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An entrepreneur with business at heart

Avril McGarvey may not be a millionaire, but she could tell plenty of them a thing for two.

She watches them open their eyes to how 'ordinary, working folk' live on TV's Secret Millionaires programme and thinks that the stories they see could tell the tale of her own life.

Having run the A1 Cleaning company in Preston for 30 years she knows what it is like to start a business from scratch and build it up to something where she can "help people" wherever she can.

But she is no millionaire, no airs and graces, she is even so modest she refuses to be photographed, preferring to push the volunteers to run her businesses in front of the lens instead.

"I would lend people money to go and get a washing machine or something like that, then they would pay me back when they get paid," says the 61-year-old grandmother, who lives in Lea, Preston.

"You see these Secret Millionaires on the telly and I think to myself that I am in that position as well. I have worked with people in communities like you see on that programme every day, I live in one of those communities."

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Avril runs businesses labelled social enterprises - companies which are set up to tackle a social or an environmental need - part of a sector which adds 2 billion to the North West's economy alone.

Avril says: "It is a business with a heart, we are not hard-nosed business people obsessed with pounds and pence, we are 80% business and 20% for social needs."

The North West will be at the heart of the social enterprise movement this summer when the government's own minister for the 'third sector', Kevin Brennan, gives a keynote speech at a special summit organised to boost these businesses as a way to pull the region out of recession.

The first North West Social Enterprise Trade Fair, put together by the Preston-based Social Enterprise Lancashire Network (SELNET) and Social Enterprise North West, will be held at Aintree racecourse, near Liverpool, in June when North West Development Agency chief executive Steven Broomhead will also outline the support it can give to companies and organisations in the sector.

For more on this story, see Tuesday's Evening Post

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