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Who’s Britain’s best entrepreneur?

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Hopefully you’re busy preparing your nominations but here’s something else to think about: the Entrepreneurs’ Entrepreneur gong.

We’ve put together a list of who we think have been the most influential entrepreneurs in this country during the past 12 months. They are:

(Drumroll please….)

Peter CullumOne of Britain’s most successful entrepreneurs during the past decade, Peter started Towergate in 1997 to provide insurance to niche markets – from holiday homes to classic cars. Through more than 120 acquisitions, he’s built Europe’s largest independent insurance intermediary. Today, Towergate employs more than 4,600 staff operating from more than 100 offices. Through his charitable foundation, Peter is also set to become one of Britain’s major philanthropists. “I want to use my wealth to make a difference,” he says.Dr Mike LynchThe son of a fireman, Mike’s father advised him to get a job that “didn’t involve running into burning buildings”. Instead, he founded Autonomy and became the country’s first software billionaire. Today, Autonomy has more than 17,000 corporate customers, a market capitalisation of $4bn and is the second largest pure software company in Europe. And Mike remains in charge. He is, arguably, the finest technology entrepreneur of his generation.

Sir Paul SmithSir Paul opened his first shop in his home town of Nottingham in 1970. He was the first fashion brand to open on Floral Street in London’s Covent Garden in 1979. Ever since, his name has become synonymous with the success of the British fashion industry. His name is globally recognised – Paul Smith shops are found in London, Nottingham, Paris, Milan, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Korea, Kuwait and U.A.E. (And his first shop remains, selling his PS Jeans.) Here is an entrepreneur who genuinely is “an icon.”Charles DunstoneHe started Carphone Warehouwith £6,000 of his own savings. In July 2000, he floated his company on the London Stock Exchange at a valuation of £1.7bn. His business has outperformed the market ever since and its last reported figures showed annual turnover of £4.4bn.  Today, the Carphone Warehouse is Europe’s leading independent retailer of mobile phones and services, with over 2,400 stores in 9 countries and employing more than 18,000 people. This year, Charles inked in a deal with the giant US chain Best Buy. In his words, “the last few months have seen the most important developments in the Group’s history.” Even by his standards, that is quite something.

Linda BennettLinda learnt her trade from the shop floor before, at the age of 26, opening an accessories shop in Wimbledon village with £13,000 savings and a £15,000 bank loan. In classic retailer fashion, she focused on location and more or less single-handedly built up the LK Bennett chain of 70-plus shops with sales of £60m. This year, she sold a majority stake to private equity, netting one of Britain’s most successful female entrepreneurs approximately £70m.

Michael SpencerHe thought about being an astrophysicist. Instead, he went into the City – where he was fired twice for trading errors. But he was also one of the first to spot the potential in the market for bonds and other financial derivatives. He started Intercapital in 1986 and following a transformational merger in 1999 has grown ICAP into a £3bn interdealer broker, delivering specialist intermediary broking services to trading professionals in the wholesale financial markets. Today’s volatile markets may worry many entrepreneurs but not Michael – just take a look at ICAP’s current performance. He is also a pioneering and hugely successful approach to modern philanthropy: ICAP’s staff have raised more than £34m for charity over the past 14 years.

These six entrepreneurs are all worthy contenders but you need to decide which one deserves this hallowed prize the most (past winners have included Moneysupermarket.com’s Simon Nixon, and John Caudwell from Phones 4 U). You’ll be able to cast your vote on the Real Business website very soon and the winner will be crowned at the Growing Business Awards night in London on 27 November.

Oh and one final word about nominations for the other categories: don’t forget to enter! Nominations close on Friday, 19 September

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