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Rotherham's Brightest Young Business Sparks Rewarded

posted 30 Sep 2010, 07:10 by RiDO Rotherham
Britain's battered economy is doing little to dampen the spirits of the borough's thriving community of young entrepreneurs.

The Rotherham Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2010, sponsored by Rotherham Enterprise Network (REN) and UK Steel Enterprise, has again uncovered a wealth of young talent that is relentlessly bucking the national trend with a collection of small but successful new businesses springing up in the borough.

Award organiser and Rotherham Investment & Development Office (RiDO) enterprise manager Geoff Link said: "I never fail to be impressed by the passionate young business men and women that enter these awards, especially during these uncertain times.

"They stand out from the crowd, not least because of their determination, ingenuity and self belief. Setting up and running your own business is not for the feint hearted - and these young entrepreneurs are certainly not that."

Sheffield Hallam University graduate Matthew Pennefather set up events management business Steel City Promotions from a one-bedroom flat off the Eccleshall Road in Sheffield 18 months ago.

From there, the 27-year-old winner of the Best New Start Up category has outgrown even the two units he operates out of the RiDO-run Fusion @ Magna business centre in Rotherham.

He's taken on a new member of staff Charlotte Ogle, 25, and next month is recruiting for seven new freelance positions ahead of the Christmas events rush.

Matthew said: "I'm delighted to have picked up this accolade. I started out just taking private bookings for weddings and company events. This year we used a Hollywood theme to launch the new BMW 5 series in Cumbria with 40 foot long illuminated letters you could see for miles.

"Things are going well for us."

Matthew picked up £500 from category sponsor Rotherham Youth Enterprise.

Bright spark Deborah Bailey saw an opportunity when she was made redundant from her old job at a lighting company last summer. She didn't hesitate to make an offer to administrators to take over the company - and has been her own boss at Aardvark Display Lighting ever since.

Deborah had managed one of the retail outlets for the exhibition lighting company. But when the business collapsed - she took over the manufacturing arm, now performing all the industrial jobs herself.

The 29-year-old winner of the £500 award for the Business Most Determined to Succeed category, sponsored by Voluntary Action Rotherham, said: "When I was made redundant it came as a huge shock. I went home and thought it through - I knew the manufacturing side of the business was making a profit so I looked at the figures and the next day I put in an offer to buy the business.

"They accepted and although I had only worked on the retail side, I taught myself the manufacturing skills, got some contacts together, rebranded and here I am. It's good to be recognised for all that!"

Social entrepreneurs Sam Oldroyd, 29 and John Leaver, 26 won the award for the Business Link-sponsored Best Established Business for their not for profit community youth project Jade - a drop in centre and workshop for youths in the Kiveton area.

It all started 12 years ago when the pair set up Red Road Music - a way for local kids to learn how to be a DJ and perform in front of crowds. Now the trained youth workers run the centre in order to engage young people in positive activities, with the aim of bringing down the local crime rate.

Sam said: "The issues young people face these days are different. Kiveton pit closed in 1995 and life changed dramatically for young people around here.

"The drop in centre gives us the opportunity to understand the issues young people are facing and tackle them gradually. We don't shy away from the task, we're passionate about what we do - and it works - the crime rate has dropped."

Communications entrepreneur Liam Winder's business Ripwire is the only company to have the rights to be the internet service provider for the forthcoming South Yorkshire super fast digital regional network VDSL2.

The 27-year-old married father-of-two from Thorpe Hesley, picked up the £500 award for the Best Business using IT, sponsored by Yorkshire Forward.

Based at the RiDO-run Fusion @ Magna business centre, Liam now employs five full-time staff and his 20-month-old business boasts a string of impressive clients and services include internet provision, cloud computing and b2b high speed internet services. The business will be consumer-facing once the regional network is set up.

Liam said: "I'm delighted to have my business recognised. We've worked hard and come a long way in a short space of time. Accolades like this help to make all the hard work worthwhile."

Legendary cheesecake maker Fiona Morgan set up her business Alexandra Buffet Co last year, delivering delicious hand-made buffets to homes and businesses in the region.

The idea sprang out of her other company - Alexandra's Café, off Parkgate.

The 28-year-old awards runner up, who received £250 prize money courtesy of Jackie Frost at REN, said: "I got a call from a business asking to order one of my buffets from the menu. I hadn't got a menu and up until that point, I hadn't done buffets - but I very quickly got the hang of it and delivered it all on time and to budget!

"I enjoyed it so much I set up my own company and it's been going from strength-to-strength. My cheesecake has become a legend and I'm often asked if I can pay people in food - I've got plumbing jobs and all sorts done in exchange for one of my cheesecakes!"

To find out more about Fiona's cheesecake email

Runner up Adam Tinsley's Eastwood-based F1 Showcars sprang from a purchase he made on Ebay. The 23-year-old F1 car enthusiast spotted a former Arrows F1 simulator online, bought it, re-built it and now he takes it around the country to events including the Silverstone Grand Prix.

Adam, a former pupil at Maltby Comprehensive School said: "I love technical things and love playing around with cars and engines so this was a dream come true. I'm really chuffed to receive this award."

The category winners will now go through the final to find the overall winner, which will be announced at the Chamber awards ceremony next month.

The awards are part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).