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Life is sweet for Rotherham entrepreneurs

posted 19 Jul 2011, 05:03 by RiDO Rotherham   [ updated 25 Mar 2013, 09:36 ]
Kara and Tony Chapman, owners of The Whistle Stop Sweet Shop in Rotherham, claimed the top prize of £1,500 after impressing a panel of local “dragons” with their sweet dreams of business growth.

Rotherham Enterprise Board hosted a Dragons' Den-type event, inspired by the BBC show of the same name, at the Park Inn Rotherham in Manvers last week [July 7].

It is the second successful event funded by UK Steel Enterprise and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and aimed at recognising Rotherham companies with the potential for business growth. A panel of local business experts and mentors had the difficult task of selecting the best pitch on the night.

The successful couple from Swinton, opened their sweet shop last year in the refurbished Imperial Buildings in Rotherham town centre.  It has become a popular hotspot for those longing for the sweets they enjoyed in their childhood.

After the event Kara said: “We were really surprised, but really happy to have won. George Elliott at The Source and Peter Robinson at the Chamber helped us prepare our pitch, but it was still nerve-wracking going in front of the dragons.

“The other businesses were very strong and gave great presentations. I think we won because we were very clear with our business plan and outlined exactly what we would spend the money on.

“It was a good opportunity for us to take a step back from actually running the shop and put our ideas for growing the business down on paper. And even if we hadn’t have won, the event was a great opportunity for us to network with business people and meet potential business mentors.”

Kara is no stranger to sweet shops as her parents and grandparents ran similar shops as she was growing up. She received business help and support from the Rotherham Enterprise Project, whose business coaches helped her with a business plan and marketing.

The business plan played a key part in convincing the panel of judges of their realistic future expansion plans which involve tapping into the wedding market with sweet favours, buffets and even bouquets.

The judges also saw Kara and Tony’s genuine passion for their business come through in their “brilliant” pitch but may have been swayed by the samples brought along from their shop, including a cake made entirely of sweets.  It was a tactic that worked for last year’s winner, Fiona Morgan who used her cheesecakes from the Alexandra Buffet Company to impress the panel.  Fiona was back this time as a judge.

The other finalists entering the den were commended for their enormous enthusiasm and excellent pitches.  They were:
Enviro Thaw - environmentally friendly and non-toxic product used in China as an alternative to rock salt
Pizzatainment - teaches children about the value of nutrition by showing them how to make stone-baked Italian pizzas.
Renton Productions - media production company who produce music videos, training videos, educational films and live events.
Sports Media Advertising - support local clubs and businesses by using advertising space in sports clubs.
City Deal of the Day Ltd - niche online marketing tool which brings slashed price deals from local businesses via email and online.

For these entrepreneurs it is hoped that relationships will develop between the budding business brains and members of the board’s mentor bank, where local people who have run their own businesses or have specialist expertise, will pass on their knowledge and give them a better chance of success.

Keith Williams, Regional Manager of Tata Steel subsidiary, UK Steel Enterprise said: “We are delighted to support these events.  It was extremely successful and the business pitches were impressive.  I’m sure it was a great experience for the enterprises and has helped them identify new potential opportunities and given them the confidence to progress their ideas further.

“There is a wide range of business support available in Rotherham. The Enterprise Board events are designed to help early stage and smaller businesses, whilst loan and equity finance of up to £750,000 is available from our own investment fund for more established businesses in Rotherham and throughout South Yorkshire."

The Enterprise Board is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is led by successful business men and women from a wide range of different backgrounds and business sectors. They are using their experience to change the way business support is provided and make it more helpful to Rotherham entrepreneurs.