An architectural and garden lighting company has won a month of priceless, one-to-one business mentoring from former Dragons’ Den investor and Yo! Sushi founder, Simon Woodroffe, thanks to Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles and in partnership with The Times.
Mike Shackleton and Nicky Gregory, from Farnham in Surrey, are among only four other business owners to win this covetable prize.
To win, the company directors fought off hundreds of other entrants from across the UK, first submitting a video ‘pitch’ for consideration, and then pitching their own particular case in person to an expert panel.
The panel consisted of The Times’s Deputy Business Editor, Andrew Clarke, Simon Woodroffe himself and business psychologist, Tony Crabbe.
The small business owners run Ornamental Garden Lighting, an architectural and garden lighting company, which draws on Mike’s extensive background in the film business, to light outdoor spaces to their best and most captivating effect.
Woodroffe will act as the lighting designers’ personal business trouble-shooter, using his considerable experience to advise and inspire them, with the aim of helping the 8 year old business move on to the next level.
In particular, the pair is already planning to work with the well-known businessman to challenge their current thinking and inject some new ideas into the business, however “mad” they may seem.
Mentoring will take place in person, but over the month Woodroffe will also make himself available to Mike and Nicky by phone, video conference and email for ad-hoc requests and questions.
The award was organised by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles as part of its ongoing commitment to working in partnership with businesses throughout the UK.
Ornamental Garden Lighting was chosen because the judges felt it was an extremely interesting business, which uniquely capitalises on the skills that Mike developed during a long career in the film business, based initially on his experience as a cameraman and latterly, as a film director.
The pair hopes that winning this prestigious award will allow them to take their business in a new direction and to develop their 12 person operation positively over the next year.
On winning the prize, Mike Shackleton, Director of Ornamental Garden Lighting said: “This is a truly fantastic opportunity. I can’t wait for our first mentoring session with Simon Woodroffe.
“He’s clearly an extremely talented man, and at the initial presentation, he asked us some very astute and challenging questions.
“I’m certain he’ll bring a new energy and direction to the business, and help Ornamental Garden Lighting to expand and grow.”
On becoming Mike and Nicky’s mentor, Simon Woodroffe said: “I’m looking forward to working with Ornamental Garden Lighting.
“They are a business which has the potential to expand and grow in size, but I also really respect the courage that Mike and Nicky have shown in putting their business forward for this Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles scheme.
“People who are brave enough to take time out of their busy and already pressurised lives to put themselves in situations such as this, where there is a very real danger of failure, will in fact succeed.
Of the winning business pitches, Andrew Clarke, Deputy Business Editor at The Times, said: “This has been a truly inspiring day.
“We’ve heard all sorts of stories, from a single mother who set up a business after losing her chair at her hairdressing salon to a man who is holding up the art of British craft with his furniture company. These days I’m so used to dealing with bad business news so it’s been a real pleasure to listen to some inspiring stories of real people succeeding in spite of adversity in this tough market.”
Alex Smith, Director of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles added: “We understand the importance of strong business partnerships.
“At Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles we aim not only to provide products of the highest quality at outstanding value for money but also to provide genuine business solutions and services which add real value to our customers.
“This partnership demonstrates our ongoing commitment to working in partnership with Britain’s business owners.”