Eight firms in running for Times award

A TRENDY cafe chain and a shop selling "pre-loved" toys are among the young companies shortlisted for the Evening Times' Local Business Accelerator Scheme.

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The ambitious firms in the running were selected by our panel of expert judges whose job was made tougher by the high calibre of the entrants.

The finalists are: Cafe Wander, Cochrane Cottage, Alphabet Babies, Articulate, The Original Smoothie Company, Eat Balanced, TenderCush, and Merry Go-Round Glasgow.

The winners will be eligible for a course of mentoring from our expert business panel: Mick Jackson from Wildhearts; former Microsoft boss Raymond O'Hare; and consultant Laura Gordon, as well as free advertising and editorial in the Evening Times.

Ms Gordon, managing director of Corporate Connections, a consulting company, said: "We were really struck by the calibre of the entrants and by the range and variety of the businesses.

"It was difficult whittling the list to eight, but in the end we chose businesses we thought would benefit most from the complementary range of skills on the mentoring panel, and from coverage in the Evening Times."

Mr O'Hare said: "It's a very strong shortlist that shows the wealth of talent and bright ideas out there.

"This initiative will help ensure these companies get the right kind of information at the right stage in their development."

Over the next few weeks the LBA judging and mentoring team intends to visit the shortlisted businesses, and pick two or three winners after discuss their strategies and business plans.

We aim to announce the winners in early February and mentoring will commence in the spring.

The top Evening Times LBA winner will be put forward for the national competition, the winner of which will receive a course of mentoring from Deborah Meadon, one of the judges on TV show Dragons' Den, plus £10,000 in cash.

The Evening Times Local Business Accelerator plan, which is supported by Prime Minister David Cameron, is being run in conjunction with the Newspaper Society.

It is designed to promote the value and community spirit of the UK's network of local newspapers.

l Cafe Wander www.cafewander.com

Atmospheric and relaxing cafe and catering operation based in the city centre and Finnieston, serving breakfast, lunch and tea.

l Cochrane Cottage www.cochranecottage.com/

Based in Houston, Renfrewshire, makes fat-free salad dressings, chutneys and gourmet marshmallows from locally-sourced ingredients.

l Alphabet Babies www.alphabetbabies.co.uk/

Glasgow company offering fun classes for babies and toddlers in the basics of reading, to give them the best start in life.

l Articulate (Scotland) www.articulategallery.co.uk

Eastwood-based couple developing a hit product: easy-to-use frames for displaying children's artwork, promoting creativity in budding artists.

l The Original Smoothie Company www.smoothiepeople.co.uk

Rutherglen family business making healthy drinks in various delicious drinks, sourcing some exotic ingredients like Açai, a Brazilian berry superfood.

l TenderCush www.tendercush.co.uk

Comfort and support products for women who have undergone breast surgery, including cushions and handbags, great testimonials from satisfied customers.

l Eat Balanced www.eatbalanced.com

Glasgow company uses in-house nutritionists to offer pizzas that provide your five-a-day and more.

l Merry-go-Round Glasgow www.facebook.com/merrygoroundglasgow.

Part of the growing trend for "Up-cycling" (recycling with added-value) social-media friendly

A TRENDY cafe chain and a shop selling "pre-loved" toys are among the young companies shortlisted for the Evening Times' Local Business Accelerator Scheme.

The ambitious firms in the running were selected by our panel of expert judges whose job was made tougher by the high calibre of the entrants.

The finalists are: Cafe Wander, Cochrane Cottage, Alphabet Babies, Articulate, The Original Smoothie Company, Eat Balanced, TenderCush, and Merry Go-Round Glasgow.

The winners will be eligible for a course of mentoring from our expert business panel: Mick Jackson from Wildhearts; former Microsoft boss Raymond O'Hare; and consultant Laura Gordon, as well as free advertising and editorial in the Evening Times.

Ms Gordon, managing director of Corporate Connections, a consulting company, said: "We were really struck by the calibre of the entrants and by the range and variety of the businesses.

"It was difficult whittling the list to eight, but in the end we chose businesses we thought would benefit most from the complementary range of skills on the mentoring panel, and from coverage in the Evening Times."

Mr O'Hare said: "It's a very strong shortlist that shows the wealth of talent and bright ideas out there.

"This initiative will help ensure these companies get the right kind of information at the right stage in their development."

Over the next few weeks the LBA judging and mentoring team intends to visit the shortlisted businesses, and pick two or three winners after discussing their strategies and business plans.

We aim to announce the winners in early February and mentoring will commence in the spring.

The top Evening Times LBA winner will be put forward for the national competition, the winner of which will receive a course of mentoring from Deborah Meaden, one of the judges on TV show Dragons' Den, plus £10,000 in cash.

The Evening Times Local Business Accelerator plan, which is supported by Prime Minister David Cameron, is being run in conjunction with the Newspaper Society.

It is designed to promote the value and community spirit of the UK's network of local newspapers.

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