Philip Eckett, Owl Conservationist

Winner

Owl Wise
Philip Eckett, Owl Conservationist

Why did you start?

I had a large collection of owls, which were used for breeding for conservation purposes. My work involved countryside education with children at a Country Park in Basildon. Unfortunately after a serious illness I was retired through ill-health. With little income I would have had to part with my owls, so when I was given the OK health-wise I set up 'Owl Wise' which involved taking tame owls into schools, youth groups, talks and shows, and giving educational displays hoping to get more people, particularly children, to be aware of the countryside and its conservation. Basically the tame owls now help towards the costs of the other work I do, breeding owls for release worldwide, taking in injured owls, and being able to use the birds for conservation purposes.

"I set up 'Owl Wise' which involved taking tame owls into schools, youth groups, talks and shows."

What's the most memorable moment you've had so far?

I had visited St Christopher Special School in Southend on several occasions with the owls.

When quite ill with pneumonia 6 years ago I received a hand-made 'Get Well' card from the children. It helped me get through the illness, and when I went back to the school the following year I took the card with me. The children couldn't believe I had kept it. I now get invited to all their special events, and try my best to attend at least one every year. That card meant a lot and I still have it.

Every time I watch an owl that was injured fly back to the wild after my care, it still brings a lump to my throat.

What's next?

One day I would like to have a holiday, something I haven't done for nearly 28 years, since I started working with owls. There is nobody who can look after my owls if I went away. It's not like a dog where you can pop it down the local kennel. I have bred about 130 Barn Owls (amongst many others) for release and would like to get to 150 before I call it a day. In the last couple of years their numbers have started to increase, and I would like to continue being part of that.

Also there are still a couple of my favourite species of owl that I haven't successfully bred, and I would like to work with them before I have to stop.

Emma Spires, Drama School Owner

Performing4u
Emma Spires, Drama School Owner

Why did you start?

I've been a stay-at-home-mum for the past three years, and whilst that can be very rewarding, I really missed teaching drama. There's nothing quite like seeing a child grow in confidence and feel like they're achieving something. I originally wanted to work for someone else, but it didn't fit with my ethos, as most of these bigger companies had unqualified teachers and could up and leave at any moment. I also felt their termly fees were too big and most families wouldn't be able to afford it. I know from having two kids myself how tough it can be, and they don't currently go to any clubs as we can't afford it. I found myself thinking "I could do this myself and stay true to my ethos". I'd thought about running a drama school for years, where kids could have quality drama by a qualified teacher at affordable prices, that could help children through drama at school too. This seemed the perfect time! So Performing4u, a drama school for 3-16 year olds, was born!

"There's nothing quite like seeing a child grow in confidence and feel like they're achieving something."

What's the most memorable moment you've had so far?

I think there have been so many memorable moments really. The first would be on the opening day, seeing everyone turn up for their taster class. The second would be having to start a waiting list for the youngest class. The most memorable was the first show and seeing everyone enjoying themselves so much, and seeing kids who didn't want to join in without their mums at the start performing in front of everyone. Lovely end to the term.

What's next?

I'm hoping to start the older classes now (11-16) and I'm opening a second site in September with the younger class. This venue will also allow me to run workshops to raise money for a different children's charity each term. This term I'm looking at Chestnut Tree House Hospice. My long term five year goals are to run toddler story and movement classes once my youngest is at playschool, have all classes full, offer a scholarship each term in each class, continue to run workshops in schools (which I've just started) and hold performances at The Capitol Theatre in Horsham... oh, and adopt!

Barry Wilson, Engineer (motorized caravan mover)

Shifta Products
Barry Wilson, Engineer

Why did you start?

I was introduced to the first battery motorised caravan mover, which had serious limitations. I suggested to the manufacturer several ways of improving it. He told me that what I proposed was not possible. I asked why and was told I wouldn't understand as I was only a toolmaker and he had a degree in engineering design!

He was right in that in my early days I had taken a tool making apprenticeship, which gave me hands on engineering skills. I put these to work and created a machine superior to the original one I had seen.

I then offered it to the manufacturer, after patenting it, and expected him to take it up and pay me a royalty on each sale. He rejected it as unworkable and unsaleable and I had no choice but to market it myself.

