Foodservice firms could win business tips from Dragon’s Den star

Sarah Willingham

Caterers and kitchen suppliers could earn free support and consultancy from business experts, including Dragon’s Den star Sarah Willingham and restaurant chain chief Andre Blais, thanks to a competition launched to champion small businesses.

Barclaycard and The Guardian Small Business Network have teamed up to launch the inaugural Small Business Mentoring competition, offering UK businesses the opportunity to win expert mentoring and guidance from leading entrepreneurs.

The competition is open to companies with less than £15m in turnover across the hospitality, retail and professional services sectors.

Small businesses can enter the competition through The Guardian website by sharing the biggest business challenge they are facing and the support they are seeking from a mentor to help overcome it.

The winners will be partnered with a leading entrepreneur who will nurture their development for several months through one-on-one mentoring sessions.

Willingham is one of the UK’s leading businesswomen, consumer champion and BBC ‘Dragon’. She has combined her passion for business, food and drink to create a multi-million pound business empire, working alongside her entrepreneur husband to invest in and support more than 10 businesses in the food and drink, entertainment, technology and consumer finance sectors.

Blais, meanwhile, followed ten years of work creating restaurant chain Belgo with his brother and their business partner by setting up his own restaurant, Bodean’s, in 2002. Bodean’s was one of the first BBQ restaurants to open in London and today has grown to seven branches.

The mentees’ prize package will comprise of a series of conversations with their mentor to help them grow their business. This will include an initial discussion to talk about the goals and ambitions for their business, followed by a mentoring lunch to agree potential solutions and next steps.

Once the candidates have had a chance to put their mentor’s tips into practice, they will have a final discussion to share a progress update and work through any outstanding development areas.

Barclaycard’s Manikon stated: “SMEs are the backbone of the British economy, but they often face a set of unique challenges which can prove difficult to overcome, particularly when dealing with an issue for the first time. With our experience of working with SMEs over the past 50 years, we can offer tips on what may help in each situation, and use our network to connect them to successful entrepreneurs who may have also tackled the same obstacles.

“Through the Small Business Mentoring competition, we hope to not only help our three winning businesses overcome the barriers to their growth, but also to encourage them to share their experiences with the small business community to help and inspire others to achieve their potential too.”

Entries to the competition will be accepted until 31st July and businesses can enter HERE.

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