Simply Business announces expert panel as part of business boost initiative

Simply Business announces expert panel as part of business boost initiative

  • Leading insurer of UK SMEs announces panel to decide recipient of £10,000 Covid-19 recovery grant
  • Panel includes leading British investor and former star of TV’s Dragon’s Den, Piers Linney
  • Panel announced as entries to initiative exceed 11,500 SMEs
  • Applicants have until 28 September to enter their business story for consideration

Simply Business, one of the UK’s biggest providers of small business insurance, today announces the members of the judging panel for its Business Boost initiative – designed to help UK SMEs rebound from the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Business Boost judging panel includes a range of representatives from across UK business and industry. Included on the panel is leading British businessman, investor and former star of TV’s Dragon’s Den, Piers Linney.

Piers is joined by Lee Wilcox, CEO of Electric House – one of the fastest growing social media and publishing groups in the UK, and Tony Robinson OBE, a microbusiness campaigner and founder of the #PayIn30Days campaign.

Completing the panel are Anneka Hicks, Founder of ExcludedUK, a support group campaigning for the 3 million people excluded from the UK government’s coronavirus support schemes, and Alan Thomas, the UK CEO of Simply Business who has been in post since December 2019.

This panel will collectively review the entries to the Business Boost initiative. As of today, over 11,500 UK small and micro businesses have applied to the initiative that Simply Business developed with the aim of assisting one entrepreneur on the road to business recovery with a grant of £10,000.

Simply Business, who provide insurance to over 700,000 small businesses and landlords, launched Business Boost after carrying out extensive research of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and related economic lockdown.

Taking place in May 2020, the research surveyed 3,700 UK SMEs and included amongst its key findings:

  • On average, the Covid-19 crisis had cost the average UK SME £11,779 in lost revenue
  • This equates to a total economic hit of £69bn across the UK’s 5.8m small businesses
  • 67% of UK SMEs were forced to temporarily close during the UK lockdown
  • 41% of SME owners fear that their business is at risk of permanent closure as a result of the coronavirus pandemic
  • 234,000 SMEs have already closed in 2020 as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Piers Linney, comments: “It’s an honour to join the Business Boost panel and to work with Simply Business on this much-needed initiative. It has been a hugely challenging period for anyone trying to start, run, or grow a small business in the UK, and it’s essential that this community receives all the support it can get.

“Initiatives like Business Boost can provide UK SMEs with a lift on the road to recovery, and it is crucial that we champion initiatives such as these as we try to return to some semblance of economic normality.”

Anneka Hicks, Founder of ExcludedUK comments: “It is hugely encouraging to see an initiative such as Business Boost prove to be such a success in these difficult times. At ExcludedUK, we’ve been doing everything we can to build awareness and provide support to the many individuals who have fallen between the cracks when it comes to the support provided by the various Government schemes.

“By recognising the issues faced by SMEs, and providing them with a platform to tell their story, Simply Business are demonstrating that they understand the range of challenges this period has thrown up to business owners. I’m really proud to be a part of this and look forward to working with my fellow panellists to crown a worthy winner.”

Tony Robinson, OBE comments: “Simply Business have always shared my desire to recognise the contribution of small and micro business owners and every self-employed person to the economy, job creation, innovation and community support.

“This Business Boost Award provides this recognition and it also provides a major financial boost to one entrepreneur. All entrants are winners but the recipient of the £10,000 will be someone whose progress we can all follow as they lead the bounce back on behalf of millions that have been battered and bruised during lockdown.”

Lee Wilcox, CEO of Electric House comments: “At Electric House, we’ve built the world’s largest construction community – On The Tools. As such, the impact of the coronavirus on the self-employed within this critical economic sector has been crystal clear to us.

“We are delighted to work with our long-term partner Simply Business to promote the Business Boost initiative as we all try to help UK SMEs start the journey on the road to economic recovery.”

Alan Thomas, UK CEO of Simply Business comments: “This month marks the countdown to the 28 September deadline for UK small businesses to apply for our Business Boost initiative.

“Through speaking to our customers and conducting research, we fully appreciate the devastating impact of coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown on the self-employed. That we have had over 11,500 applications shows just how important it is to support UK SMEs as they look to get back on their feet as quickly as possible.

“As the country attempts to recover economically, we hope that our Business Boost will provide one small business owner with a significant financial helping hand. And we know that small business success will be crucial if we are to bounce back.

“Entries to our Business Boost initiative are open until Monday 28 September. A shortlist will be unveiled on 9 October, with the eventual winner expected to be announced in early November.

“Businesses looking to apply for the scheme to have their stories considered by the panel enter here before the closing date at the end of this month.”


About Piers Linney, British businessman and investor Piers Linney is an entrepreneur and investor with a professional background in the City. He has broad experience of the challenges that face small and growth businesses as a founder, adviser, director and investor. Piers is a well-known champion of small and medium-sized businesses, and is best known as a former Dragon on BBC Dragons’ Den and as a Channel 4 Secret Millionaire, which was filmed inside a Young Offenders’ Institution.