Sales took off and after a year, in 1990, I left my job and started making my machine called the Mr Shifta caravan mover and selling it directly to the public. I demonstrated every machine to the customer at his home from Land's End to John o' Groats, and in virtually every case the customer bought it.

It became clear that I couldn't carry on doing everything myself so demonstrators were employed, and staff to man the office and assemble the machines were found.

The one thing I am most proud of is that we have never had to replace a burnt out motor in the whole 21 years we have made the Shifta machines. This shows the quality of British made units.

The picture shows a SupaShift3 moving double glazing units.

"In 1990, I left my job and started making my machine... and selling it directly to the public."

What's the most memorable moment you've had so far?

I hate to admit it but the most satisfaction came when the company that rejected my machine went into receivership four years after I launched the Mr Shifta, and I discovered that the owner never did have a degree after all. The most memorable moment was when we had an order for a machine from Rolls Royce to move heavy tooling about. This led us to seek industrial customers and as a result we’ve supplied Aston Martin, Jaguar, JCB, Nissan, Toyota, Vauxhall, Peugeot, government departments and many, many others.

What's next?

These are difficult times for us all and the caravan market is now dominated by remote controlled units that drive the caravan’s own wheels. It could be said that "what goes around, comes around". As a result we now concentrate on industrial markets, but they too are having a hard time so sales are not easy to find.

It would be nice to know what the future holds for us all but I think we will just have to wait and see.

Jade Williamson, Fashion Designer

Molly Rouge
Jade Williamson, Fashion Designer

Why did you start?

I had always liked to create things that were unique and different from what everyone else had, so I decided to study fashion design and technology so that I could make women’s wear from start to finish. I know that people like to dress to express their personality and I wanted to give them more choice.

"I know that people like to dress to express their personality and I wanted to give them more choice."

What's the most memorable moment you've had so far?

My favourite dress-making commission was a school girl who wanted her prom dress altering. She had bought it from China and it didn't arrive looking as she expected, so I added layers and layers of organza ruffles and lace until she had her dream dress and was able to go to her end of school prom looking like a fairytale princess. My favourite moment was when she tried it on and I saw the look on her face. Complete satisfaction.

What's next?

I am working on my new collections for Autumn/Winter 2012 and for next Summer. I am looking to take on another seamstress to help me get my designs produced quicker. I want to make more creative outfits and do more fashion shows, but I am focusing on making more commercial designs until I can afford to splash out on something fancy and spectacular. I create something new each week so watch this space...

Bill Rogers, Author & Publisher

Bill Rogers
Bill Rogers, Author & Publisher

Why did you start?

I had always regarded retirement as a new beginning not an end. After 41 years of employment I finally had the time and freedom to turn my secret aspiration - writing crime novels - into a fulfilling business opportunity. Not that money was the object. I simply had to write. Having been shortlisted for a major debut novel award, and being picked up by a leading agent, I eagerly awaited the response of the big five publishers. The superlatives flowed, however there was one consistent "but"; my books were seen as 'mid-list' rather than instant best-sellers. There was also an unspoken barrier - with the exception of another agent who shared it with the Theakston's Crime Writer's Festival - my age! Undaunted, I decided to become a publisher - Caton Books Ltd. Five years on I have nine of my own paperbacks and eBooks out there. And they are selling so well that it would take a very considerable offer from one of those major publishers to persuade me to surrender the freedom I know enjoy.

"Five years on I have nine of my own paperbacks and eBooks out there."

What's the most memorable moment you've had so far?

Two equally memorable moments: receiving the ebook Publishing Consortium Writer's Award for 'The Cleansing'; and discovering this month - July 2012 - that in the Amazon Kindle 'paid- in-store' rankings all seven of my DCI Tom Caton Manchester Crime Novels feature in the top eleven most popular British Thrillers, and six of them in the top ten British Crime Fiction and Police Procedural categories.

What's next?

Completing title number ten in time for Christmas. Publishing all of my titles as audiobooks. Pursuing foreign rights and film/TV rights opportunities. Not bad for retirement?

Yvonne Kirby, Landlady

Yvonne Kirby, Landlady

Why did you start?

