A BRIGHOUSE businessman is backing Yorkshire’s small and medium-sized companies to battle through the recession.
Stephen Waud has made a career of picking the winners as fund director and founder of the Bradford-based Business Enterprise Fund, which provides financial support for start-ups and established firms with the potential to grow.
He is also founder of the Yorkshire Biz Awards, which will be held for the third year running this summer to reward those who have triumphed over adversity to make their business ideas a success.
Mr Waud hopes to attract a bumper crop of entries for the 2009 awards, which will be presented at a black-tie ceremony on June 26 at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. The event is backed by regional development agency Yorkshire Forward and Business Link Yorkshire.
Said Mr Waud: “We launched the Biz Awards three years ago to celebrate small business entrepreneurs who have achieved their business dream despite being turned down by the banks, not having the right experience of simply because they took a risk.
“The awards create a sense of achievement for those who never thought they would make it and highlight the incredible and inspiring stories that Yorkshire’s entrepreneurs have to tell – while offering hope and encouragement to others considering their own business ventures.”
And he believes a recession is as good a time as any to embark on setting up in business. The Business Enterprise Fund has been inundated with enquiries from would-be entrepreneurs seeking support for their ventures in the absence of conventional funding from the banks, he said.
“People’s desire and aspirations to start a business have not been diminished in any way,” said Mr Waud. “Someone who has been made redundant has nothing to lose. They have their redundancy package and they have their skills, so why not make a go of it?
“At the same time, more and more people are falling into the ‘excluded’ bracket. People have been priced out of the property market, so they have no home to put up as an asset when they go to the bank for funding.
“Others cannot get bank funding because they have county court judgements against them or have been declared bankrupt or because they are in the wrong postcode area. However, if they have a good business idea, we will support them.”
The Business Enterprise Fund is one of five or six similar funding bodies in the region. It was launched four years ago with just £360,000 to lend – and only to Bradford-based businesses. Now it has a £3m pot and covers West and North Yorkshire.
“We have supported businesses ranging from pubs and night clubs to a frozen prawn supplier,” said Mr Waud. “We have also helped a long-established polythene bag manufacturer increase demand by diversifying into producing biodegradeable plastic bags.”
Mr Waud worked in corporate recovery – helping small and medium-sized firms turn themselves around and increase sales – before moving into consultancy.
He believes the Yorkshire Biz Awards can enthuse others to set up in business.
“The awards are for people who have done something to improve their sense of self-worth and well-being – and who can provide an inspiration for others,” he said.