Four growing local businesses have been chosen to go head-to-head to secure free advertising and mentoring support. The Press launched its campaign to help to speed up the growth of local businesses through the Local Business Accelerators campaign in October. The judges have whittled the entries down to just four businesses which will present their ambitions at a pitching competition in January


York Cocoa House

York Cocoa House, the vision of a former events and marketing manager with a passion for chocolate, is hoping to build on its growth in the past year.

The business, which employs more than 20 people in Blake Street, York, has evolved after founder Sophie Jewett first started selling chocolate on a market stall under the name of Little Pretty Things and also holding chocolate-making workshops for groups such as hen parties and at corporate events.

Ambitious Sophie has since used her thirst for knowledge to bring back old recipes from the days of York’s founding fathers in the confectionery industry and has built a brand based on York’s chocolate heritage, as well as her own shop, café and venue for workshops.

She continues to develop the business, now moving into sourcing cocoa beans and making her own York chocolate from scratch.


Chokdee Academy

Rich Cadden, a former Thai boxing champion and owner of Chokdee Academy Thai boxing gym in York, knows the importance of mental as well as physical fitness.

Learning from the performance of elite Thai boxers, Rich learned a lot about himself, which he then crystallised by learning NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) and other behavioural techniques before setting up Star Performance Mind Coaching.

Rich has been running both businesses, with his wife Jo also running Yumi Mummy sessions to support new mothers and help them to get back into shape through fitness classes at the academy. But now Rich hopes to expand the business, further integrating the mind-coaching side into the academy and offering more classes for children.

He said: “I want to make more of the mind coaching and doing the life coaching profiling work to help people that want to improve their performance by improving their internal dialogue and linking that with the physical development.”


Now & Then Events

Now & Then Events, which holds shopping events all over the north of England, hopes to expand its scope to support independent retailers through the competition.

Originally set up to hold the York Does Vintage shopping fair, the business has expanded into other themes, championing regional produce at its Yorkshire Best fair and taking its shopping events into new towns and cities.

Alexandra Claydon and Samantha De La Tour joined forces in 2007 after inadvertently arranging two different shopping events on the same day. They now regularly attract thousands of customers to their events. Alex said: “We have already advertised with The Press in the past to help grow our footfall figures. We started at 700 people in 2011 and now see between 1,600 and 2,000 customers per event. The higher the footfall our events witness, the more likely our traders will sell and hence a higher profit margin for them.

“This is very important to us so we can continue to help local independent retailers in this economic climate.”

The company, which takes on interns from the local universities, also uses its events to support charities including York children’s charity SNAPPY and the Alzheimer’s Society.


Poems And Pictures

Christina Gabbitas, of Selby, uses her different talents in her business Poems And Pictures, doing pretty much what it says on the tin.

A poet who has self published her own poetry books, as well as writing for special occasions or advertising, Christina also takes photographs, particularly of buildings and architecture and people and portraits, which she sells through local businesses in Selby.

But she’s seeking acceleration for her new venture, a series of self-published children’s books, which are already going down a storm.

Christina’s Felicity Fly series of rhyming children’s books with narrated CDs have been well received by retailers WH Smith, where she does regular signings across the north, and she hopes to make them a hit internationally after entering the Local Business Accelerators competition. The former marketing manager and charity fundraising manager, who came up with the idea for her illustrated rhyming books which address childhood fears when she had her own children, now hopes to take on a student intern to help her to develop the product and hopes to export the Felicity Fly series to other countries.


What winners can expect

Up to three of the local winners will win:

• A free advertising campaign in The Press

• Free mentoring advice and support from our “Dragons” – Dr Paul Gibson, chief executive of PureNet, Stephen Kennedy, former chief operating officer of CPP and board member of Leeds City Region local enterprise partnership and Katie Stewart, head of economic development at City of York Council.

One local winner will be put forward into the national competition to win:

• A year’s mentoring from the campaign’s national ambassador Deborah Meaden, of Dragons’ Den

• A cash prize of £10,000 from The Business Growth Fund

• A local advertising campaign devised by a top London creative ad agency

• Free membership of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) for a year

• Free business advice from the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales) valued at £2,000

• A year’s free access to Freeagent accountancy software, valued at £300, including an iPad

• Free business broadband and wi-fi access for a year from BT, including wireless router and free installation, and the design and management of a website, with e-commerce if required.