I started as a landlord after selling my house but I couldn't find anything suitable to buy. I rented a property myself and as a tenant I could not believe how badly I was treated by the letting agents that managed the property. I couldn't wait to get out! I purchased a refurbishment project to live in. I had a little bit of money left for a deposit for a second small property that I purchased and also refurbished. I decided to let the second property and ensured that I managed the letting myself, offering the tenant good value for money but also a fair, friendly and considerate experience - a welcome card, a box of chocolates, a bottle of wine, a helping hand on moving in day. Just going the extra mile. The tenant has been living there ever since and we have become friends, although I remain very professional. Word spread, and when I purchased my second property the future tenant actually came to visit me and brought the deposit and first month rent before I had even exchanged contracts and got the keys. They hadn't seen inside but said they had spoken to the first tenant and knew that I would treat them fairly. That’s all tenants want! I purchased another property and run that the same as the first two. My main aim as a landlord is not only to make a decent return but also to offer a fair and stress free (as much as possible) letting. It works brilliantly and all three of my tenants state that they are so appreciative of my little extras and caring attitude that none of them want to leave. Touch wood, but I’ve never had a void period. Never had a late payment. I'm now looking for property number four.

"My main aim as a landlord is not only to make a decent return but also to offer a fair and stress free letting."

What's the most memorable moment you've had so far?

When my first tenant moved into the house the shower leaked. I immediately sent a plumber round and he fixed it the same day. The tenant was so appreciative that she sent me a thank you card and invited me round for a coffee. How many letting agents get thank you cards I wonder? I was so touched by her thank you and I could tell that it was genuine. I am now often invited in for coffee and a chat. What a lovely way to run a letting. The only advert I have place for my properties was a card in the local store window. My first tenant saw it and knocked on the door whilst I was renovating the property. My other two tenants are word of mouth. My landlord motto is now "Little things make a massive difference.” I love it!

What's next?

I'm looking for another property at the moment and I have people calling me to see if I have anything to let yet. My aim is to have seven properties, but my aim is also to run them with care and consideration. I want to retire from my day job when I’m 55 and live off the rental profits. Come on you landlord/ladies - show you care - it's paying off for me.

Lizzie Greenaway, Chocolate & Cake Shop Owner

So Cocoa
Lizzie Greenaway, Chocolate & Cake Shop Owner

Why did you start?

Whilst studying for my law degree and masters in law I worked part time in the small chocolate and cake shop I now own. To earn money I began to sell cakes to the previous owner as well as working there, and during that time I discovered a gift for baking. On completion of my masters, the previous shop owner told me she was considering selling, offering me first refusal. I purchased the business the day I finished my postgraduate study, and instead of following law I now sell chocolate and cakes!

"...instead of following law I now sell chocolate and cakes!"

What's the most memorable moment you've had so far?

There have been many moments of success but I think the highlight was The Guardian newspaper reviewing the shop after a secret shopper came in. To see a dazzling review in a national broadsheet of such calibre, saying how great our cakes were was beyond what I had hoped for from a review. It has been instrumental in my marketing and advertising since.

What's next?

I would like to expand our online presence, through the use of social media, blogs and our online shop. I also bake outside of the premises at the moment but I am hoping to buy an oven so I can bake in store in the future, which would help me to continue to expand our occasion cake and wedding cake range.

Deborah Hinton, Rocking Horse Maker

Jolly Rockers
Deborah Hinton, Rocking Horse Maker

"Harrods will be stocking my toddlers’ rockers and hobby horses."

Why did you start?

I started my first business when I was a single mum. Wanting to come off benefits, I applied for and received a grant from the Prince's Youth Business Trust, and I was able to start my business of mural painting. I was a runner up in the LiveWIRE young business entrepreneur 1999 for the Surrey region. Unfortunately I had an accident, which left me needing 9 operations to my knee and I was unable to carry on (ladders and bad knees are not a good combination!).

After many years, a very happy marriage, another child and several dead end jobs, I decided to try my hand at carving. I had always wanted a rocking horse and knowing that I was unlikely to ever afford one, decided to have a go. Last summer I bought a book and a dvd and taught myself to carve.

I now make and sell toddlers' rockers, hobby horses and rocking horses.

