The 2016 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year awards has gone to Furniture and Handbag Clinic’s Ben Staerck, as Atom Bank gets behind the 2017 awards which have seen a record number of entries so far.
The shortlist of Joe Carnell, Ben Staerck, Michael Bruce and Graham Suttle made life hard for the judging panel, as their businesses – UGOT, Furniture Clinic, Purplebricks and Kained Holdings – continue to develop strongly under their leadership.
But ultimately, the accolade went to Ben as the judges were impressed with his contributions to the wider business community whilst continuing to create opportunities within his own businesses.
Ben operates both Furniture Clinic and Handbag Clinic out of Newcastle. Furniture Clinic manufactures a unique range of leather cleaning, repair and restoration products used in many industries, from the obvious furniture through to the more indirect, like automotive.
Ben founded the company with his father whilst he was in sixth form, and took over as managing director in 2013. Since then Furniture Clinic has opened an office in New York and another branch in Hong Kong, and Handbag Clinic was very much born out of opportunity.
Ben said: "It was fantastic to win. When you're a small business and you're trying to speak to larger companies, winning awards like this gives you the encouragement and tells therm you're a reputable and reliable business."
BQ's MD Bryan Hoare offered his congratulations to Ben, and cited 2017 as a bigger year than ever for our emerging entrepreneurs thanks to the involvement of Atom Bank.
He said: "Any of the finalists would have made us proud as the 2016 BQ Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year, but we're proud to award the accolade to Ben who's proving himself an unerring supporter of the people and businesses around him.
"As we gather entries for 2017, we're delighted to be working with Atom Bank as they reinforce our mission to celebrate and inspire entrepreneurship. With coverage across even more of the UK this year we've already exceeded last year's entries with a few weeks still to go."
Atom Bank are the UKs first digital-only bank. Launched earlier this year, Atom are the highest ranked UK bank in the Fintech100, reaching 6th in the global KPMG list of innovative fintech firms.
Neil Costello, head of marketing at Atom Bank, said: "Huge congratulations to Ben on winning this fantastic accolade, a true inspiration to us all. Here at Atom we’re delighted to be working with BQ to celebrate entrepreneurship, we know what it takes to build, grow and run a small business from scratch and look forward to helping find the 2017 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year."
Gateshead College have also thrown their support behind the 2017 campaign, signing up as an associate area sponsor. Judith Doyle, principal and chief executive at Gateshead College, added: "We are delighted to be working with BQ to celebrate some of the most enterprising individuals and recognise their commitment and ambition to create employment and economic prosperity in our region.
"Supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial thinkers is at the core of our strategy at Gateshead College. We are inspiring our students to leave us with the qualifications, skills and knowledge within their chosen fields, but we also want them to possess the confidence, strong work ethic, personality and softer skills that can make a real difference to the businesses they develop or the organisations they go on to join."
The awards will be held on 22 February 2017, at the Newcastle Gateshead Hilton. You can nominate yourself, or someone else you think we should know about, until 30th November.