Five resilient Yorkshire businesses win £3k boost to set them up for success in 2021

Nigel Sikora and Liz Theakston, co-founders of Ark

Five fledgling businesses which are all going places will get there a little quicker after winning £3,000-worth of business support.

All five companies, which either launched or had to pivot or adapt during the Covid-19 pandemic, are set for a boost after winning a competition run by Leeds-based flexible workspace provider Wizu Workspace.

Nigel Sikora and Liz Theakston, co-founders of Ark; Craig Toner, who set up CDT Interiors; Steph Varley, of Inc360; Rachael Mackenzie, of WorkAthlete; and James Everitt and Ben Barker, of Gekco, were all successful in the Space to Elevate competition, open to businesses in Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield.

Ark, founded in lockdown, is a Leeds-based not-for-profit organisation connecting environmental programmes to businesses. CDT, also based in Leeds, are interior design and fit-out specialists. Until lockdown struck founder Craig was due to move to London. Instead he stayed and intends to capitalise on his prestigious LS1 postcode.

Inc360 is a Community Interest Company, again in Leeds, which supports young people coping with loneliness and isolation through immersive video.

WorkAthlete, based in Leeds, has been going a little while and is a scale-up business offering work and life performance coaching. Rachael is a former boxing, kick-boxing and Thai boxing champion.

Gekco, founders James and Ben have created a climbing chalk product which leaves a positive impact on the environment. Gekco’s climbing chalks promise to be carbon negative and a portion of profits will go supporting climate change causes.

The competition was open to start-up or scale-up businesses in Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield.

Five businesses were offered prizes worth £3,000 each and included free co-working space and a virtual registered office with Wizu for a year, expert mentoring and business training worth thousands donated by BHP, and even a place on BHP’s renowned leadership program.

Natasha Babar-Evans, COO of Wizu, said they were overwhelmed by the quality of entries and added: “We were amazed at some of the innovative and exciting businesses we found and it was difficult to reduce the entries down to a shortlist of ten.

“There’s never a perfect time to start a business and those who wait might never do it. It won’t get much tougher than running a business through a global pandemic and the lessons learned will be invaluable for the future.

“Once we had the final ten, it was then down to video pitch submissions and the judges, Rachel Hannah and Daniel Burton had to make some difficult choices.

“Our winners are all very different but they are brilliant at what they do and they all have great potential to grow into really successful businesses.

Rachel Hannan, who delivers a Business Leadership Academy at BHP said: “We hope our investment can help give these businesses a boost into the New Year as we all hope for a return to some kind of normality in 2021.

“Innovative businesses are what we will need to help the economy grow and back bounce from the impact of the pandemic.”

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