Entrepreneurs win investment and mentoring in county innovation challenge

Three entrepreneurs have won cash prizes and access to mentoring support after impressing the judges at the Lancashire Innovation Challenge.

The project, a Dragon's Den-inspired competition, was developed by Innovate Lancashire, part of the Business Growth Team at Lancashire County Council, with support from Shout Network and Create Education Project.

Held at Shout Network's offices at the Docks in Preston, the final saw six finalists present their ideas to a panel of judges to compete for investment and mentoring support. The event was hosted by Aaron Willis, from Chorley, who featured in the 2022 season of The Apprentice.

First prize went to Gemma Connolly from Scoff Paper, which sells personalised, edible cards for dogs. Gemma impressed the panel with how far she has come already, getting her product into large retail chains such as Clintons Cards and B&M, with eyes now on the online market.

Second place went to Susanna Bocccaccio from Brilliant Trees Media, who has come up with a way to allow young children to express emotions and look after their wellbeing.

Conor Walsh took third place, with a novel invention that supports electricians and streamlines part of their working day, while reducing waste, something he is especially passionate about.

Gemma won £15,000; Susanna won £10,000 and Conor won £5,000. All the contestants will also get six hours of mentoring support and got to take home a trophy each.

Some of the finalists who didn't take home any prize money, but impressed nonetheless, included Paul White, co-founder of The Modern Milkman. Paul brought his new venture before the judges, telling them he sees a gap in the market for window cleaners and setting out how he will bring his experience from his modernised milk delivery service to this new market.

Roger and Theo Tech demonstrated to the panel how small businesses can utilise cloud technology without the big budget of large businesses, while another company presented their plans for a new kind of mobility scooter that is safe to ride on pavements.

County councillor Aidy Riggott, cabinet member for economic development and growth at Lancashire County Council, said: "A huge congratulations to all of the entrants who took part in this year's Lancashire Innovation Challenge, especially to our winners.

"Supporting our businesses to realise their ideas, to grow and flourish, is a key priority for the county council. Lancashire is brimming with innovation, as was evident by the impressive ideas and products brought before the judges this year."