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£10K Business Boost judges announced – including ex-Dragon's Den investor

7-minute read

Lauren Hellicar

3 September 2020

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Simply Business has announced the judges for its eagerly-awaited Business Boost cash grant – with an ex-Dragon’s Den investor set to feature.

Applicants for the single £10,000 award will be whittled down to 12 finalists, before the judging panel select their winner.

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on small business owners and the self-employed. Almost half expect to lose up to £10,000, and 67 per cent have been forced to stop trading temporarily, while two fifths are at risk of having to permanently close their business.

The beating heart of the British economy

Despite the bleak picture painted by the numbers, there’s no denying that small businesses have consistently been the beating heart of the UK economy – accounting for 99 per cent of all British business.

Put simply, we need small business to bounce back if we're to recover economically.

One £10,000 Business Boost cash grant

Thankfully, the self-employed are resilient. Research suggests 75 per cent intend to continue or restart their business, with a further 10 per cent even planning to take the leap and start a new one.

But with finance a stumbling block on that road to recovery, Simply Business is stepping in to give one small business owner a £10,000 cash injection to start – or revive – their business.

Entries close on 28 September 2020. Enter now for your chance to win. The shortlist will be announced on 9 October, with successful entrants notified by email. And the winner will be selected on 6 November.

Introducing our Business Boost judges

The panel of business experts who’ll choose the winner include:

  • an ex-Dragon’s Den investor and Secret Millionaire
  • the founder of the ExcludedUK movement
  • one of the most influential champions of British micro-business
  • the CEO of one of the fastest growing social media and publishing groups in the UK
  • and our own Simply Business UK CEO

Read more about what qualifies them for this important decision...

Piers Linney – British businessman, investor, and ex-Dragons’ Den 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.

A well-known champion of small and medium-sized businesses, Piers is best known as a former Dragon on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den, and as a Channel 4 Secret Millionaire, which was filmed inside a young offenders’ institution.

As a qualified lawyer, he 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 CEO of a corporate finance business raising funds for technology start-ups and SMEs. His next move led him to become 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. He’s also 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 during the outbreak of Covid-19.

An advocate for diversity and inclusion, 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.

In Piers’s words: "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, ExcludedUK

Anneka Hicks runs a small account-based marketing and lead generation consultancy for companies in the IT sector. With an extensive background in all aspects of marketing, from creative, to digital, to traditional, Anneka started her career in the advertising industry.

She worked for local newspapers before doing a management buyout of a radio station at the age of 23, spending the next 10 years or so as a freelancer covering interim marketing director roles for IT and Telecoms companies.

It was during her term as landlady of a small village pub in 2016 that she launched Cloud10 Marketing. The small team within her limited company looked after three full-time contracts. But on 23rd March 2020, Cloud10’s core clients suffered significant losses in turnover due to the lockdown and all external contracts were frozen, resulting in a loss of monthly income for the company of over 95 per cent, overnight.

Suddenly finding herself with lots of time on her hands – and excluded from government support – Anneka joined the ForgottenLtd campaign group on Facebook. She helped to build group numbers and awareness of limited company directors who were falling through the cracks, and discovered a love of helping people through the toughest of times.

This led her to realise that a much broader audience needed support across so many other groups experiencing the same ineligibility for the government’s Covid-19 support schemes. So she teamed up with two other colleagues, with a goal of creating a long-term supportive community of like-minded, tenacious and talented individuals. The group shared a passion for supporting one another through this crisis, having been excluded from the same support as other taxpayers. ExcludedUK was born.

In Anneka’s words: "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."

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Tony Robinson OBE – Author and Vocal Champion of the Self-employed

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.

His OBE was awarded for services to small firms and he has two Lifetime Achievement Awards for Enterprise. Tony is currently the National Enterprise Network’s Enterprise Support Champion. He’s 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?’

In Tony’s words: "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 and Founder, Electric House

Electric House is one of the fastest growing social media and publishing groups in the UK. Founded over a bottle of rum, the business has grown into an agency of over 60 people.

The organisation’s CEO and Founder, Lee Wilcox, 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. These include On the Tools, the world’s largest construction community, as well as On A Budget, which has 1.5 million ‘Household Warriors’ and counting. Taking a UK-centric approach, Electric House became 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 Electric House into a family. It’s his mission to maintain this environment where everyone feels safe and valued – where their happiness and welfare is at the heart of the company’s values.

Electric House creates, produces and distributes ‘shockingly good’ video content through its social media communities. The organisation’s foundations lie in connecting construction for those ‘On The Tools’. But its communities spread much, much wider.

In Lee’s words: "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, Simply Business

Alan oversees the growth and culture of Simply Business in the UK – keeping us focused on our long-term vision and strategic priorities. Central to this is a belief in our unique company values, and an emphasis on enabling the big dreams of our diverse customers and the people who work for us.

No two people – or customers – are the same, and Alan’s role is to make sure our culture, the products we offer, and our company values always reflect this. We’re an accredited B Corp, so this way of thinking applies to the impact we can have on those around us too.

Before taking on the role of UK CEO, Alan was our Chief Commercial Officer. Using his wealth of experience as a Chartered Insurer, he managed the relationships with our insurer partners and suppliers – working to create the best outcomes for our customers.

In Alan’s words: "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."

A chance to win a £10,000 business boost

We know it's difficult to start or run a small business at the best of times, and that challenge has increased since the coronavirus outbreak.

That’s why Simply Business are giving away a £10,000 business boost to help someone get started – or get going again. Find out more and enter below.

Enter now

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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