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Entrepreneurs pitch ideas in Dragons' Den-style event

The final winners have been announced in a Dragon’s Den-style competition that spanned all six Olympic boroughs and rewarded community-focused enterprises.

The competition was organised by the charity Business in the Community (BITC) as part of its flagship social enterprise programme, arc, in partnership with East Thames Group, Social Enterprise UK and Fredericks Foundation, to recognise entrepreneurial potential and give community-focused businesses the chance to flourish.

Entrepreneurs from the six boroughs pitched their ideas at events in Barking, Waltham Forest and Greenwich to a judging panel of business and social enterprise experts from all of the partner organisations. Prizes included an interest-free loan of up to £5,000, mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs and business experts, membership of Social Enterprise UK and a package of practical support including office space and access to further finance.

All of the winners were delighted with their success. In Hackney, Arinola Araba (pictured, far right) won for Money Wize, a scheme which uses activities and workshops to teach local people to manage their money well and share their skills. Arinola is currently expanding the project into job centres and other schools, and using the funding to develop a board game to teach families how to manage their funds. She said, “We are humbled and excited about winning the competition and we are thrilled at the opportunity to provide a creative solution to reducing the impact of financial hardship in the Hackney community.”

Naomi Mwasambili won for the Community Therapies and Training Service in Tower Hamlets, which provides advice and services tailored to local residents’ cultural and social backgrounds. She said, “We are so happy about winning the competition for Tower Hamlets. We hope it will be a platform to grow our social enterprise and support more individuals, families, communities and organisations in east London who are experiencing health problems.”

Elsewhere, Amanda Henry won with Let’s Roll, a community roller skating project in Waltham Forest which organises roller skating workshops and events to improve health and fitness among local residents.

Rianna Raymond-Williams, founder of Shine Aloud, an online sexual health magazine for young people, won the prize for Newham. The winner for Barking & Dagenham, Jaqueline Otite, founded Be Inspired, a motivational project for local young people not in education or training.

Corrine Hutcheson, Enterprise Manager at East Thames and one of the dragons, praised the latest entrants for their ingenuity and enthusiasm: “Competition in each borough was fierce; all the ideas were well presented and of a really high standard.  I am looking forward to seeing how all the applicants’ ideas develop.”

Jane Pritchard, BITC’s Enterprise Director, said: “This competition is all about unearthing untapped entrepreneurial talent in east London and I feel we have done just that. We look forward to working with all the winners to realise their business dreams.”

Paul Barry-Walsh, chairman and founder of Fredericks Foundation, said: “We have enjoyed providing time and finance for this innovative competition. The Fredericks team who have helped to pick the winners have been very impressed with the quality of the applications, and the drive and the character of the competitors. It is hard to worry about the future of the economy when you see entrepreneurs like these.”