Joanne Merchant, a High Barnet mother of two, scooped up the top prize of £3,500 in financial backing plus business mentoring advice.
She launched her plan to open a High Street family hub – to be known as the When I Grow Up Club – last year and started a crowd-funding appeal.
She beat three other finalists from a field of 70 entries including students from Middlesex University, Barnet and Southgate College and residents in the London Borough of Barnet with business or social enterprise ideas.
On being declared the winner, she told guests at the grand final (3.4.2019): “It all feels very surreal. I have never won anything before, so I am really shocked to win, but I’m overwhelmed and really happy.”
Winning this award will help to pay my fees and means I can now go out and seek backing from potential investors.
Gail Laser, founder of Love Barnet, congratulated Ms Merchant on her presentation in the finals of the competition which is sponsored jointly by Middlesex University, Barnet Council, Brent Cross, and Barnet and Southgate College.
“Jo’s business plan was well prepared and really focussed at a community level, ticking all the boxes about regenerating High Streets by attracting new businesses.”
Ms Merchant’s proposed location for the family hub is a building on the east side of the High Street close to the junction with St Albans Road, which is currently occupied as an office and showroom for the estate agents Statons.
If she can attract investors for her business plan, which would require a budget of £260,000, she would take out a lease on the premises and fit out the showroom with a bespoke children’s play area, a café for healthy eating, retail space and an area for creative classes, events and workshops. She has already secured planning permission for the building’s potential change of use.
“High Barnet is a family-dense area and an innovative, inspiring and creative hub for families and the community will help transform the High Street which has never fully recovered from the recession.
“Winning this award will help to pay my fees and means I can now go out and seek backing from potential investors.
“My long-term plan is to create a When I Grow Up franchise and open family hubs in other high street.”
The three other finalists were Zac Morrison, a first-year Middlesex University student, with a pitch for his start-up Mono-Designs which sells clothing and bags printed with art work; Avinoam Baruch, who proposed a real-time forecasting model for street-level flood prediction; and Anthony McCollum who outlined his nutrition selection App known as Foodwatts.
The four finalists were each awarded £500 and the top prize was £3,000 to invest in the business, plus mentoring advice.
The judges were Terry Magennis, of Hammerson, co-owner of Brent Cross; Steve Leverton of business financial specialists Cornmill Associates; Sharniya Ferdinand, business inclusion co-ordinator at NatWest; and Vanessa Fernandes, a beauty company managing director and Middlesex University master’s graduate.