A furniture designer has won a month of priceless, one-to-one business mentoring from former Dragons’ Den investor and Yo! Sushi founder Simon Woodroffe.
James Cook, a 41-year-old former solicitor, is one of only five winners of the prize in a contest run by Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles in partnership with The Times.
To win, James fought off hundreds of other entrants from across the UK, first submitting a video pitch for consideration, and then pitching his case in person to an expert panel.
The small business owner runs The Odd Chair Company, a furniture business based in Eaves, near Preston, which employs 14 people and hand crafts every element of a piece of furniture, “from tree to finished item”.
Woodroffe will act as James’ personal business trouble-shooter, using his considerable experience to advise and inspire him, with the aim of helping the 45-year-old family business move on to the next level.
James’ business was chosen because the judges felt that helping a firm with so much history and British heritage presented a really interesting challenge.
James hopes that winning the award will allow his traditional, hand-made furniture to stand out from the “faux heritage” furniture which is made by many of his competitors.
He said: “I’m thrilled to have won this mentoring with Simon Woodroffe.
“There is a lot of confusion in our marketplace at the moment and many consumers are buying furniture that they believe has been hand-made using traditional methods, when in fact it’s just been made to look like that.
“I know that Simon will be able to help us stand out and communicate our authenticity.”