THE WINNERS of the North Devon Journal local business accelerators (LBA) scheme were announced at a business breakfast this week.
The LBA scheme was set up nationally to award free local press advertising and mentoring to promising fledgling businesses to help them grow.
The scheme in North Devon, which was backed by Prime Minister David Cameron, was one of the most competitive nationally, with 29 businesses taking the time to apply.
The 29 were whittled down to a shortlist of eight by the Journal's judging panel, and all eight had to give a Dragon's Den-style presentation to pitch for the prize in December.
The eight hopefuls were then invited to a business breakfast on Monday, where the three winners of the £10,000 advertising and mentoring package locally were revealed.
Glow Maternity and Baby
Complete Quality Care Ltd
Rock and Rapid Adventures.
But the other five finalists did not go away empty handed either, as they were also handed £1,000 worth of free advertising and mentoring.
They were: Eye Joinery, DP Agri Ltd, Eco Charger Electric Quads, Ilfracombe Indoor Market and Barr Financial Services.
Kelly Cameron, 27, and Michelle Vowden, 30, of Complete Quality Care Ltd, were stunned to have scooped one of the top spots.
Kelly said: "I'm shaking. I can't believe it. We really didn't expect to win, but this is going to be great for us to get some help with our marketing."
Michelle said: "This will really benefit us, between us we have 25 years experience as carers so we know exactly what we are doing with that, but it's the business side of things we need help with.
"So although it's great to have the £10,000 worth of advertising, it's actually the mentoring side of things we'll really benefit from."
The friends set up their care business in 2010, to offer people in North Devon with disabilities the opportunity to live an independent lifestyle and remain in their own home, but still provide some assistance, such as helping with transport to education.
The women specialise in tailor-made care packages and said no job was too big or too small for them to take on.
They said in their application: "As we are a new business it would give the local people the opportunity to know what we can offer the community and why we are the best care provider in our area."
Fellow winners, Glow Maternity and Baby, were equally thrilled with their prize.
Husband and wife team Mark and Kate Staddon said they were really hoping they would win as they feel they could really benefit from a good local advertising package.
The couple, who set up their business on Cross Street in 2008, said they have put everything into it — including buying the shop's building and actually living above it to keep costs down.
After Kate had found out they had won she said: "What an amazing start to 2012, I can't believe it."
The couple hoped the LBA win would help raise the profile of their business.
Kate said: "People often come into the shop and say how great it is, but that they didn't know we were here.
"These people are often walking around with babies and you think — if only they had known about us nine months ago. This will help us put ourselves on the map so people know we are here."
Mark said: "People assume because you're an independent business you're more expensive, but we're not, quite often we're below the RRP.
"What people also forget is that when you buy from an independent shop you get the great service."
And the third winner of the £10,000 prize was Rock and Rapid Adventures, which is headed up by avid climber and shrewd businessman Keith Crockford.
Keith was already running a climbing and adventure business, when he saw the opportunity to acquire the South Molton-based climbing centre in 2009.
Since then he has transformed the business and also helped train the junior British climbing champion.
Keith, 31, hoped the LBA win would help to spread the word about the centre across North Devon.
He said: "Can you imagine holding that amount of money in your hand? £10,000 is a huge prize and I can't believe we've won it. I have advertised before, but in a way without proper guidance it's hard to know exactly how to do it, so the mentoring side is going to be really useful.
"It's great to win, but it's just nice to know someone else thinks we're getting it right, it's reassuring."
The Prime Minister David Cameron added his congratulations to the winners.
Mr Cameron said: "Congratulations to all the winners of the Local Business Accelerators scheme. It's brilliant that so many promising young companies, from such a wide range of sectors, are benefiting from this excellent initiative.
"Entrepreneurship, creativity and ambition are essential for our economic recovery and through Local Business Accelerators, newspapers such as the North Devon Journal are supporting some great new British businesses to grow, and helping to boost their local economy.
"I wish the newspapers, businesses and their mentors every success over the coming months."
See Comment – page 38.