A community benefit company which is bringing high speed broadband to the countryside and a bridal shop are the local winners of the newspaper industry’s Local Business Accelerators (LBA) competition.
B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North) and The Bridal House of Torrisholme beat five other shortlisted firms to win advertising in the Lancaster Guardian and Morecambe Visitor.
Around 500 newspapers across the country entered the contest, which was open to firms aged between one and five years old.
After a three month advertising campaign, one of the two local winners will be chosen to go through to regional heats and a national shortlist will be announced in September.
The overall winner will get prizes including a year’s mentoring from Dragons Den’s Deborah Meaden, a local advertising campaign devised by a top London creative ad agency and £10,000 from the Business Growth Fund.
The B4RN scheme will bring fibre optic broadband to nearly 5,000 remote farms and homes. More than 1,000 have already signed up for the one gigabit (1,000 megabytes per second) connection - which is as fast as that being rolled out by search engine giant Google in Kansas City.
Farmers and rural residents have been helping to lay the cables to properties in return for shares in the company, which have also been made available under the EIS (Enterprise Investment Scheme).
That offers 30 per cent tax relief, with a minimum investment of £100 and maximum of £20,000. More than £500,000 has been raised in share issues.
The service costs £30 per month plus a £150 one off connection fee.
Connections have already gone live in Quernmore and Arkholme, with Abbeystead and Newton set to follow over the next few weeks.
Other areas set to benefit include Melling, Arkholme, Wray, Tatham, Roeburndale, Wennington and Caton-with-Littledale, Kirkby Lonsdale, Gressingham and Leck.
Arkholme Village Hall will host a demonstration day next Thursday, February 14 from 1pm-8pm, at which people are invited to bring their devices and connect them to the service. Presentations take place at 1.30pm, 3.30pm and 5.30pm.
B4RN chief executive, Prof Barry Forde, who lives in Quernmore, said: “We are absolutely delighted to win. It’s wonderful that the work the community is doing is getting this recognition.
“The advertising will be enormously useful because we cover such a large area and it will really help to get the message out there.”
The Bridal House, which is based on Lancaster Road, Torrisholme, was founded in April 2010 and employs five people.
It stocks stunning dresses by a host of top designers.
The business has been nominated and shortlisted for the second year running for best bridal retailer in the The Wedding Industry Awards.
It has nearly doubled its turnover in the first two years and is expecting third year growth of a further 25 per cent.
Owner, Kerry Brakewell, said: “I’m really pleased and honoured.
“Having regular adverts will make a big difference and will help us to grow the company and take on more staff.”
Nicola Adam, editor of the Lancaster Guardian and Morecambe Visitor, who was part of the judging panel, said:
“These two companies are very different but we felt both were worthy winners.
“The Bridal House is a really strong local business but its reputation is also deservedly growing further afield.
“And B4RN is an inspriring example of local people working together for the benefit of the rural community.”