What's the most memorable moment you've had so far?

Getting a yes from Ian Gibbs, Head buyer for Toy Kingdom, HARRODS! They will be stocking my toddlers' rockers and hobby horses.

What's next?

To continue to grow the business and learn as much as I can in the process.

Robert Moon, Plasterer

Robert Moon
Robert Moon, Plasterer

Why did you start?

Mandarin. A zesty, pithy fruit...no. Not that kind of Mandarin. I am learning Mandarin Chinese and I think this has to be indirectly the main reason for me setting up my business. Let me explain...

In January 2011 I began learning Mandarin as part of an organisation that offers a voluntary educational services to Mandarin speaking people wherever they reside. However, I was working as a 'hoddy'. My workload was exhausting and often left me too tired to study the language to the extent that I wished.

Therefore, in January 2012 I took an intensive plastering course and have since then been working as a self-employed plasterer/handyman. This has given me the extra time and flexibility that I need to study Mandarin thoroughly and complete my teaching assignments.

"It has been my experience in life that it's not about where you are, it's about who you are with."

What's the most memorable moment you've had so far?

It has been my experience in life that it's not about where you are, it's about who you are with. You could be in Rome, staring up at the burning yellow of the Colosseum or in Barcelona awe-struck at the fluid interchange of passing between Iniesta and Messi but the wrong company could make even those situations unpleasant.

As in life, so in work. My most memorable experience has to do with two plasterers I met only last week. Their kindness was a joy to experience:

As a relatively new plasterer, I am prone to mistakes. In the course of one job I put on more plaster than I could handle. It was drying so quickly that I didn't have time to trowel out all the lines and holes... it was going to be a complete mess! Thankfully, in the other room were two extremely experienced plasterers who jumped to my aid and helped me finish the room to a high standard. What's more, over the next couple of days they took me under their wing and showed me how they achieve their very high standard of finishing.

Construction can be a hard and cut-throat business. Those guys are proof that you don't have to be a tough-nut to work on a building site. That has to be my most memorable experience so far.

What's next?

Regional volunteering and beyond! Now that my NVQ is complete I intend to put my skills to use not only in secular work but also in my voluntary work.

While I continue to progress in speed and skill, working flexibly as a plasterer, I intend to use some of my days off to support the construction services that my voluntary organisation also runs. As an unpaid worker I look forward to the satisfaction that comes from knowing you grafted hard to help others. In time, I hope that this will lead to me being assigned to work all over the world as what is known as an 'international volunteer'.

My younger brother is also contemplating becoming a plasterer. So exciting times lay ahead as we consider adding to our arsenal of tools, buying a van, expanding the business and learning from our mistakes. Anyway, thanks for helping me find such great cover at such a reasonable price... I doubt that you'll be getting rid of me quickly!

Ria Cohen, Fitness Instructor

Movin' Mammas
Ria Cohen, Fitness Instructor

"Movin' Mammas was featured on ITV Westcountry News…. This led to many enquiries, which turned into customers!"

Why did you start?

I was made redundant four years ago. Having been a lawyer for 25 years and finding it increasingly a "youth market" I couldn't get back in to my profession, as I am 52 years old. I ended up being diagnosed with depression and did not just want to sit at home feeling sorry for myself so decided to try a business venture.It was a turning point as it gave me a focus. I am still suffering as I guess the financial aspects of redundancy hit me hard and each day is still a struggle, but at least now there is a purpose to my life and I have just not let it all pass me by.

I had lost 9.5 stones in body weight through diet and exercise (hard work!) so decided to turn my passion for fitness, health and nutrition into a business venture. I decided to target new Mums and set up a Baby Buggy Bootcamp called Movin' Mammas. I also began to do one-on-one personal fitness training sessions and I am a yoga teacher too!

Recently I set up Law Choice - offering fixed fee family law work. I work from home and offer clients times and appointments to suit them at a fixed rate so they know exactly where they stand. So far it works!

What's the most memorable moment you've had so far?

Movin' Mammas was featured on ITV Westcountry News! We had just started up and they filmed us in the freezing cold weather with me looking blue!

This led to many enquiries, which turned into customers!

What's next?

I want to progress with Law Choice and hopefully make enough money to start advertising. At the moment it’s word of mouth.

