Business Extra: News in brief

Dell beefs up its SMB campaign

The computer company Dell has stepped up its move into the small and medium-sized business market with a campaign – Take Your Own Path – featuring the Innocent Drinks co-founder Richard Reed, Lonely Planet's Tony Wheeler and other entrepreneurs explaining how technology helps them to run their businesses.

Paul-Henri Ferrand, the company's global vice-president of business strategy and marketing, said the UK move – which follows similar initiatives in other parts of the world – was part of an attempt to demonstrate Dell was more than a consumer company. Adding that the SMB market was the "crown jewel for us", he said its direct-selling model gave independent businesses direct access to the company and its expertise.

The campaign was designed to capitalise on estimates that about 500 million small businesses will be created around the world in the next five years.

Entrepreneurs do swimmingly

A marine biologist from Glasgow University and a mother from Milton Keynes have been named male and female entrepreneurs of the year in the annual awards sponsored by the mobile telephone company O2.

Sunil Kadri received his award for OptoSwim Technologies, which aims to transform the farmed fishing industry through using light technology to encourage optimal swimming speeds in salmon and other fish, so improving their growth rates and the quality of their meat. Lisa Warner won her award for Fink (Fun Interaction Nurtures Kids), which was created as a means of bringing families together through card games that encourage communication.

The O2 X Awards, which were launched in 2003, also recognised youthful talent by naming recent Oxford University graduate Rajeeb Dey the Young Entrepreneur of the Year for his business, Enternships, founded while he was a student with the aim of securing entrepreneurial work placements for students and recent graduates with start-up businesses and SMEs around the world.

Simon Devonshire, the head of O2 SME Marketing, said that the awards showed that the economic challenges of recent months appeared to have done little to stifle the entrepreneurial spirit of the small business community.

"The calibre and number of entries we received bear witness to the resilient and determined attitude from entrepreneurs up and down the country, and the breadth and variety of talent was truly exciting," Devonshire said.

Shell winner's site saves £3m

A 25-year-old from London is the Shell LiveWIRE young entrepreneur of the year 2009. Robert Matthams won the title and a £10,000 cash injection for his business,, a carbon-friendly transport site similar to eBay. provides an online marketplace where people list items they need to move, and then receive bids in a reverse-auction format from more than 5,000 rated transport companies going there anyway. By making use of spare capacity in lorries, users can save up to 75 per cent on their deliveries. The business has been going for just over a year and has more than 40,000 customers. It has saved more than 1.6m kg of CO2 by using spare capacity and has saved its customers more than £3m in reduced transportation bills.

Matthams said: "I'm thrilled to have won such a prestigious award. Some people might say it's mad to set up a business in a recession, but I always had confidence in the strength of my business idea. The last 12 months have been amongst the most exciting of my life and I can't wait to take my business to the next level on the back of this award."

Matthams saw off stiff competition in the eight-strong final from entrepreneurial talent spanning a range of sectors from music, design and travel to IT consultancy, software development and technology.

Shell has been supporting young entrepreneurs since 1982, and this year launched the Shell LiveWIRE grand ideas awards, where up to five £1,000 awards are given every month to very early-stage businesses.

Students make their mark

Students from a south London academy have made a giant footprint on Blackheath Common to mark the launch of this year's Make Your Mark Challenge, which forms a key part of Enterprise Week beginning on 16 November and which this year has a low-carbon theme.

The week, now a global event, includes a Women's Enterprise Day, which celebrates the UK's 680,000 majority women-owned businesses and encourages more to join these "lipstick entrepreneurs". There is also a Social Enterprise Day, designed to encourage individuals to use inspiring ideas to bring about social or environmental change.

Family firms lack strategy

Few of the UK's 3 million family businesses have strategic policies, and this could account for so many failing to survive into the second or third generations, says research from Bristol Business School and The International Centre for Families in Business.

The researchers found through in-depth interviews that terms such as "strategy" and "strategic thinking" are hardly ever used in first-generation family firms, and are only infrequently used in those that are in their second generation.

Nicholas O'Regan, of Bristol Business School, said that further research would be carried out with other academic institutions, and the findings would be released at an event drawing expertise from around the world that is due to be held at the British Library in London on 14 December

Carbon Trust's 'scrappage' bid

British businesses are being urged to scrap their old inefficient machinery and other equipment and replace it with more efficient models. The scheme has been launched by the Carbon Trust, an independent company backed by the Government that aims to help businesses to reduce carbon emissions, as a sort of equivalent of the motor industry's scrappage scheme.

Under The Big Business Refit, which runs until March 2010, businesses can use interest-free funding to obtain new equipment that can produce energy savings of 15 per cent. The trust estimates that British businesses are wasting £3.3bn a year in unnecessary energy costs through holding on to old equipment.

More than half of small and medium-sized businesses wait until their equipment breaks down before replacing it, the organisation's research suggests.

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