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£25K Business Boost judges revealed – including The Apprentice winner

4-minute read

Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith

16 July 2021

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Simply Business has announced the judges for this year’s Business Boost competition, with a former Dragons' Den investor and the winner of The Apprentice set to feature on the panel.

Small business owners and entrepreneurs are being invited to enter for the chance to win a £25,000 award, and a shortlist of finalists will put in front the judges to select their winner.

Cash grant to help start or grow a small business

A Simply Business report into the impact of Covid-19 on small businesses shows the significant challenges entrepreneurs faced during the pandemic. With the Business Boost cash injection, we hope to help one small business owner start, grow, or revive their business.

Introducing our Business Boost judges

The Business Boost judging panel includes a range of experts from the UK business industry, including:

Find out more about the judges below.

Piers Linney – British businessman, investor and former star of Dragons’ Den

Piers Linney is a leading British businessman, investor and former star of TV’s Dragons’ Den. He judged the inaugural Business Boost last year, and will once again provide his expertise in selecting one winner for the 2021 Business Boost.

Piers is a qualified lawyer, entrepreneur, and investor – recognised as one of the top 100 most influential Black Britons, and as a leading ethnic minority executive by The Financial Times. Piers has founded several companies, sat on the Cabinet Office SME Panel, and is a Non-Executive Director of the British Business Bank.

In Piers’ words: “It's a privilege to be a part of the Business Boost panel for the second time, and to collaborate with Simply Business on this important initiative.

“It has been a particularly difficult time for anyone trying to start, run, or grow a small business in the UK. For us to be given the opportunity to make it a little easier for an SME owner is a really exciting thing.”

Carina Lepore, The Apprentice winner

Co-owner of Dough Bakehouse in South London, Carina Lepore won BBC’s The Apprentice in 2019, earning a cash injection of £250,000 from Lord Sugar.

She has since opened a second bakery and has plans to open up several new sites in 2021/22. Dough Bakehouse remains a family business – Carina’s dad Carlo freshly bakes all the products every morning, while she manages the day-to-day running of the independent bakery.

In Carina’s words: “I’m delighted to be a part of the Business Boost panel. As an entrepreneur, I sympathise greatly with the suffering small business owners have had to endure over the past 18 months. I’m thrilled to be a part of the initiative and give a fellow entrepreneur a much needed boost!”

Tony Robinson OBE – Author and vocal champion of the self-employed

Tony Robinson OBE is an author and micro-business champion and multiple business owner. We’re delighted that he’ll be joining our judging panel for a second time.

Tony’s the founder of (and campaigns for) #PayIn30Days and is the co-founder of #MicroBizMatters Day. He’s also founder of the SFEDI Group, Chair of Yorkshire in Business Limited and Patron of the John Cracknell Youth Enterprise Bank.

Tony’s been awarded an OBE for services to small firms, and two Lifetime Achievement Awards for Enterprise. He’s currently the National Enterprise Network’s Enterprise Support Champion.

In Tony’s words: “Simply Business shares my passion in raising awareness around small businesses and their importance to the economy. If there was ever a moment to lend a hand to UK’s small and micro business owners, now is it. I can’t wait to return to the Business Boost panel for a second time.”

Merlie Calvert – CEO and Founder, Farillio

Merlie Calvert is the CEO and founder of Farillio, an award-winning tech startup in the business and legal services sector.

Farillio’s mission is to ensure that no small business owner struggles because they can’t access the information, materials or expert help they need. Merlie is unapologetically rebellious about championing small business rights and was recognised by the Financial Times in 2019 for being among the top four per cent of global legal tech innovators.

Larissa Cooper – 2020 Business Boost winner

Larissa Cooper is the owner and Creative Director of Rowan Bay, a woven baby wrap business based in Norfolk. Passionate about design, Larissa created the babywearing brand in 2016 after she needed to carry her own son.

Rowan Bay is focused on ethical and sustainable wool production using fully traceable wool from flocks that meet their high welfare standards. Any leftover wool is used for their sister business, Naked Wool, to ensure minimal waste.

Alan Thomas – UK CEO, Simply Business

Alan Thomas has been the UK CEO of Simply Business since December 2019 and will complete the judging panel.

Alan oversees the growth and culture of Simply Business, with an emphasis on enabling big dreams – both for our employees and the customers we serve. Before becoming UK CEO, Alan was our Chief Commercial Officer, managing relationships with our insurers and creating the best outcomes for our customers.

In Alan’s words: “Through conversations with our customers and surveys from the wider industry we are well aware of the devastating impact the pandemic has had upon the UK SME community. We want to provide a genuine transformational impact to one small business owner who begins to navigate the post-lockdown world, and that is why we are offering an increased prize value of £25,000 to help them reach their big dreams.

“My fellow judges and I can’t wait to see the entries submitted for this year. With over 4,500 applications already having been made, choosing the winner is going to be tough, but a decision I can’t wait to help make!”

Entries to the Business Boost grant are open until Friday 17 September. A shortlist will be unveiled on 4 October, with the eventual winner expected to be announced on 22 October.

Find out more about Business Boost and enter

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Catriona Smith

Written by

Catriona Smith

Catriona Smith is a content and marketing professional with 12 years’ experience across the financial services, higher education, and insurance sectors. She’s also a trained NCTJ Gold Standard journalist. As a Senior Copywriter at Simply Business, Catriona has in-depth knowledge of small business concerns and specialises in tax, marketing, and business operations. Catriona lives in the seaside city of Brighton where she’s also a freelance yoga teacher.

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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