Spark Up entrepreneurs are blazing a trail with awards shortlist

Entrepreneurs on Liverpool’s biggest business accelerator programme, Spark Up are already showing they have what it takes to succeed, after being shortlisted for the inaugural Federation of Small Business awards.

Ronnie Joughin of Alternative Hearses and Yvonne Bennett who owns Wedding Planners Guild, will go head to head in the Best New Business category, along with other promising Liverpool start-ups next month.

The awards, which are backed by the Federation of Small Businesses, recognise the innovative and progressive businesses which are based in the city region.

Small businesses account for 99% of businesses in the UK and have a critical role to play in building sustainable regional economies. Latest figures show that the number of new businesses in Liverpool has grown by around 20% in the last decade.

Maghull-based Ronnie Joughin, set up his business Alternative Hearses in 2013, which hires out blue or red hearses to undertakers, allowing football fans to go to their final resting place in the colours of their favourite team.

The 49 year-old Liverpool fan, got the idea when a funeral cortege for a young red’s supporter passed by his taxi and realised that there was a gap in the market for coloured hearses, which would offer an alternative option for football fans in the city.

Since he started with the Spark Up programme earlier this year, Ronnie developed his business idea, sought investment to secure two coloured hearses – one in red the other in blue – and has also received support from Another Level.

He said:

“To be shortlisted in this category is a wonderful achievement, considering Alternative Hearses has been in operation for less than two years. We are the first company in Liverpool and I believe the UK to offer luxury coloured hearses, as an alternative to the traditional black vehicles.

“As a business we have come a long way and since joining Spark Up, we have been able to secure the investment we needed to purchase our vehicles, as well as establish links with funeral service providers in the city centre.

“A funeral should always be a dignified occasion but more families are choosing to personalise funerals and create a unique tribute that reflects the life of a loved one – Alternative Hearses allows people to do just that.”

Similarly, Yvonne Bennet joined Spark Up to help take her wedding planning training business Wedding Planners Guild UK to the next level, helping increase awareness of her brand and maximises numbers on her nationally recognised training course.

The 46 year old from Liverpool City Centre, started operating in July 2015.

She said:

“I set up Wedding Planners Guild UK to provide regulation to the British wedding industry and our first training programme will launch here in Liverpool in November and will be rolled out across the UK over the next few months.

“Being shortlisted in the FSB awards for Best New Business, will be a tremendous boost to my business, offering recognition from one of the leading industry bodies for small businesses. I am delighted to have been considered for this, joining some wonderful businesses which operate out of Liverpool.”

Spark Up is a 12-week long business accelerator provided by Liverpool &Sefton Chambers of Commerce in partnership with Natwest. To date it has supported the growth of more than one hundred Liverpool start-ups, generated £400,000 worth of investment opportunities and created 40 local jobs.

Places on Spark Up’s fourth programme starting in January 2016 are now open and applications can be made via the website

Founder of the programme Jenny Stewart said:

“How exciting is it to hear that just two weeks after launching not one but two of our entrepreneurs have been shortlisted at the FSB awards?

“Both Ronnie and Yvonne are shining examples of the entrepreneurial talent that exists in Liverpool and I wish them both the best of luck in the awards.”

The Federation of Small Business Liverpool City Region awards ceremony will be held on November 5th at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Liverpool. More information about the awards can be found:

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