Go-ahead local firms win free support from Dispatch

THE KEYS TO SUCCESS -- that's the hope of Ashley Foster, boss of Acorn Locksmiths
THE KEYS TO SUCCESS -- that's the hope of Ashley Foster, boss of Acorn Locksmiths

TWO delighted local businesses have been told they will receive free advertising in the Dispatch, plus expert mentoring advice, as winners of the new Local Business Accelerators initiative.

The scheme, which has been backed by Prime Minister David Cameron and Deborah Meaden, one of the judges on the hit TV show ‘Dragon’s Den’, aims to boost dynamic fledgling firms in local communities hit by the economic downturn.

Ian Southwell  of Southall Driving school

Ian Southwell of Southall Driving school

The Dispatch is one of almost 500 local newspapers offering free advertising worth a total of £15 million to promising small companies between one and three years old.

And the two worthy businesses chosen in the Dispatch district to benefit are ACORN LOCKSMITHS, of Montague Road, Hucknall, and SOUTHALL DRIVER TRAINING, of Auckland Road, Hucknall.

As well as the free ads, they will receive advice on how to progress their businesses from the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber Of Commerce.

Ashley Foster, of Acorn Locksmiths, spoke of his surprise at winning. “I did not think I had a cat in hell’s chance but thought I would give it a go,” he said.

“Any help is beneficial. I think it would be useful for me to find out about loans and how they will affect me and my home.”

Ashley started out in April 2009 after taking out a £12,000 personal loan to pay for training and equipment.

He said: “As soon as I was out in the big wide world, I had to learn quickly. There were jobs in the beginning where I was literally shaking in my boots. But I feel a lot more competent now.

“I class myself as a commercial and private locksmith but I would like to move into access control and auto-locksmithing too.

“The challenge with auto-locksmithing is that modern cars are double-deadlocked, so I need a bit more practice.”

Thirty-seven-year-old Ashley offers a 24-hour emergency service seven days a week and charges £45 per hour.

The father-of-one said his goals for this year were to have more money for auto-training or to have training so he could become a member of the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA).

He said: “Carrying the MLA logo will help pull a lot more work in and I would be more likely to get insurance work.

Ashley said he ultimately hoped to open his own shop and have a business he could pass on to his five-year-old son.

He added: “Whether I am advised to expand or move forward, I would be glad of any help.

“Anything free is beneficial. Advertising costs me an absolute fortune and anything is better than nothing.”

Driving instructor Ian Southall, of Southall Driver Training, said he could not believe he had been chosen for the Local Business Accelerators scheme.

He said: “Advertising is important so people know what your service is, especially as a smaller business. It is very important to be recognised.”

Ian has been in business for two years now but only part-time as an instructor. He said: “It takes time to build up your business. I would be keen to get advice on how to do that.

“Southall is just myself for now but hopefully in the future, I could get a few people working for me.”

Ian said he wanted to be the best and provide customers with a value-for-money, professional service.

He added: “A lot of people do not put much into their driving lessons, but I try and put as much into it as I can.”

Thirty-one-year-old Ian charges £20 per hour for working people and £15 for students.

Praising the Dispatch’s role in the LBA initiative, Meaden said: “I have seen the unique contribution that the local Press makes to local businesses time and time again with my own ventures.”