Winners have seen a boost in business
COMPANIES have been going from strength to strength since winning The Sentinel's Local Business Accelerators (LBA) competition.
MOJO Maker, For Tyres and Optimise Automotive landed three months of free advertising and expert mentoring earlier this year.
Mobile phone firm MOJO Maker has won deals with two national retailers and is currently recruiting three people, while Optimise Automotive is taking on a new apprentice.
And For Tyres has seen an increase in sales thanks to a partnership with one of its mentors' companies.
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The LBA campaign, which was spearheaded by the Newspaper Society and run by more than 500 newspapers across the UK, aimed at giving fledgling firms nationwide a £15 million boost.
It was open to any business between one and three years old and attracted more than 3,000 entries.
The Sentinel's winners were chosen by judges and mentors Mark Warren, managing director of Fenton manufacturing success story Lister Trade Frames, marketing specialist Caroline Law and PR expert Richard Swancott.
MOJO Maker in Newcastle designs mobile phones for production in China. It is already turning over almost £3 million and last year landed a deal to get its first handset stocked in supermarket giant Tesco.
Managing director Caroline Preston said: "Our products are enjoying record sales in Tesco in the UK and Ireland, with a third handset sold to them this month."
The firm is planning to launch four new products before Christmas via two high street chains and an online retailer. It is also in discussions with retailers in Hungary, Spain and Israel.
Caroline added: "We have taken on a finance director and we are currently recruiting for a procurement manager, IT manager and operations co-ordinator.
"We continue to exchange ideas with the mentors we met through Local Business Accelerators, who have been really supportive.
"We also believe the newspaper advert campaign helped grow local customer awareness for our brand and assisted in boosting sales."
Judge and mentor Mark Warren, who runs window and door manufacturer Lister Trade Frames, said he was particularly impressed with Bucknall-based For Tyres.
He said: "They reminded me of Listers 36 years ago and I was sure we could help them out somehow."
Listers developed a discount card for its customers to use at For Tyres, which landed the firm 12 new customers within two weeks. It also sent out details of the partnership to more than 4,500 companies.
Marketing manager Daniel Shaw said: "Our customers depend on their vehicles for a living and clock up serious miles. It was a no-brainer to devise a discount card."
For Tyres managing director Kevin Ecclestone said: "This kind of help is invaluable to a new business and we are extremely grateful to Listers."
At Optimise Automotive in Newcastle, which specialises in interior restoration and modification, progress has been hampered by an employee leaving but the firm is now in the process of taking on an apprentice.
Managing director Andy Roberts, who set up the firm from his parents' home in 2010, said the move will free him up to develop a new website he believes will be crucial to Optimise's success.
The company is waiting until the new site is ready next month before making use of its prize.
Andy said: "Things have been going brilliantly but since we lost a member of staff in April I've been back on the production line, which means I haven't had time to work on the website.
"I am taking a week off to concentrate on that and we hope to have it up and running by August.
"We did struggle to replace the person who left because we found that people don't want part-time work because they are better off on benefits. That's why we have gone down the apprentice route.
"We have lots of potential because although there are lots of automotive firms nearby, not many focus on interiors."
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