North-East entrepreneurs who started a unique lost and found website have scooped a competition worth £100,000 organised by an Aycliffe Business Park partnership.
Lostbox was set up in February 2013 after founder Clare Owen, from Durham, found a priceless piece of jewellery during a Premier League football game.
Clare has made several attempts to reunite the ring with its owner – she still has the ring – but during the process spotted a potential idea to launch a lost and found website due to the lack of a such site in the UK.
In just a year, Lostbox now has 50,000 followers on Twitter and 5,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook after a host of success stories, including one involving celebrity comedian Rufus Hound, who used Lostbox to try to reunite a baby’s comforter blanket that he found in London.
Lostbox has now won ‘Achieve Your Dream’, a business competition with £100,000-worth of back-up including office space and a raft of support including mentoring, marketing and accounting.
Mimicking the hit BBC TV programme Dragons’ Den, the ‘Achieve Your Dream in 2014’ competition was organised by The HUB Partnership, based at The HUB Workspace on Aycliffe Business Park.
It was open to any company of any kind – existing or start-up – with the winner bagging a package of services including office space, marketing and social media strategies, accountancy, taxation and financial strategy support, training, PR and mentoring support to develop a strategic growth plan.
Entries were shortlisted to just three, who ‘pitched’ their idea to the judges and faced a grilling in the final part of the competition.
The ‘Dragons’ listened to presentations from three existing businesses, including Bryce Wilcock, from Ryhope, with a clothing company called SX Clothing; John Armstrong, from Gateshead, with Operation Fitness; and Clare Owen and Phillip Pringle from Lostbox.
Clare said: “Winning Achieve Your Dream 2014 has been the icing on the cake of what has been a busy and successful 12 months.
“We’re extremely excited for the future and thrilled to have an opportunity to work with professionals in each area of our business, to catapult Lostbox to the next phase of growth.”
Phil added: “The Achieve Your Dreams 2014 competition is an outstanding opportunity for any business and when Lostbox was announced as the winner both myself and Clare were overwhelmed.
“Lostbox has a great future and winning the competition has been a real highlight in the journey so far.”
Lostbox – which regularly receive messages from as far as Canada, America, South Africa and Australia offering help, well wishes and support – was selected as one of three 2013 #WOW (Woman on Wednesday) winners, a competition ran by famous business woman Jacqueline Gold, as part of winning I’m looking forward to attending a mentoring lunch with Jacqueline in May in London at famous restaurant, The Ivy.
The website works very much like an Ebay or Gumtree. A user can create an account, post a description and attach a picture. Lostbox then uses its large network of over 50,000 social media followers to spread the word about your lost/found item or pet.
“Before social media you’d have to go and print a poster and put it up on a lamppost and hope for the best,” said Clare.
“Now everyone’s got a phone in the palm of the hands. Everything’s on the go and it’s so much quicker.
“The support from the public has been fantastic, the community spirit that you see is really heart-warming. There are genuine people out there who really do want to help.
“We’ve had countless items returned and the process is becoming quicker the bigger our reach is getting. Our record is reuniting a family with their memory card containing irreplaceable family photos seven minutes after posting the appeal on Facebook.
“Other success stories include pets, teddies, cameras, a money wallet containing a 15-year-old boy’s £505 Christmas money and countless other miscellaneous items.”
The HUB Partnership consists of Growth Capital Ventures director Craig Peterson, newly-formed Thrive Marketing Limited directors Rachel Townsend Green (formerly Au Fait) and Johnny Woods (formerly Echo Graphics), Harlands Accountants MD Glyn Davison and Mantis Media director Martin Walker.
Craig said: “We’re hugely excited about the potential growth for Lostbox – it’s an idea that registers with people but also has significant opportunities to expand.
“We were blown away by the quality of all three final presentations and we had a really difficult decision to make, but the progress Lostbox has already made in its first 12 months stood out – the national media exposure it’s had and its social media reach is hugely impressive.
“Now we’re excited about the opportunity to take Lostbox to the next level and we all look forward to helping Clare and Phil on their journey to what will hopefully be a very successful business.”
Find out more about Lostbox at www.lostbox.co.uk
• Pictured (above) is Phillip Pringle (left) and Clare Owen, from Durham-based Lostbox Ltd, in front of the HUB Partnership Dragons (left to right) Harlands Accountants managing director Glyn Davison, newly-formed Thrive Marketing Limited directors Rachel Townsend Green (formerly Au Fait) and Johnny Woods (formerly Echo Graphics) and Growth Capital Ventures director Craig Peterson.