Experienced mentors can be invaluable for a small business. They can share their expertise, help you to make vital contacts and even open up opportunities for new business or funding.
The Guardian Small Business competition to win a mentor, supported by Barclaycard, is offering three small businesses in the retail, professional services or hospitality industries the chance to benefit from the expertise of one of three experienced entrepreneurs: Sarah Willingham (Dragons’ Den star and serial investor); Lopo Champalimaud (founder of Treatwell) or Andre Blais (founder of Bodean’s).
The mentor will offer tailored advice to the small business owner based on their competition entry.
The prize package will include:
- A profiling call with a mentor to discuss your ambition for your business and how they can help you achieve it.
- A one-hour meeting with your mentor over lunch to go through their suggestions on how you can reach your goals.
- One or two 30-minute follow-up telephone conversations to continue working on the business plan.
Willingham, a serial entrepreneur and investor, has been a star on the BBC Two television show, The Dragons’ Den since 2015.
In 2003, Willingham raised finance to buy the Bombay Bicycle Club chain and went on to turn it into one of the largest Indian restaurant businesses in the UK. A few years later she sold it for a seven-figure sum.
While running the chain, she also sat on the board of two large UK companies and successfully floated a nutraceutical business on the London Stock Exchange.
In 2007, she appeared as a judge on BBC Two show The Restaurant. She co-founded and invested in the London Cocktail Club and Craft Cocktail Company with the winners of series three.
Willingham runs her business portfolio from her home office with her husband Michael Toxvaerd, who is also an entrepreneur. They jointly invest in and support a range of business ventures from startups to established brands. These span a number of industries including food and drink, consumer finance, healthfood, banking, mining, technology and entertainment.
Champalimaud is founder and CEO of online hair and beauty appointment bookings service Treatwell (formerly Wahanda), which is based in London. There are over 25,000 spas and salons using Treatwell’s service.
Champalimaud briefly worked in banking and private equity before founding two successful data and customer relationship management (CRM) startups in New York. In 2001 he moved to the UK and became managing director of lifestyle at Lastminute.com.
Champalimaud saw an opportunity for disruption in the health and beauty industry by offering cloud-management software for spas and salons that is connected to a convenient consumer marketplace. In 2008 he realised this ambition by founding Wahanda. In the past 12 months the company has gone through a major European expansion and rebrand – it now operates in 10 countries. .
Andre Blais, who is French-Canadian, moved to the UK in 1991 to join his brother Denis and his brother’s business partner Andre Plisnier, who were working to create the restaurant chain Belgo. Blais worked his way up at Belgo to become director. In this role he looked after the operations of the group and assisted in opening further locations in London and overseas.
On leaving Belgo in 2001, Andre decided to open up his own restaurant. Bodean’s Soho was launched in 2002. Bodean’s was one of the first BBQ restaurants to open in London and is still going strong today. There are now seven branches in central and south London.
How to enter
To enter all you need to do is answer the following questions in under 150 words.
What is your biggest ambition for your business, and how could a mentor help you achieve this?
Perhaps your business is performing well and you are planning to scale up in the near future, and would like advice on sourcing investment. Maybe you would like to start exporting in the next year and need an experienced entrepreneur to look over your plan. Or perhaps you have ambitions to rebrand your business but need some guidance on how you can minimise potential risks.
Whatever your ambition, or your reasons for seeking a mentor, we’d like to hear about them. Complete the form below to enter.
* You must complete all of these fields to enter and must be working in a business within the retail, hospitality or professional services industries.
Entrants will be judged on the following criteria:
- The ambition demonstrated by the business.
- The company’s future plans and potential for growth.
- How the business challenges could be overcome and plans achieved with the help of a mentor.
A panel of judges will choose three winners. The competition is now open and will close at 23.59 on 22 July, 2016.
Terms and conditions are available here
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