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Suffolk `dragons' ready to hear your pitch

PUBLISHED: 18:30 24 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:58 25 January 2019

The Stonham Barns `dragons[', Dr Dan Poulter, Alan Forward and Jonathan Few. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR PHOTOGRAPHY

The Stonham Barns `dragons[', Dr Dan Poulter, Alan Forward and Jonathan Few. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR PHOTOGRAPHY

Lucy Taylor Photography

A new Dragons' Den-style competition is launching in Suffolk - offering the winner a £5,000 prize - and premises - to give a local entrepreneur a boost.

Stonham Barns, leisure, entertainment and shopping at Stonham Aspal.
Picture: STONHAM BARNSStonham Barns, leisure, entertainment and shopping at Stonham Aspal. Picture: STONHAM BARNS

Alan Forward, who owns Stonham Barns, has pledged to invest £5,000 in the winning business and offer the first six months in a retail unit at the venue if they can persuade a three-strong panel of judges they deserve the prize.

Alongside Mr Forward, the other judges of the Stonham Barns Entrepreneur Challenge include Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, and Jonathan Few, who runs JT Few Ltd, a family plant hire and aggregates business in Great Blakenham.

Competitors have until March 15 to get their application in.

There will then be a shortlisting process and those successful will be invited to present their business plan to the judging panel in person at Stonham Barns on March 29.

The rules are simple. Entrants must be based in Suffolk and operate from a Stonham Barns retail unit should they be successful.

Mr Forward said: “If you are an aspiring business owner with an eye for an opportunity can you really afford not to pitch for this opportunity?

“I am willing to invest £5,000 into the winning bid along with thousands more in rent-free accommodation. These opportunities really don’t come around very often.

“Suffolk is ready for business and Stonham Barns is open for business. We have a fantastic, thriving venue here covering all sorts of holiday and retail attractions – it’s a great place to do business.”

“Our strong links into the local communities of Suffolk are very important to us and we do the utmost to support good causes.

“We are incredibly excited about the prospect of giving a helping hand to the best and brightest business brains that the county has to offer and make their dreams a reality.

In the eight years since Mr Forward bought Stonham Barns, the venue which started life in the 1970s as a pick-your-own fruit farm has been transformed.

Alongside the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary which is on site, there are independent shops, a children’s soft play centre, a garden centre, a golf parks with eight different golfing attractions, two holiday parks, fishing lakes and weekly events and shows.

Jonathan Few said: “This is a fantastic venture that I am delighted to be a part of. All of us with successful businesses had to start somewhere and to have Stonham Barns give a leg up to a new start-up in this way will be a great opportunity for someone.

“I would urge anyone who thinks they may have a solid idea for a viable business to give it a go and enter the competition - who knows you might be the lucky winner. I am thoroughly looking forward to seeing what Suffolk’s entrepreneurs have to offer and wish everyone the best of luck.”

MP Dan Poulter added: “This is a prize that could really set the lucky winner on the path to success.”

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