Jeweller retailers could earn free support and consultancy from business experts, including Dragon’s Den star Sarah Willingham, thanks to a competition launched to champion small enterprises.

Barclaycard and The Guardian Small Business Network have teamed up to launch the inaugural Small Business Mentoring competition, offering UK businesses the opportunity to win expert mentoring and guidance from leading entrepreneurs.

The competition is open to companies with less than £15m in turnover across the retail, professional services and hospitality sectors.


Small businesses can enter the competition through The Guardian website by sharing the biggest business challenge they are facing and the support they are seeking from a mentor to help overcome it.

The entries will be judged by a panel of experts including Sharon Manikon, director of customer solutions at Barclaycard and Claire Burke, editor of the Small Business Network at The Guardian, with three businesses selected to take part in the programme.

The winners will be partnered with a leading entrepreneur who will nurture their development for several months through one-on-one mentoring sessions.

As well as Willingham, the other entrepreneurs lending their expertise to the cause are Lopo Champalimaud., founder and CEO of hair and beauty booking service Treatwell, and Andre Blais, founder of restaurant chain Belgo.

The mentees’ prize package will comprise of a series of conversations with their mentor to help them grow their business. This will include an initial discussion to talk about the goals and ambitions for their business, followed by a mentoring lunch to agree potential solutions and next steps.

Once the candidates have had a chance to put their mentor’s tips into practice, they will have a final discussion to share a progress update and work through any outstanding development areas.

Barclaycard’s Manikon stated: “SMEs are the backbone of the British economy, but they often face a set of unique challenges which can prove difficult to overcome, particularly when dealing with an issue for the first time. With our experience of working with SMEs over the past 50 years, we can offer tips on what may help in each situation, and use our network to connect them to successful entrepreneurs who may have also tackled the same obstacles.

“Through the Small Business Mentoring competition, we hope to not only help our three winning businesses overcome the barriers to their growth, but also to encourage them to share their experiences with the small business community to help and inspire others to achieve their potential too.”

Willingham, meanwhile, said that managing a ‘small’ business was often a very large feat. “SME owners often have to be strategists, accountants and marketing experts all in one to address the unique set of challenges that affect their particular business. As a mentor in the Small Business Competition, I hope to offer my own experience and advice to help these hard-working entrepreneurs overcome their obstacles.”

Entries to the competition will be accepted until 31 July and businesses can enter HERE.