An award-winning Elvis tribute artist and a professional boxing champion were among six young entrepreneurs from Edinburgh who received recognition for their outstanding achievements in business in the face of personal and social adversity, at a ceremony in Edinburgh last night.
The John Connor Awards were established in 2007 in association with The Capital City Partnership, The Prince’s Scottish Youth Business Trust (PSYBT) and Scottish businessman, John Connor, founder of one of the UK’s largest independent waste paper processors, Kilsyth-based Stirling Fibre Ltd.
Prior to his sudden death in January 2009, Mr Connor was actively engaged in supporting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve their entrepreneurial ambitions. Between 2006 and 2008, PSYBT received £80,000 from Mr Connor helping fund 41 young people to set up in business.
In 2009, Mr Connor’s family decided to continue their father’s legacy to support young Edinburgh-based entrepreneurs fulfil their self employment ambitions by establishing the John Connor Trust and pledging £20,000 a year over three consecutive years.
John Connor’s daughter, Mrs Debbie Stewart, says her father’s donations were inspired by his memories of growing up in Edinburgh’s Saughton district. “My father grew up in Saughton, his family were not well off and life was a struggle for my grandparents to bring up a large family. My father’s fortunes changed when he accepted a job at the local paper mill, which eventually led to him owning his own successful paper recycling business. However, he always remembered the challenges that he had to overcome and it was these early experiences which inspired him to establish a Trust that would help young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to set up their own businesses.”
Taking place at the Framed Gallery in Edinburgh, the overall award for Growth, Achievement and Innovation and a £1,500 cash prize was awarded to Moray and Stephanie Johnstone (both 25 yrs), founders of Blackbirds Home & Garden. Moray, who was discharged from the army on medical grounds and his wife Stephanie, started their garden maintenance, landscaping, handyman and woodwork services business in November last year. The couple, who live in Ormistone and have three young children have overcome a series of challenges to establish a successful business which has maintenance and gardening contracts with a large estate agent in Edinburgh, B&Bs, bars and a number of small private clients. Moray and Stephanie also attend art fairs and office events at which they sell a variety of Stephanie’s woodcrafts which will soon be available to buy from their online shop which will be launched this month.
Five individuals will be recognised for their personal achievement also received £700 each. They are: 22 year old Elvis Tribute Artist, Danny Allan from Drumbrae. He has been singing Elvis songs since he was a young boy and performing since he was 16 years old. In 2009 he was named European Gospel Champion and this year he claimed the title for best European artist representing the Vegas Era of Elvis. Danny competes and performs at events all over the UK and next year he hopes to participate in the World Elvis competition which is taking place in Las Vegas.
John Robinson (22) from Canongate took up boxing at a young age, inspired by his Uncle who became a Scottish light-middleweight champion in the 1980s, competing against the likes of Clinton McKenzie, Lloyd Honeyghan and Gary Jacobs. John, who has recently turned professional, has four British youth titles under his belt along with 13 Eastern and Scottish titles in the amateur ranks and a silver medal at senior level in the Four Nations. He has competed all over the world representing Scotland and has ambitions to move to Los Angeles where he hopes to hit the big time and make a name for himself.
Laurence Hunter-Pratt (22) from Crestonfield set up his furniture, architectural joinery and restoration business in January this year after being made redundant from a joinery firm in Edinburgh. He moved into a studio in Craigmillar where he works alongside other artisans, and he has already established a growing clientele who require bespoke carpentry skills, custom designed furniture, as well as kitchen design, joinery and carpentry work.
Karen-Marie Laverty (31) founder of Dolly Mixture set up her online business in October 2010 buying and selling discounted quality ladies clothing, accessories and branded cosmetics. Karen-Marie, who lives in Leith, sources a variety of affordable designer and high street fashion items and trades them on Ebay with 10 percent of sales going to charity.
Speaking at the awards, Mark Strudwick, Chief Executive of PSYBT said, “Our award winners tonight have shown tremendous courage and determination to overcome various personal challenges to achieve their ambitions. Mr Connor would have been proud of their achievements had he been here today, as I know his family, whose continued support we are most appreciative of, have also been inspired.”
Issued on behalf of PSYBT by Jen Nash, Panache Communications tel. 07971 466 220 Email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information please contact Margaret Gibson or Emma Fitzpatrick on Tel no. 0141 248 4999 or visit the PSYBT website at www.psybt.org.uk.