Inspirational cancer survivors shortlisted for top Kingston business award
By whitelc | Thursday, October 17, 2013, 09:57
Two inspirational cancer survivors are among those fighting it out to be named Entrepreneur of the Year in one of the most exciting categories at the first Kingston Business Excellence Awards, in association with NatWest, next week.
A photographer, a freeform baker, an accountant, a digital marketing expert, a play cafe owner and a gastro-pub owner make up the diverse selection of businessmen and women shortlisted for the award at the finals on October 24 at the Holiday Inn South Kingston.
The gala dinner and awards ceremony is led by Kingston Chamber of Commerce, Kingston Council and Kingstonfirst, who have come together to produce an event of this kind for the first time.
Two of the entrepreneurs shortlisted are used to fighting big battles, with Keith Hern and Paula Dixon both having overcome cancer.
Mr Hern is nominated for his Keith Hern Photography business, which sees him undertake freelance corporate photography and people photography commissions. This year, he has expanded into tuition and public speaking and had his third travel book, "Tuscany & Beyond", published.
But he had to overcome throat cancer in 2007 and chest cancer in 2010 and he was also diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012, having surgery to remove a tumour in his right lung.
"Without doubt the toughest barriers I've had to deal with, and indeed still am, are those presented by cancer, as it's a threat not just to my business but my very existence," he said.
"However, this has also proved the catalyst to become an author and speaker, or as the title of one of my talks goes, Turning Adversity into Opportunity.
"Much of my business is local, achieved via networking and contact building."
Mrs Dixon is the director and founder of Jellybugs play cafe, a cafe where children aged seven and under are provided with a safe place to play while their parents or carers enjoy a relaxing drink and food made on site.
She beat breast cancer in 2010 while she was expanding her business into Kingston having originally set up a small space called Littlejellybugs in a leisure centre in West Ewell.
"It was a very difficult process considering all of the horrible treatments I was undergoing, but setting up the play café really helped me to focus on something other than cancer and it felt like such an achievement to get up and running," she said.
"We have grown from strength to strength, focusing not only on expanding our food and drinks offering, but also concentrating on constantly improving and adapting our party packages too."
The other nominees are Hanan Kattan, Trisha Kelly, Bruce Burrowes and Michael Pearson.
Lifetime entrepreneur and filmmaker Miss Kattan founded and runs EBS Digital, a digital agency that gives small businesses the tools to drive growth using the latest online marketing strategies.
Mrs Kelly opened her first Healthy Cook Company shop in Kingston last year. The free-from bakery specialises in baked goods for those with food intolerances and allergies.
Mr Burrowes started TaxAssist accountants in 2008 and has seen his business grow quickly, opening a second office last year and now servicing more than 500 clients.
Independent family-run pub The Canbury Arms was established by Mr Pearson in 2005 and was the first pub in the borough to go non-smoking, a year before the smoking ban came in.
Tickets are still available for the gala dinner and awards ceremony. Visit www.kingstonawards.co.uk.