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Entrepreneur Challenge: Going for gold

16th September 2008

The action moves to the capital as the Sunday Times Bank of Scotland Corporate Entrepreneur Challenge unveils its second set of five regional finalists. The five, selected by a team at the bank, are an online charity fundraising service (Zarine Kharas), a market research and recruitment company (Caroline Plumb), a chocolate-dessert maker (James Averdieck), a country-house weddings provider (Susan Dixon) and a lifestyle management club (Aaron Simpson).

“It was very difficult to agree on the shortlist,” says Phil Cox, head of commercial banking for London at Bank of Scotland Corporate. “We are delighted with the size of the application pool and the quality of the businesses. The finalists represent the top 2%.”

These entrepreneurs must now convince a panel of judges that they are more deserving than their rivals of a funding package of up to £5m, free of interest and fees – and the one with the most convincing pitch will be chosen as London regional winner at an event held at the Imperial War Museum on Thursday.

Lending their acumen to the judging panel will be Bill Muirhead, a partner at the advertising company M&C Saatchi, and Nick Wheeler, founder and managing director of Charles Tyrwhitt Shirts. They will be joined by James Farrar, head of marketing at Bank of Scotland Corporate, Tony Cohen, a partner at Deloitte UK, and Dominic O’Connell, deputy business editor of The Sunday Times. They will have to be convinced that the candidates can manage their businesses through the downturn in the economy. “These conditions look like they’ll be with us for two or three years, so I am interested to know how they intend to evolve to cope,” says Muirhead.

“It has been a turbulent year and, given the number of businesses linked to financial services, the impact on London is potentially greater than other regions,” adds Cox. “But nobody is immune to the fact that borrowing costs more.”

Beyond showing that they can survive tough economic conditions, what else will decide the winner? “Knowledge of the numbers, their vision of the market opportunity and how they are organising their business to take maximum advantage of that,” concludes Cox.

The London winner will join the other six regional winners at the Challenge final on December 3 at London’s Royal Courts ofJustice,when oneofthem willbe selected as Bank of Scotland Corporate Entrepreneur of the Year. As well as the interest-free funding package, the overall winner will get the chance to be mentored by sportswear tycoon Sir Tom Hunter.

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