Four outstanding entrepreneurs victorious

Four outstanding entrepreneurs victorious

Last night's BQ Emerging Entrepreneur event in Leeds saw property, food, retail and manufacturing business leaders recognised as standout examples of entrepreneurial spirit in action.

Hosted by Mark Easton of the BBC, the dinner took place at the Leeds Marriott hotel as a packed crowd saw four entrepreneurs crowned as winners of their respective awards.

Andrea Cropley, partner for lead sponsor Irwin Mitchell, spoke of the UK’s ranking as the most entrepreneurial nation in Europe, and encouraged those present to work to become the big companies of the future. “Whether winners tonight or not, I have to thank you for doing what you do. Without people like you, I couldn’t follow my dream, which is to help you create yours.”

And keynote speaker Josh Littlejohn of Social Bite impressed the audience with his tales of signing up Bill Clinton – without worry for the consequences – and shared a balanced view of both the good and bad points of running a social business, where 25% of its workforce have previously been homeless.

But it was the finalists, and eventual winners, who really took centre stage on the night, with the winners Joe Carnell, Ben Staerck, Michael Bruce and Graham Suttle taking the spoils for their respective areas.

YORKSHIRE: Joe Carnell of UGOT UK only realised his entrepreneurial potential when working with a business called ‘the health kitchen’. His passion for healthy food led him to establish ÜGOT in a vacant shopfront in York railway station, capitalising on the UK’s ‘health food boom’.

Now established in York, Newcastle and Harrogate railway stations, UGOT employs 40 people across its stores and has raised thousands for a range of local community projects. Joe himself is a regular speaker at business events and in schools, working to inspire a younger generation of entrepreneurs.

NORTH EAST: Ben Staerck 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.

In August 2013, noticing a gap in the market, Ben created the Handbag Clinic to clean, repair and restore damaged handbags. The company opened its first store in Chelsea in 2015, with a second following that year and a third already in the planning.

WEST MIDLANDS: Michael Bruce of Purplebricks Group plc saw an opportunity to help estate agents embrace the internet. If they could utilise the benefits that technology had to offer, he believed it could lead to a substantial reduction in fees for consumers. Technology would be used to help make the process more convenient, transparent and cost effective for customers, moving away from the traditional fee-based models.

Purplebricks was founded with that in mind. The aim was to make the house buying experience positive and stress free by focusing on the best interests of the customer, and not commission. You may well spot their TV adverts running nationwide.

SCOTLAND: Graham Suttle, of Kained Holdings, had always dreamt of owning and running his own bar, or group of bars. He had a strong idea of the menus, drinks, the look and feel and the atmosphere.  With a family history and background in the Irish pub game he approached two friends to ask if they wanted in on the idea – they did, and Kained Holdings was created.

The pub, bar and restaurant business is now responsible for a string of pubs and eateries, and has branched out into an Academy which offers development classes for the trade. Close to the heart of the business is the community spirit and feel.

Bryan Hoare, MD of BQ, told us: “Every year we expect to find a standout entrepreneur, one who is clearly head and shoulders above the rest, and every year we don’t find that. Instead, we find a whole host of entrepreneurs who are first class and excellent in their field, and the decision is agonising.

"Our four winners this year were simply exceptional, though, and we know they are going to go on to be ones to watch for years to come.

“Every field needs a leader, and in these four - as well as the wider shortlist, and our ones to watch -we’re sure we are watching the entrepreneurial leaders of our future. With thanks to Bentley Leeds and Irwin Mitchell, we look forward to MADE festival in October, where we’ll crown one overall Emerging Entrepreneur of 2016.”