Eyes On The Prize

2 06 2008

Business competition entrants and winners can all benefit from opportunities to raise their company’s profile, generate press and publicity and communicate marketing messages. The advantages are two-way.

This Friday, 6 June, individuals actively supporting and promoting women entrepreneurs from all over the UK will attend the Prowess Awards 2008 in Birmingham to find out whether they’ve won a coveted award in one of eleven categories. The Government’s Minister for Women and Equality, Harriet Harman, recently said: “We need to encourage more women to take the plunge. Men are almost twice as likely as women to start a new business. That’s why we are determined to close this gap by providing solid support and encouragement.”

The Prowess Awards recognises the immense contribution successful women entrepreneurs are making to the UK economy.

Increasingly, competitions address the needs of specific economic sectors. The second annual Young Rural Entrepreneur of the Year Award has been launched, highlighting the enterprise needs of rural economies and the communities that depend on their success. By introducing a competitive element, businesses within a certain sector, or development agencies keen to revitalise sections of the economy, can begin to encourage start-ups and entrepreneurial businesses to flourish.

NCGE’s co-sponsorship with HSBC of the recent Unipreneurs competition, our backing for SEEDA’s MAD Ideas contest, focusing on social entrepreneurship, and the eagerly awaited Times Higher Education Award for ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ all provide incentives for graduate entrepreneurs to demonstrate their success and get noticed.

This year’s Unipreneurs winners – Luke Walsh, from the University of York, and Luke Jefferson, from UEA – met and launched their business, Scratchface, while they were both NCGE-Kauffman Flying Start Global Fellows. Competition judge Peter Jones, from TV’s Dragons’ Den, proclaimed the pair multimillionaires in the making.

Luke Walsh praised the impact of Flying Start and the Global Fellowship, offered in partnership with distinguished US entrepreneurship body the Kauffman Foundation. “The Fellowship has raised my expectations, goals and aspirations and given me the tools to go out and achieve those goals. It has given me the confidence to go out there and do it, and I have learned that having a good idea is only the start; it’s the execution of that idea which is critical.”

Entrepreneurial competitions open up access to a new network of fellow businesspeople and potential advisors, coaches and mentors. This injection of expertise and support could be a determinant of future success. Taking advantage of associated publicity can create a media connection that should invite follow-ups, so long as the stories retain news value. And winners may gain a much-needed cash bonus, such as the £20,000 cash prize Scratchface won in the Unipreneurs competition, at a major milestone on their business’s road to growth.

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