One of the most attractive things about the Great British & Northern Irish Entrepreneur Awards is its focus on the entrepreneurial story, not the balance sheet. It brings inspiring people with inspiring stories into the spotlight, not just successful businesses.
But why enter? If you’re lucky enough to make your way on stage to pick up an award, what next? I spoke to the 2016 Food & Drink Entrepreneurs of the Year, Paula Wilkinson and Richard Watson from Mums Bake Cakes, to find out.
Launched in 2015, Mums Bake Cakes bridges the gap between local bakers and cake lovers. It allows customers to order a bespoke, homemade cake from a bakery that might not have received online orders before working with them.
“As a new business, you’re not always aware of other businesses influences in the industry,” Richard started. “We certainly wanted to increase the profile of our company and brand and thought why not…??”
Like so many other applicants since the first ever Great British & Northern Irish Entrepreneur Awards in 2013, Paula and Richard had no real expectations of victory at the awards ceremony. They were more than content with meeting some like-minded individuals, perhaps pick up a few new customers, and, if they were really lucky, come away with some potential investors.
Winning, however, opened new opportunities for Mum Bakes Cakes. Richard explained that as a direct result of winning the award, he and Paula joined the Accelerator Academy, a 12-week high-growth training and mentoring programme led by Great British & Northern Irish Entrepreneur Awards judge, Ian Merricks.
Paula said: “Feeling great about winning, when it was so unexpected. Feeling that someone else has looked at the business model and also feels it has tapped into a market, that we already believed in.
“Meeting key industry experts has helped us to gain additional support through the Accelerator Academy, which we had previously been unaware of. Mixing in entrepreneurial circles- not feeling so alone- realising the concerns, stresses and ‘pain points’ are normal for a new business setting the trend.”
What Paula and Richard are not content with, however, is finishing the Accelerator Academy and going back about their day-to-day business.
“Our aim is to approach the market for investor funding,” Paula told me. “With the added knowledge gained from the Academy, the ‘kudos’ of winning the Food & Drink award at the Great British & Northern Irish Entrepreneur Awards, together with PR and a year’s worth of trading, we feel more confident about disrupting this market than ever before.”
Something that stood out in speaking to Richard and Paula was their appreciation of the focus on entrepreneurial stories, not just financial success.
Richard said: “As a new company you don’t have years of balance sheets showing incremental profit and lovely green figures. Start-ups are what they are – new, innovative, hopefully, something which hasn’t been seen before.”
Expanding on Richard’s thoughts, Paula added: “Balance sheets and figures and plans are obviously important, but the real people behind the product/service will ensure its future development. Many ‘young’ businesses have negative balance sheets, as the approach their first year of trading, and are investing in technology, people and the overall future of the product/service. Therefore, having to declare full accounts can be prohibitive when start-ups are focussing on actually running the business, and making a difference.”
Richard finished: “We only need to look at companies which are now household names which started less than 10 years ago, Hungry House, Not on the High Street and of course, Moonpig. These companies and we hope in time Mums Bake Cakes, have changed purchasing habits. Without the entrepreneurial spark and a little bit of faith and hope companies like this would never have succeeded.”