All to play for as six make shortlist for Dragons’ help

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A TEA shop and a greetings card company are among six new businesses to have been shortlisted in the Evening News-backed Dragons’ Den-style contest to win mentoring and free advertising.

Among the judges in the final will be entrepreneur Sir Tom Farmer, and the winner is also in with a chance of getting advice from real-life “dragon” Deborah Meaden.

Lynne O’Connor, from the social enterprise Greetings from Leith said: “It would be a dream to be able to reach local customers via the Evening News.”

The nationwide Local Business Accelerators competition has attracted more than 3000 entrants and will see 1500 firms across the UK receive £15 million of free advertising. Launched in October by regional and local newspapers, locally the competition is organised in tandem with the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.

Also on the shortlist is eteaket tea boutique in Frederick Street, Vertex eCommerce in South Queensferry, Market Prepare in Prestonpans, Gardening Services Edinburgh in Colinton and AM Lettings, based in Dalkeith.

Andy Shaw, of Gardening Services Edinburgh, said: “The free advertising in the press would help build our local customer base in Edinburgh.”

John McIntyre of AM Lettings, which provides business services, added: “Advertising is the key to our business gaining exposure and brand awareness.”

The finalists will make their pitch to the panel of judges next Tuesday before three winners are selected. The trio will receive free advertising in the Evening News and a three-month mentoring programme led by Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce.

They will also go forward to the final round for the chance to be mentored for a year by Ms Meaden, and win an advertising campaign by a top London agency. Paul Johnston, of Vertex eCommerce, said: “With regards to expert mentoring, it is safe to say that is something any business will benefit from.”

Erica Moore, who owns eteaket, added: “To be able to advertise in our local paper would mean the chance to speak directly to potential customers.”

Fellow shortlister Lee Fitzpatrick, who set up Market Prepare six months ago agreed, saying: “I want and need to focus on my brand image and awareness to get the business off the ground.”

Sir Tom will be joined on the panel by former Prince’s Trust director Geraldine Gammell, Evening News editor Tom Little and former Scottish Businesswoman of the Year Liz McAreavey.

Mr Little said: “These great young businesses show that Edinburgh is still producing budding entrepreneurs, despite the downturn. The News is delighted to be playing a part in encouraging their efforts.”

Judge Sir Tom Farmer said he would be looking for “energy, enthusiasm and a ‘can do’ attitude” from the finalists.

The three winners will be revealed in the Evening News on January 11.