The government-backed awards honours men and women who are turning their lives around by choosing to start up a business. The other nine finalists hoping for national glory on October 13 are: Joe Brown’s Egg Round (egg delivery)Preston, Lancashire Despite being diagnosed with autism when he was three, Joe Brown attended a mainstream secondary school. He was bullied and left school with only two GCSEs. Determined to make a better life for himself, Brown continued his studies at college. In July 2008, he decided to become his own boss and started Joe Brown’s Egg Round, a door-to-door egg delivery service. Cravin Tunez Entertainment (record label and events organiser)West Worthing, West SussexPaul McDonald fell in with a bad crowd. When he was 12, he lost an arm in a train accident when he was messing around on train tracks. His recovery was a long and difficult process. He became depressed but his passion for music encouraged him to start up his own events company.
Angel Cakes by Virginia Valentine (cake designer)Altrincham, CheshireVirginia Valentine had a traumatic childhood involving serious physical and sexual abuse, which led to a number of major health issues in her adult life. However, inspired by her grandmother and her love of baking, Valentine went on to set up her own cake shop in November 2007. Gods Worldwide (security company)Colchester, EssexFormer air stewardess Wendy Irwin decided to turn her life around after being brutally attacked by her partner. Now, with two young children, she runs her own security company, established in May 2008. Gigglebucket (gift shop) LiverpoolDeborah Stone was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of 16 and was advised to abandon her education and concentrate on getting better. Determined to continue her studies, she gained a degree – but her health deteriorated after the birth of her daughter and she had to give up her job in the NHS. This only served to spur her on to open her own card and gift shop in December 2006, a second card and gift shop in February 2007, and a hair and beauty salon in September 2008. Happy Daze (clothes shop) NottinghamWhen he was only seven years old, Craig Earley lost his father in a tragic road accident – and so started a downward spiral. Earley not only became addicted to drugs and served a prison sentence, but also lost a leg when he was run over by a van. Determined to turn his life around, he opened his alternative gifts shop last year. In Trim (hair salon)Co Tyrone, Northern IrelandAileen Keenan is a single mum who also took on the guardianship of her younger sister after their father’s death. After being made redundant and struggling to support her family on benefits, she opened her own salon in April 2007. SoBor (soft drinks company)Carmarthen, WalesRhodri Davis was only 21 when he had to take over sole responsibility for his family and their farm after his father suffered a devastating brain seizure – caused by encephalitis. That experience gave Davis the courage and motivation to set up his own business in August 2008, manufacturing and distributing fruit smoothies, while helping to raise awareness for The Encephalitis Society. Brynels Hats & Accessories BirminghamWhile pregnant with her first child, Vivean Pomell developed Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, which severely restricted the use of her hands. She was forced to give up work. When her daughter was only three, she lost some of her hair and, in an attempt to disguise this, Pomell began creating hats and hair pieces. In January 2007 she started Brynels Hats & Accessories, providing bespoke and customised hats to the general public, as well a specialised service to people who suffer from hair loss. This year’s national finalists will be competing in three new categories: Triumph over Disability; Success after Unemployment; and the Spirit of Inspiration Award. Each category winner will walk away with £5,000 for their business, courtesy of Barclays, and all national finalists will receive £2,000 worth of computer software from awards supporter Microsoft.
Find out more about the awards here. Other award partners are Jobcentre Plus, youth charity The Prince’s Trust, Department for Business, Innovation and Skill (BIS), the NFEA and Leonard Cheshire Disability.