Byline: KAREN DENT
THE Journal is joining forces with 500 other newspapers around the UK and top business Dragon Deborah Meaden to give a major boost to the best young businesses in the UK.
The second year of the hugely successful Local Business Accelerators (LBA) scheme gets under way today, backed by Prime Minister David Cameron, governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King, and the private sector's Business in You campaign.
The initiative is pledging a total of PS15m of free advertising and mentoring to offer to the most promising companies.
Open to firms that have been running for between one and five years, the event is spearheaded by the voice of local media the Newspaper Society.
Winners from each region will progress to a national final, where they will compete for the chance to win a year's mentoring from Dragons' Den star Deborah Meaden and a local advertising campaign devised by a top London creative ad agency.
Meaden, who has signed up at the programme's national ambassador, said: "With last year's LBA having demonstrated the unique power of local and regional press to provide a meaningful boost to promising young businesses, I am delighted to be supporting the initiative once again. "The campaign provided tangible examples of the real contribution that local newspapers can provide to young businesses across many different sectors, accelerating their development. "Enterprise and entrepreneurism in the local community is more important than ever before and I look forward to finding another young business to mentor and drive forward."
The Prime Minister is again lending his support to the campaign.
"The Local Business Accelerators campaign has provided tremendous support to fledgling businesses across the country and I am delighted that it will be running for a second year," said Cameron.
"Local newspapers play a vital role in their communities and are uniquely placed to support small businesses, giving them the boost that they need to grow, which is good for local areas and good for the economy as a whole.
"I hope more young businesses put themselves forward over the coming months and get involved with this innovative scheme, which rewards entrepreneurship and creative thinking in business."
Campaign organiser the Newspaper Society commissioned research from Toluna, which revealed that despite the tough economic outlook, young businesses remain positive about their future, although they need support and advice.
The study discovered that more than a third of owners of young businesses expect some or significant growth in the next 12 months.
More than half - 53% - expect their businesses to perform at the same level, while just 12% said they expected a decline.
The biggest barriers to growth highlighted in the study were high rents and rates, sluggish consumer demand, access to affordable finance, and access to advice.
Newspapers remained the most important advertising forum for business owners, chosen by 22%, followed by 15% opting for the internet and 14% for directories. …