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Who’s up for our £10,000 Business Boost? Say hello to our shortlisted finalists

5-minute read

Sam Bromley

29 October 2020

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With our £10,000 Business Boost competition reaching its final stages, we're delighted to share the 11 shortlisted businesses in with a shout for our cash grant.

Almost 15,000 self-employed people entered for a chance to win. And with countless stories of resilience, creativity, and innovation, we were blown away by the quality. Narrowing this down to just 11 businesses was no easy task.

But now the competition is closed, we’re delighted to announce our shortlist.

What is the Business Boost cash injection?

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

But small businesses are the beating heart of the UK economy – accounting for 99 per cent of all British businesses. Put simply, we need small business to bounce back if our economy and communities are to recover.

We're committed to supporting this recovery, and that's why we launched our Business Boost competition, with the aim of giving one winner a £10,000 cash injection to start, grow – or revive – their small business.

A shortlist that showcases the creativity of UK small business owners

With that in mind, our shortlist highlights the resilience, innovation and diversity of UK small businesses.

From bespoke terrariums to sustainable baby wraps, learn more about our shortlisted business owners – in their own words…

Boosting ocean health – ARC Marine, Brixham

ARC Marine’s environmentally conscious structures, described as “building blocks” for the ocean, are accelerating reef creation on a global scale.

Based in Brixham, Devon, owner Steve Wright wants to purchase new equipment to scale up manufacturing and meet demand for more projects. He also wants to create a display in a national aquarium to explain the importance of reefs to our marine ecosystems – and local economies.

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A cafe promoting Welsh culture – Bloc Cafe, Cardiff

Ever been for a coffee in an old public toilet?

Of course, we’re doing Bloc Cafe a disservice – owner Donna Paton says the team runs this small hospitality business from the “ultimate upcycled building” based in Victoria Park, Cardiff.

And Bloc can do more than serve you a daily cup of joe – they also run Welsh classes and Welsh-language comedy nights. A cash injection will help them meet the challenges presented by coronavirus lockdowns, creatively.

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From experiencing tool theft to preventing it – Vanguardian, Leeds

Michael Horsfall spent over 30 years as a self-employed plumbing and heating engineer, all the while experiencing theft, vehicle damage and loss.

So, Michael developed Vanguardian, an alarm system designed to both deter thieves and stop them in their tracks by emitting a 110db alarm.

A cash injection will help Michael publicise the product, develop new lines under the Vanguardian patent, and get trades outlets to stock and display Vanguardian.

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Diverse, representative greetings cards – InclusiviTwee, Milton Keynes

Owner Nicki Beckley set up InclusiviTwee after she couldn’t find a greetings card that represented her young black daughter, realising that it’s very difficult to find cards that feature Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people.

Nicki sold her cards at markets and pop up stalls, but this means that coronavirus has had a big impact on her business and her ability to tell her story. A cash injection will help her realise her dream of getting the cards stocked in stores.

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On-trend, practical clothing for disabled people – Kintsugi, Manchester

Kintsugi’s owner Emma mentions a startling statistic in her Business Boost application – ”there are more than 13 million disabled people in the UK alone, but somehow there are more clothing lines for dogs than this demographic.”

It’s not only availability that’s a problem, but practicality too. Emma gives pockets as an example. They’re fine at standing level, but when you’re seated in a wheelchair, they’re inaccessible. Extra funding would allow Emma to invest in developing new clothing lines.

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Sports for all youngsters – MatchPoint MultiSports, Sandwich

Tennis coach Malcolm made MatchPoint MultiSports a community interest company in 2019, aiming to make sports available for all young people – regardless of race, age or social status.

But when the schools and leisure centres closed, Malcolm wasn’t able to fulfil this mission. A business boost would let Malcolm invest in setting up costs and equipment for free sporting camps, meaning he can give back to the community he loves.

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Terrariums that bring nature into the home – ome, Bristol

Terrariums are botanical ecosystems in a glass – and ome owner Joe makes bespoke terrariums that help people get engaged with nature, without needing to leave the house. Because of this, Joe’s seen a spike in interest during the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite being a new business, ome already has over 5,000 followers on Instagram and an Etsy store, with a business website under construction. ome’s biggest obstacle is funding, and a cash injection will help Joe buy supplies in bulk and meet demand.

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British-made baby wraps – Rowan Bay, Norfolk

This artisan textile business produces woven baby wraps and slings from sustainable yarns – and owner Larissa even has a small flock of Shetland sheep that she’ll be making her own yarn from. She wants to show her customers the full journey from sheep to wrap.

Before lockdown, Larissa was just about to launch a new line of products, but this has been put on hold. She’ll use a cash injection to fund this next line and expand her business.

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A socially conscious publisher – Butterfly Books, West Midlands

Butterfly Books is aiming to bust gender roles and stereotypes by publishing career-themed picture books, including titles like ‘My Mummy is Engineer’ and ‘My Daddy is a Nurse.’

A black and women-owned publisher addressing bias in the industry, coronavirus has meant that the business’s planned projects for the year have been postponed or cancelled. A business boost will give Butterfly Books the opportunity to realise these projects and keep spreading its social mission.

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Supporting eco-conscious dog owners – The Puppy Playground, Glossop

Fiona started The Puppy Playground as an online business, but wants to make her business a high street favourite.

Her venture’s about making it easier for dog owners to buy products that are vegan, cruelty-free, organic, recyclable, compostable or biodegradable. Fiona wants her business to be more than a shop – she wants it to be an enriching experience for both dogs and their owners. After moving away from freelance copywriting, a business boost will help her grow her business over the next 12 months.

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Engaging event experiences – Birmingham Hybrid Event Studios, Birmingham

Large-scale events can only be held digitally for the time being, so Birmingham Hybrid Event Studios has adapted to offer virtual conferences and exhibitions.

As most settle for Zoom presentations, this business has realised that many people will soon be after something far more engaging. With socially distanced studios that offer training rooms and green screens, Birmingham Hybrid Event Studios believes that this will be a very popular option even when restrictions are relaxed.

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We will announce the winner very shortly

The quality of the businesses above, as well as the video pitches, will make it tough for our expert judging panel to choose a winner.

But choose they must. We’ll announce our winner on Friday 6 November – watch this space.

Inspired by our shortlist? We'll be back with our Business Boost competition in 2021.

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