Piers qualified as a lawyer specialised in corporate finance and venture capital in the City before joining the investment banking team at Credit Suisse. He left the city to start a dotcom business and became the CEO of a corporate finance business raising funds for technology start-ups and SMEs before becoming a partner at a hedge fund specialising in providing structured debt and equity.

Piers has founded several technology and communication businesses and has won a range of entrepreneurship awards, including Entrepreneur of the Year at the inaugural EY sponsored Black British Business Awards. He sat on the Cabinet Office SME Panel and the Board of TechUK and is a Non-Executive Director of the government-owned British Business Bank, which aims to unlock capital for UK SMEs and which has facilitated over £50bn of financing, incfinancing schemes during the Covid-19 pandemic. Piers has been recognised as one of the top 100 most influential Black Britons and as a leading ethnic minority executive by The Financial Times. He is also an advocate for diversity and inclusion

About Anneka Hicks, Founder of ExcludedUK Anneka Hicks is the founder of ExcludedUK, a grassroots non-profit organisation committed to providing personal, business and career support to those facing hardship as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Anneka is an experienced marketer, strategist, and technologist with a deep-rooted passion for helping small businesses, independents, and entrepreneurs realise their growth potential and succeed in meeting and exceeding their goals.

Her love for helping small independent businesses grow and succeed was realised as a result of finding work at the local newspaper selling traditional advertising space. With a creative eye and an understanding of human psychology, she proceeded to teach herself graphic design, web building and coding skills which she then was able to use to help companies within her hometown promote their brands in print, online and on air.

At the age of 23, Anneka did a management buyout of a local independent radio station that quickly established itself as the fastest growing local radio station in the South East, winning an award for listenership figures. Having then moved ‘accidentally’ into IT & Telecoms sector, at the same time as taking over a local village pub to prevent its closure, Anneka began working with a number of UK based IT companies who looked to provide Silicon Valley Based technology vendors with new market opportunities through UK and EMEA.

Anneka spearheaded the Account Based Marketing movement ‘FlipMyFunnel’ in early 2016, as one of the first to launch the concept in the UK, and later became a #WomenInTech finalist. Later that year, whilst single-handedly bringing up her son, she launched a small marketing agency called Cloud10 Marketing, bringing together marketing experts from 5 countries worldwide and a number of US based start-up marketing technology solution with a passion for delivering high impact brand awareness and lead generation for the IT & Telecoms industry.

The Covid-19 pandemic has enabled Anneka to get back to her routes, and re-evaluate the direction of her career. Having identified a considerable amount of UK Taxpayers falling outside of the Government’s COVID-19 financial support schemes eligibility criteria and seeing the impact of that on their businesses, and careers, as well as their mental health, Anneka set out to put together a support platform that would enable them to find a way through the crisis, building a strong community of likeminded individuals who would be able to help and support each other whilst campaigning against the social injustices and discrimination they were facing. In May 2020, ExcludedUK was founded.

About Tony Robinson OBE Tony Robinson OBE is the Micro Business Champion, multiple business owner, #PayIn30Days Campaigner, Co-Founder of #MicroBizMatters Day and Movement, Founder of the SFEDI Group, Chair of Yorkshire in Business Limited and Patron of the John Cracknell Youth Enterprise Bank.

He has been awarded an OBE for services to small firms and two Lifetime Achievement Awards for Enterprise.

He is currently the National Enterprise Network’s Enterprise Support Champion. He is also a prolific author of fiction and non -fiction. His latest business book is the culmination of a two-year project with co-author, Taryn Lee Johnston, to write the new ‘Small is Beautiful ‘ entitled ‘The Happipreneur – Why MicroBizMatters?’

About Lee Wilcox, CEO of Electric House Lee Wilcox is the CEO and Co-founder of Electric House – one of the fastest growing social media and publishing groups in the UK. Founded over a bottle of rum, Lee has expanded the business to a 60+ person agency. Lee is a multi-award winning entrepreneur, recognised as the ‘Creative Industries and Overall Midlands Entrepreneur of the Year’ at the Natwest Great British Entrepreneur Awards.

Electric House has focused on building niche communities, not audiences. Including On the Tools, the world’s largest construction community, as well as On A Budget – 1.5 million ‘Household warriors’ and counting. This UK centric approach enabled Electric House to become the most viewed UK Social Entity for 2019, Globally.

Lee focuses on Business development and culture, putting the team at the front of every business decision has built a family at Electric House. It’s his mission to maintain this environment where everyone feels safe and valued, where their happiness and welfare is centre stage.

For further information, please contact:

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About Simply Business

Simply Business is one of the UK’s biggest business insurance providers, specialising in public liability insurance for SMEs and insuring over 900,000 small businesses and landlords across Britain.

Launched in 2005, Simply Business provides an online brokerage service, delivering policies tailored to individual business requirements. Using the power of tech and data to create the best possible customer experiences, Simply Business employs over 800 people across offices in London, Northampton, and Boston in the US.

Owing to its internal underwriting capability, Simply Business can cover over 1,000 trade types – ranging from plumbers to accountants to dog walkers. An accredited B Corp for their positive social impact, Simply Business has also been voted the Sunday Times Best Company To Work For twice in a row.

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