The event was hosted by the IOD and recognises young people who have turned their ideas into reality. The national competition (now in its fifth year) was judged by: Make Your Mark’s chief executive Harry Rich; Homeserve’s Richard Harpin; property investor and star of Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire Caroline Marsh; the IOD’s director general Miles Templeman; and Alex Brummer, city editor of the Daily Mail.
“You’d think there would be nothing to celebrate amid all the headlines of doom and gloom. But this year’s nominees all run extraordinary businesses,” said Hannah Bourne, Make Your Mark’s head of communications. “They’re all under 30. Just think what they’ll be doing in ten years’ time.”
Alex Brummer of the Daily Mail admitted to the audience that the judging process had “opened his eyes to the amazing things young people are doing in this country”. While he acknowledged that Chancellor Alistair Darling is “working around the clock to get the banking system functioning again”, he hit out at the banks who are “still screwing people to the ground”. “Nevertheless, these young entrepreneurs have still managed to find seed funding,” he said. “They are our future millionaires.”
Next up on stage was the Chancellor himself, who joked that Brummer’s speech was “possibly the nicest thing the Daily Mail has ever said about me”: “I hope that somebody made a note of his words. I shall frame them on my wall.
“One of the nominees asked me what work experience I did when I was at school," he continued. "Unfortunately, we didn’t have work experience placements 30 years ago. It was a great shame. We went to school, college, university – and only then did we start to consider what opportunities were available to us. These awards encourage young people to think ahead.”
The winners included Priya Lakhani, who set up Indian food firm Masala Masala last year and has already secured deals with department stores and delis in 30 countries; 17-year-old Matt Lovett, who runs internet marketing group WOW Media; and Adam Duffy, who sells customised footwear online.
Congratulating the winners, the Chancellor claimed that “the country depends on the young people in this room”.
Real Business chatted to Glasses Direct’s Jamie Murray Wells, who won an Enterprising Young Brit award back in 2005. Did the award make a difference to his business? “It certainly opens up your network of contacts,” he told us. “Al Gosling was one of the judges in 2005 and he subsequently invested in the company and became a director.”
Murray Wells, who once told us that he “eats credit crunch for breakfast”, sells 500 pairs of glasses over the internet each day and expects sales to double to £9m this year. The online retailer is pushing ahead with global expansion (“I’m flying off to New York on Thursday”) and has created a “super lab” which will allow the firm to manufacture its own specs.
Let’s hope this year’s Enterprising Young Brits are as successful as Murray Wells.