I know that I have a unique selling point for fixed fees in family law, so that’s a great starting point.

Nicholas Holdsworth, Gardener

Nicholas Holdsworth, Gardener

"I aim to expand further and become the next Lord Sugar, but one step at a time!"

Why did you start?

While my parents were undergoing an extension on our house we lived with my grandparents. To earn some pocket money I used to cut their lawn. When the house was ready and my grandparents moved to an apartment, my father's new boss rented out my grandparents' house. I cut his lawn every fortnight and suddenly more and more people from the business wanted theirs doing too. At age 13, I was earning more money in a month than my friends got pocket money in a year! My inspiration came from my father who told me from a young age; if you ever want something in life you're going to have to pay for it yourself. Now I could. I continued this for a couple of years and at the age of 15 I began working for an estate agent. From Monday to Friday I was at school, at Saturday at the estate agents, and on Sunday mowing lawns. As I wasn't mobile myself, my father had to drive me around to all of these properties, which of course I had to pay petrol money! So, five years on, I have left school and college and now garden full time from little lawns to big factories. I have started to employ people for bigger jobs where it requires more and expanded my equipment range to further cope. I aim to expand further and become the next Lord Sugar, but one step at a time!

What's the most memorable moment you've had so far?

The most memorable moment was getting my logo designed and making my business official, I was proud but also anxious to enter the big world of industry.

What's next?

The next stage is to grow my customer base before the winter period, so come spring I have the customers to kick-start the income once again, to ensure both survival and growth of my business.

Andrea Gardner, Online Marketing

Purple Feather
Andrea Gardner, Online Marketing

Why did you start?

I had a burning desire to help people express themselves more effectively online. There were plenty of advertising copywriters and lots of web designers, but nobody seemed to be linking the two. So I launched as an online copywriting specialist. It took a while to educate other business owners that they needed us but they started to see results pretty quickly. Now there is now a prolific web copywriting industry out there and we have created a successful international business.

"We have been approached by businesses large and small, from a monumental aerospace company in Florida to a man making doormats from lobster trap rope!"

What's the most memorable moment you've had so far?

Two years ago we created a two-minute promotional video called The Power of Words. We persuaded friends and family to act as cast and crew then put it on YouTube almost as an afterthought and promptly forgot about it! A year later we had learned a bit more about social media and decided to 'seed' the video on Facebook and Twitter by posting it to some influential forums. It was Easter weekend so we closed the office and took a holiday. By the time we came back to work on the Tuesday morning the video had become a global sensation with over 1 million views! Better still there were 3,500 emails in my inbox from people around the world wanting to work with us. The business has gone from strength to strength and the video has since attracted 14.5 million views. It played a part in the Arab Spring and it was even picked up by Canadian politicians who were keen to align themselves with the message. I think the most memorable moment for me was when I received an email from a soldier in Libya, saying the video was giving the troops hope and inspiration.

It first went viral in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and America. The second wave hit the UK a year later. It won an award from the North Atlantic Film Council of America and was shortlisted for the inaugural Lovie Awards alongside contenders such as U2 and The Huffington Post.

The video was used by IKEA Europe as part of their training programme and has been shown in schools, churches and training organisations around the world. The CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi in Brussels featured it as one of his favourite videos in his book about advertising and it has been recommended on several celebrity blogs. A comic book was created about the video by prisoners in New York and I'm told it is featured in YouTube's Top10 Favourite Videos of all time.

We never realised the massive impact the video would have on so many lives around the world. I have thousands of emails from people who have contacted me to tell me how it had helped to change their lives and how they wanted to incorporate it into their own businesses and ways of life, even into their political structures and radical movements. We have been asked to spearhead several campaigns – a world peace movement, international students’ rights campaign and Canadian cultural festival - and have been approached by businesses large and small, from a monumental aerospace company in Florida to a man making doormats from lobster trap rope! My favourite emails came from children who’d been shown it at school, or people who’d seen it as part of a training programme and been caused to think differently.

What's next?

Due to the popularity of the video I was approached by publishers Hay House. My book 'Change Your Words, Change Your World' was published this April so I will be spending the next 6 months promoting it here in the UK and across America.