Local Business Accelerators: Boss praises Dragon’s contest

Maria Harrison
Maria Harrison

A COMPANY boss has praised a Hartlepool Mail-backed business competition for the way it helps fledgling firms to handle tricky issues.

Maria Harrison, the director of Place in the Park, which is a coffee shop, conference centre and gift shop in Ward Jackson Park, in Hartlepool, spoke out to give her backing to this year’s Local Business Accelerators competition.

Place in the Park was one of three town firms to win last year’s Hartlepool leg of the national competition and pick up the prize of free advertising space as well as mentoring from local business leaders.

Now Maria is urging firms to follow her example and enter the competition.

Maria said: “The mentoring was a good sounding board for any business to have from other companies.

“They are the ones who have been through a similar situation. It is all about just knowing that you have a new business and knowing that someone is there to help you with the pitfalls.

“They are there to help you with the things that crop up, such as employment and retail issues, plus advice on legislation.

“Local Business Accelerators was definitely of benefit to us and I would recommend it to any business, and to any fledgling company.”

The last year has been a time of steady growth for Place in the Park. Maria explained: “Because of the recession, we decided to diversify as much as possible and to have different legs to the business.

“The part that has developed the most is outside catering and that has really grown. It has been quite a dramatic growth but other parts of the business are growing as well, although more slowly.”

This time last year, Place in the Park had 12 staff although many were part-time. Now, it has eight workers and they are all full-time.

The highly acclaimed Local Business Accelerators (LBA) campaign, organised by the Newspaper Society, is led by Deborah Meaden of Dragon’s Den.

It has the backing of the Prime Minister David Cameron as well as the Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King. More than 500 newspapers across the UK are joining forces to deliver a £15m boost to promising young businesses through free advertising and mentoring.

Businesses aged between one and five-years-old can enter LBA and put themselves in with a chance of winning a free advertising campaign in their local paper plus mentoring support from local business leaders.

The most promising businesses will then go forward to the national stage of the competition to win a year’s mentoring from Deborah Meaden and a local advertising campaign devised by a top London creative ad agency.

Businesses can enter the competition in their local newspaper, the Hartlepool Mail and the Peterlee Star. They can do so via the LBA hub, which can be found at www.accelerateme.co.uk and fill out the online form.

They must register before the closing date of Friday, November 16.