Innovation and enterprise blog

28 May 2015

The Guardian Small Business Showcase


The Guardian Business Showcase is an annual competition, run by the Guardian Small Business Network, which aims to highlight and reward innovation and good practice in UK small businesses. This year Nigel Spencer, Research and Business Development Manager at the British Library Business & IP Centre, was invited to sit on the judging panel.

The judges comprise an impressive selection of successful entrepreneurs, journalists and investors including Simon Duffy, co-founder of Bulldog Skincare; James Caan, founder and CEO of Hamilton Bradshaw; Claire Burke, acting editor of Guardian Small Business Network; Simon Walker, partner at international law firm Taylor Wessing; Fiona Walsh, business editor at; Jim Cregan, founder and managing director of Jimmy's Iced Coffee; Anna Bance, co-founder of Girl Meets Dress and of course our own Nigel Spencer.

The judging process has a clear format; every few weeks’ judges are sent a ‘judging pack’ with entries from businesses which showcase innovative and practical ideas in six areas:

  • Smarter Working:   improving business efficiency
  • Home innovation:   operating effectively from home
  • Cashflow Management:   managing cash flow effectively
  • Marketing & PR Excellence:   promoting their business in a creative and effective way
  • Rising Star:  examples of outstanding performance by talented individuals
  • Small Business of the Year; businesses that have made great progress in their first 18 months

The entries come from a very broad variety of sectors ranging from online gaming, heating, kitchenware and financial software to socks and underwear! Nigel said that, “This variety means that reading the entries is entertaining and a constant source of surprise, but it also provides a real challenge in comparing businesses operating in very different markets.” Nigel has judged competitions before and always tries to apply criteria in a scientific and objective way, but finds it difficult to apply a critical and dispassionate assessment when he is aware of the effort that had gone into developing each business. Every business in the competition is precious to the people that started them and the prestige they will gain from success in the competition means that the stakes are high.

Nigel works with small business owners and entrepreneurs every day in the Business & IP Centre and those looking to expand and develop are always asking how they can create a buzz around their business. Awards are one certain way of doing this, they can help you distinguish your business from the competitors and enhance your brand – doing so can be a challenge for any small business with limited resources. Entering a competition is a great way to generate PR and endorsements from the media and the panel of business expert judges. Moreover, having the title of ‘award winning’ is confirmation that consumers can trust doing business with you.

Nigel gives his top 5 tips for entering competitions:

  • Read the selection criteria very carefully and make sure that your entry addresses all of them
  • Provide firm statistical or financial  evidence of the beneficial impacts of actions or decisions you have taken
  • Tell a story.  Present a challenge you faced, describe the actions taken and then describe how these successfully met that challenge.
  • Consider how others could learn and be inspired by your experience, and highlight the key learning points.
  • Don’t be afraid to let your energy and enthusiasm for your business shine through in the way you tell your story.

The team at the Guardian Small Business Showcase have collated the judges’ marks and produced a shortlist of three finalists for each category. The winners will be announced on the evening of 11 June 2015, best of luck to all of the finalists!

If you are looking for advice on how to start and run a successful business and increase your chances of winning an award or competition drop in to the Business & IP Centre in the British Library. 



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