A group of entrepreneurs has made it through to the final of a challenge to find the North East’s next big business idea.
Casey Lam, of TopHat Teacakes, Louise Doyle, Carole Loader and Neil Donkin, of Mesma, and student duo Galina Jewitt and Jessica Hebron, of AIM Dance Group, were picked by judges to go forward to the final of The Journal's If We Can You Can Challenge, run by the Entrepreneurs' Forum.
The three businesses were selected by a panel of judges in a Dragon’s Den-style event, where they pitched their business plans for growth and long-term ambitions.
They will now go forward to a public vote for the chance to be crowned If We Can You Can winner 2013.
The prize is worth up to £17,000 in investment, mentoring and practical help from sponsors Yorkshire Bank, Ward Hadaway, Onyx Group, PwC and Rivers Capital.
Chairman of the panel Ian Smith, of Surreal Creative and IWCYC winner in 2009, said: “All the five shortlisted candidates who presented to us came from different backgrounds and all will have benefited from the IWCYC experience.
“We believe the three finalists have really good ideas and perfectly fitted the challenge criteria.”
Other panellists were John White, of Rivers Capital, Lynn Shearing of PwC, David Cooper of Yorkshire Bank, Katherine Hay-Heddle of Ward Hadaway, and Gillian Marshall, of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum.
Jessica and Galina Jewitt launched AIM Dance Group 18 months ago as a not-for-profit organisation to bring low-cost opportunities for dance to children in deprived areas.
Casey, of Gateshead, started her business in February after deciding to turn her hobby of baking into a commercial enterprise.
Mesma, based in Team Valley, has developed software to help training and education providers complete the self-evaluation and improvement planning requirement of Ofsted inspections.
Journal readers now have the chance to vote for the finalist they believe should win. Voting opens at 9am on Monday, July 22, and closes at midnight on Sunday, July 28. To vote, visit www.ifwecanyoucan.co.uk . Votes will be collated with the panellists’ votes to identify the winner who will be announced on Wednesday, July 31. They will be presented with their prize at the Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s awards dinner at the Hilton Newcastle/Gateshead Hotel on September 20.