AN ENTREPRENEUR who wants to roll out a chain of organic nurseries has won The Press’s Local Business Accelerators competition.

Vanessa Warn, owner of Little Green Rascals, was the overall winner of a free advertising campaign in The Press and mentoring from local dragons after she impressed them with her pitch to grow the business.

When Little Green Rascals Nursery opened in 2009 at York Maze, it was one of the first organic nurseries in the country. Vanessa is now expanding the existing nursery while formulating plans to roll out ten more, employing about 330 people in the region, with further sites in York and Harrogate.

The winners

Vanessa Warn, Little Green Rascals (overall winner)

Hans Verhoosel of Lu Lin Teas

Jim Sanderson of EcoFlooring and Restoration UK

The nursery encourages children to care for the environment through recycling and uses environmentally friendly products, while the children learn with nature, from forest walks in the nursery’s own 13-acre wood to growing their own organic food and collecting eggs from the nursery’s hens.

Vanessa said: “There is a need to go back to basics with childcare, time, love and plenty of outdoor space.

“We teach at an early stage how we can affect the world on our doorstep whilst providing fantastic care.”

The judges felt that Vanessa had a defined niche, which was well marketed to her customers, and had a clear passion.

The former European marketing manager for American Express was business minded, they said, as demonstrated by a thorough plan for the business.

Two further businesses were also chosen to win packages of mentoring support and free advertising.

Lu Lin Teas won support to help it launch its speciality Chinese teas to trade and supermarkets.

Hans Verhoosel and partner Amy Gallagher started selling the teas at their York coffee shop La Place Verte, but are now selling the shop to focus on the growing tea trade. The judges said the company, which could employ up to 15 people in the next three years, had a huge market opportunity, and its cube-shaped teabag gave the business an edge.

Jim Sanderson, owner of EcoFlooring and Restoration UK, also impressed judges with his commitment and passion. Jim, who recycles old parquet flooring into beautiful new floors, has already made a name for the business, attracting Olympic contracts and working for Sarah Beeney on Restoration Nightmares. But working 17 hour days and doing everything himself, the judges saw an opportunity to help Jim to develop the structure of the business.

The Press’s mentors, Stephen Kennedy, chief operating officer of CPP, Dr Paul Gibson, chief executive of PureNet and Katie Stewart, head of economic development, will work with the businesses over the next few months.

Dr Gibson has also offered to provide additional marketing mentoring from PureNet to Law Wizard, another one of the entrants, which is developing an online service for probate.

Two further businesses will be chosen from all the competition entrants later this month to win six month’s free desk space at new business centre Blake House, and a marketing plan from Your Marketing People.

Later in the year, one business will go on to be crowned the overall Local Business Accelerators winner and receive mentoring from the campaign’s national ambassador Deborah Meaden.

PM praises Accelerators initiative

DAVID Cameron has highlighted the role of the local newspaper industry in supporting British business on the day regional and local newspapers announce the winners of Local Business Accelerators.

The Prime Minister today extended his congratulations to the winning businesses who will receive free advertising in their local newspaper and mentoring from local business leaders.

Mr Cameron said: It’s brilliant that so many promising young companies, from such a wide range of sectors, are benefitting from this excellent initiative.

“Entrepreneurship, creativity and ambition are essential for our economic recovery and through Local Business Accelerators, newspapers such as The Press are supporting some great new British businesses to grow, and helping to boost their local economy.”

Powerful boost to young businesses

LOCAL Business Accelerators has also received the support of Stephen Welton, chief executive of the Business Growth Fund who said the initiative was providing a “powerful boost” to young businesses.

The Business Growth Fund, set up by UK banks, is offering a series of free half day workshop sessions at its regional centres to winners of the competition.

Mr Welton said: “Clearly economic conditions continue to be challenging; but we need businesses to be considering the opportunities and focusing on what they can influence.

“Our workshops will help business owners to think about how they can expand; how they can reach new audiences and new markets; how they can begin exporting; and how they can raise the capital that they might need to fund their ambitions.”