Firms pitch for business prize

IN THE DEN ... Eddie Czestochowski, left, and Gill Beard make their pitch to the panel, inset, of Coun Iain Malcolm, Joy Yates and Michael Arnot.
IN THE DEN ... Eddie Czestochowski, left, and Gill Beard make their pitch to the panel, inset, of Coun Iain Malcolm, Joy Yates and Michael Arnot.

TWO South Tyneside entrepreneurs entered the Dragon’s Den as they battled for a top business prize.

The finalists of the Gazette-backed Local Business Accelerators (LBA) contest delivered their sale pitches yesterday to a panel made up of Gazette editor Joy Yates, South Tyneside Council leader Iain Malcolm and Michael Arnot, director of Boldon-based business services company Cahootz UK and an official of South Tyneside Business Forum.

Trying to convince our Dragon’s Den-style panel were Gill Beard, managing director of Apollo Bathrooms, of Fowler Street, South Shields, and Eddie Czestochowski, owner of The Safety Razor Company, of Tedco Business Works, South Shields.

Organised by the Newspaper Society and supported by the Gazette and the Government, LBA sees more than 500 newspapers across the UK joining forces to provide a £15m boost to promising young firms.

The reward will be free advertising in the Gazette, business advice and an opportunity to raise the profile of the winning company. First up before the panel was Bradford-born Mr Czestochowski, who has already successfully run battery company Cell Pack Solutions for the last 13 years.

He said: “I want to create 10 interesting jobs with The Safety Razor Company over the next five years.

“We made £20,000 last year with the company, without any marketing at all.

“This is all about providing quality razor products, which will last a lifetime, and finding a niche market.

“After the success of Cell Pack, I was looking for a new challenge, something to keep my mind fresh, and I also want to repay a debt to South Tyneside.”

Asked by Gazette editor Joy Yates if the company’s razors would come with a lifetime guarantee, Mr Czestochowski replied: “These are quality razors – that should last forever.”

Future plans for The Safety Razor Company could include selling the quality razors and accessories through pop-up shops or through a permanent retail base.

Potentially, Mr Czestochowski said his specialist razor company has the potential to make up to £80,000 a year.

Making her pitch to our LBA judges, Gill Beard admitted that she has gone through a steep business learning curve since launching the Apollo Bathrooms business three years ago.

The former receptionist at Monkton Stadium, Jarrow, has had to learn how to run a successful business, diversify and even forge commercial ties with Chinese suppliers.

But applying the ‘feminine touch’ has proved vital to the growth of the business, as she explained: “The bathroom business is very male-dominated, and I’m one of the very few female directors in this line of business in the area.

“But this has helped me develop all the little feminine accessories that appeal to women.”

The South Shields-based company developed the feminine aspect of the business even further late last year, with the launch of parallel business, the Athena Company 2012 Ltd, specialising in bathroom accessories.

By keeping their products competively priced, Mrs Beard believes she can offer South Tyneside customers a good financial deal on new bathrooms.

Asked about prospects for the future, Mrs Beard said she would like to create new jobs for the area and develop her South Shields bathroom base.

The judges will announce the result of the Gazette-backed competition in the next few days.