TODAY The News is helping to launch a national campaign which will give a massive boost to fledgling firms.
We are working closely with IBM’s Stuart Hill on the campaign, called Local Business Accelerators.
It’s being backed by Dragons’ Den judge Deborah Meaden, pictured, and is spearheaded by the The Newspaper Society.
Around 500 local papers are involved and together we will be searching for the nation’s most promising young businesses.
It’s open to all businesses that are active in the local community, between one and three years old and full of potential. They may have a great idea or product, or even found a new market.
They’re the kind of businesses that will create new jobs and pride in the community.
Firms can nominate themselves, or be nominated by clients or customers.
The winner will be chosen by a panel of judges, including Mr Hill, business editor at The News Emma Judd and editor Mark Waldron.
The winning firm will get top professional advice from Mr Hill and other local business mentors, plus a substantial allocation of free advertising space in The News.
What’s more, one lucky business picked from the hundreds of regional winners will get mentoring sessions from Ms Meaden, who will become a consultant and mentor to the business for one year.
Prime minister David Cameron is backing the campaign.
He said: ‘The Local Business Accelerators campaign will help provide the boost that our smaller British businesses need right now.
‘By joining forces to launch this excellent initiative, local newspapers are demonstrating their commitment and providing exactly the sort of practical, hands-on support that will help young local businesses succeed and grow.
‘Those that will benefit from the initiative are the very businesses and entrepreneurs that will help to lead Britain’s recovery.
‘I want to thank all those involved for taking part in Local Business Accelerators and to wish you every success with this important campaign.’
To find out more, and to enter, visit accelerateme.co.uk.
Nominations close on November 14.
Geraldine Allinson, president of the Newspaper Society, added: ‘The UK needs to grow local businesses like never before, and local businesses need local press.
‘No other medium has the power, local knowledge and influence to activate a scheme like Local Business Accelerators.
‘It’s where local newspapers have always made a real difference: by helping to build strong local businesses and encourage thriving communities.’
DEBORAH Meaden’s credentials in helping entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground is extensive.
Best known for her role on the Dragon’s Den panel, she is also a business angel.
Similar to her Dragon’s Den role, it means she will invest her own money in businesses she believes in.
And she knows where to turn to give those businesses the exposure they need.
She said: ‘I’ve seen the unique contribution that local press makes to the success of local businesses time and again with my own ventures.
‘In this age of enterprise it has never been more important to drive awareness about the value of local marketing for a fledgling business, which is why I’m so proud to support Local Business Accelerators and help build thriving and industrious communities.’