Up-and-coming firms have chance to win a date with a Dragon

Erica Moore, last year's winner
Erica Moore, last year's winner
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UP-and-coming businesses are being urged to enter a Dragons’ Den-style contest to jet-propel their growth and win free advertising and mentoring from top entrepreneurs.

Sir Tom Farmer will be among the judges for the Local Business Accelerators competition, which is organised by the Evening News and the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and gives the winner a chance of getting business advice from “Dragon” Deborah Meaden.

Deborah Meaden

Deborah Meaden

Former Scottish Businesswoman of the Year Liz McAreavey will also be on the Edinburgh judging panel.

Independent firms have until Friday to enter and winners from the Capital will receive a package of mentoring from the Chamber of Commerce’s team of advisers, along with free advertising in the Evening News.

Winners will also have the chance to compete with other winners from around the UK for the chance to win mentoring from former package holiday tycoon Ms Meaden.

In 2011 the competition attracted 3,000 entrants nationwide and had the support of Prime Minister David 

Last January city winners Erica and Stewart Moore, both 34, set up their specialist tea business Eteaket in December 2008 and plan is to expand by opening up tea bars across the UK.

The couple, from Portobello, have already concocted a tea to match a fragrance from upmarket perfumers Penhaligon’s earlier this year and produce 42 different types of loose leaf tea.

“We’re a small, family-owned company so we don’t have lots of money to spend on advertising. So it’s been a really big boost to be able to speak to our potential customers in the Evening News”, Mrs Moore, a former lawyer, who quit her job to launch the business, said earlier this year.

Local press advertising is a proven force to drive growth for small and medium-sized firms, with 60 per cent of small business owners agreeing that advertising in their local newspaper is the best way to attract customers in their area.

The same can be said for mentoring – ninety per cent of businesses that secured help from a mentor reported seeing the benefit, with three-quarters citing an improvement in their ability to develop business plans and strategy.

The campaign has received the backing of a host of high-profile supporters, including Michael Fallon, minister for business and enterprise. He said: “There are around 4.8 million small and medium sized enterprises in the UK, that’s around 99 per cent of all businesses.

“They are the lifeblood of our economy and that’s why we feel it’s so important to support Local Business Accelerators.

“Local press can help businesses reach over 30 million people who rely on local papers for information about events and services in their area each week.”

Evening News editor Frank O’Donnell also encouraged businesses to complete their applications before Friday.

He said: “There are lots of great new businesses in Edinburgh and their future success is vital to ensuring that the city continues to prosper in the years ahead.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for such businesses to tap into some of the best entrepreneurial brains in the city and I would urge them all to take advantage of the opportunity.

“The Evening News is delighted to be helping in this way.”

For full details and the online application form, visit www.newspapersoc.org.uk/accelerate-me