’t simply crazy. Such moments are so important.”

Lindley has since become an influential entrepreneur and campaigner on children’s health and wellbeing issues and this month launched new business The Key is E with friend and internationally acclaimed hip hop artist Emmanuel Jal.

Mitesh Soma, who exited Chemist Direct in 2013 prior to a $10m venture capital investment has since launched ecomfactor, an internet group which specialises in creating, acquiring and partnering with brands to grow online sales.

Recalling what his 2008 win at the Startups Awards meant, Soma said: “Winning the Startups Awards meant a great deal for me personally and for my team.

“The sense of endorsement from fellow entrepreneurs who had considered thousands of applications made me feel that we had selected an idea which had real potential to disrupt a big industry.

“This encouraged me and my team, many of whom had taken risks themselves to join a fledgling start-up. Our early traction and plans were validated by winning the awards and it felt as though we had arrived!”

Recommending that others take the opportunity to enter, Soma added that “the awards can lead to an enormous amount of publicity, help endorse your business and provide you with contacts that you can’t find elsewhere and money cannot buy”.

Ian Wallis

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