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Still time for Havering start-ups to win mentoring, advertising and cash in Local Business Accelerators scheme

PUBLISHED: 12:50 02 November 2012

McDonald's franchise owner Gerry Byrne

McDonald's franchise owner Gerry Byrne

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There's still time to enter the Recorder's competition to promote young Havering businesses, Local Business Accelerators (LBA).

LBA is being run nationally by the Newspaper Society in conjunction with regional newspapers. Entries close on Friday, November 16 and can be made at http://www.newspapersoc.org.uk/accelerate-me.

Businesses between one and five years old are eligible to put themselves forward. The winner will be chosen by a panel of judges including local business guru Gerry Byrne, who owns five successful franchise branches of McDonald’s in the borough.

The key prizes are mentoring from Gerry himself and free advertising in the Recorder, as well as £10,000 pledged by the Business Growth Fund.

In addition, one national winner will also win personal mentoring from Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden.

Gerry’s mentoring would be invaluable to any Havering start-up. Having worked his way up through the ranks at the fast food chain, and seen his turnover double in the last five years despite the grim economic climate, the 44-year-old knows a thing or two about growing business.

“I’ve always been ambitious,” he said. “I left school at 16 with five ‘O’ levels and didn’t go onto further education. I worked in banks for about seven years and got made redundant in 1991.

“I joined McDonald’s as a trainee manager, worked my way up to area manager in the West End, and then after 11 years of working for them I bought my first franchise restaurant in 2002 – the store in South Street.

“Now I’ve got five restaurants locally.

“Running a franchise is very daunting because you’re on your own – you have to learn all the ins and outs to running your own business.

“Good business and operational knowledge puts you in good stead. You need to have good business contacts. Being a franchisee means taking full responsibility for everything, including the financial stability of the company you are running.”

Mentoring is a key part of the government and private sector’s “Business in You” campaign, which is supporting LBA this year. Business in You was set up to promote the range of support and advice available to businesses to help them start up, improve and grow.

One partner of Business in You is website mentorsme.co.uk, run by the British Bankers’ Association, which acts as a single point of access for businesses seeking mentoring and those looking to become mentors.

The website provides access to more than 110 businesses and, through them, about 22,000 mentors.

Penny Power, entrepreneur and mentoring ambassador for the Department of Business, Education and Skills, said: “As a mentor, my goal is to provide the support an entrepreneur needs to stay confident and focused on their goals.

“Having an outlet where you can share ideas or concerns and get guidance on the next steps can be invaluable to someone who is starting a business.”

The need for young businesses to stand out and establish themselves has never been greater – and there’s a lot to learn from experienced figures like Gerry.

For this reason, mentoring is one of the LBA scheme’s key prizes.

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