Barclaycard teams up with The Guardian Small Business Network and leading entrepreneurs to champion UK small businesses


Barclaycard is supporting The Guardian Small Business Network to launch the inaugural Small Business Mentoring competition, offering businesses across the UK the opportunity to win expert mentoring and guidance from leading entrepreneurs.

The competition is open to British SMEs with less than £15m in turnover across the retail, professional services and hospitality sectors. Small businesses can enter the competition through The Guardian website by sharing the biggest business challenge they are facing and the support they are seeking from a mentor to help overcome it.

The entries will be judged by a panel of experts including Sharon Manikon, director of customer solutions at Barclaycard and Claire Burke, editor of the Small Business Network at The Guardian, with three lucky businesses selected to take part in the programme. The winners will be partnered with a leading entrepreneur who will nurture their development for several months through one-on-one mentoring sessions.

The three leading mentors supporting the Small Business Mentoring programme are:

  • Sarah Willingham, one of the UK’s leading businesswomen, consumer champion and BBC ‘Dragon’. Sarah has combined her passion for business, food and drink to create a multi-million pound business empire, working alongside her entrepreneur husband to invest in and support more than ten businesses in the food and drink, entertainment, technology and consumer finance sectors.
  • Lopo Champalimaud, the founder and CEO of Treatwell, the largest hair and beauty booking service in the world. In the past 12 months the company has gone through a major European expansion and rebrand – it now operates in 10 countries.
  • Andre Blais, who followed ten years of work creating restaurant chain Belgo with his brother and their business partner by setting up his own restaurant, Bodean’s, in 2002. Bodean’s was one of the first BBQ restaurants to open in London and today has grown to seven branches.

The mentees’ prize package will comprise of a series of conversations with their mentor to help them grow their business. This will include an initial discussion to talk about the goals and ambitions for their business, followed by a mentoring lunch to agree potential solutions and next steps. Once the candidates have had a chance to put their mentor’s tips into practice, they will have a final discussion to share a progress update and work through any outstanding development areas.

As part of its commitment to supporting UK small businesses, Barclaycard will be also be hosting a Small Business Summit on Wednesday 6 July at Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park. Across an extensive afternoon programme, Barclaycard will run a series of workshops covering some of the most vital skills SMEs need to learn including marketing on a small business budget, embracing innovation and improving their eCommerce offering.

Mentor Sarah Willingham will also be running an interactive session on how to build a successful business, during which attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions about the challenges of setting up and growing a business.

Sharon Manikon, director of customer solutions at Barclaycard, said: “SMEs are the backbone of the British economy, but they often face a set of unique challenges which can prove difficult to overcome, particularly when dealing with an issue for the first time. With our experience of working with SMEs over the past 50 years, we can offer tips on what may help in each situation, and use our network to connect them to successful entrepreneurs who may have also tackled the same obstacles.

“Through the Small Business Mentoring competition, we hope to not only help our three winning businesses overcome the barriers to their growth, but also to encourage them to share their experiences with the small business community to help and inspire others to achieve their potential too.”

Sarah Willingham, mentor in the Small Business Competition, said: “Despite its name, managing a ‘small’ business is a very large feat. SME owners often have to be strategists, accountants and marketing experts all in one to address the unique set of challenges that affect their particular business. As a mentor in the Small Business Competition and through my session at the Small Business Summit, I hope to offer my own experience and advice to help these hard-working entrepreneurs overcome their obstacles.”

Claire Burke, editor of the Small Business Network at The Guardian said: “Running a small business carries huge responsibility and it can be a lonely pursuit. A mentor can be an invaluable resource for a small business owner, offering access to tried-and-tested advice, an established network of business contacts, and even potential funding opportunities. With the Small Business Mentoring competition, entrepreneurs working in retail, hospitality and professional services have the chance to build a relationship with one of three experienced and successful business people.”

Entries to the competition will be accepted until 31 July and businesses can enter here: