Littlehampton’s Local Business Accelerators campaign winner competes for national prize of mentoring from Deborah Meaden

L01002H12 LG FUNKYLUNCH GT 30.012.11.'''  Funky Lunch ...... Mark Northeast with Izzy and Oscar .... L01002H12.
L01002H12 LG FUNKYLUNCH GT 30.012.11.''' Funky Lunch ...... Mark Northeast with Izzy and Oscar .... L01002H12.

THE local Business Accelerators campaign to discover an emerging enterprise worthy of three months’ free advertising and mentoring has met with a strong response across the Herald and Gazette area.

Mark Northeast, who is aiming to make healthy food fun for children, has been selected as the winner.

When Mark hastily prepared a rocket-shaped sandwich for his wayward-behaving young son, he could never have dreamt it would lead to a business with global potential.

But that’s been exactly the case with the IT specialist’s venture Funky Lunch, which has gained a wealth of international publicity for its inventive child-friendly sandwiches which he created.

With designs as varied as pirate ships through to wild animals, the idea of encouraging children to make their own healthy but fun lunches has sparked the public’s imagination.

The idea, which began more than two years ago with the release of the Funky Lunch children’s cook book, has now been voted by three leading Worthing enterprise figures as the Herald and Gazette’s Local Business Accelerators campaign winner. He will now be put forward as a regional winner with the chance to claim a national prize of additional mentoring from Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden.

Mark said: “It’s great to have been voted the winner of the accelerators campaign and I’m really looking forward to the mentoring as I’m looking to expand the business and they will really help me with the financial side of it. It’s going to be a good experience.”

Mark, of Meadow Way, Littlehampton, said he aims to build the concept into a franchise which could include restaurants alongside educational programmes. His initial work has already gained backing from Dragons’ Den star Peter Jones, winning a £10,000 competition with the no-nonsense entrepreneur which helped with start-up costs in moving the project forward.

“I’ve lived and breathed Funky Lunch for the last couple of years and it’s constantly in my head and am besotted with the idea of it as I can see the potential of how far it can be taken,” he said. “But these things take time and money, yet the ideas are there.

“The idea of it all is all about breaking down barriers in teaching children who don’t want to eat fresh veg and fruit that they can do so by making their food more exciting.”

Estate agent turned web designer Mark, 38, said: “I’ve made all sorts of things for my kids. One time I made my son, Oscar, a sandwich in the shape of TV character SpongeBob and he had a tomato tie – he’d never eaten them before, but now he does.”

The entrepreneur has just signed a significant deal with Kingsmill, which will promote Funky Lunch at Haven Holiday camps around the country, including the firm’s West Sussex site in Pagham.

Mark added: “It’s just been non-stop since 2009 – we’ve had pieces in the Daily Mail, Times, Telegraph and even the Shanghai Morning Post. I also appeared on GMTV.”

With a wealth of franchise and education ideas bursting at the seams, this could well be a contender for the national Local Business Accelerators prize of mentoring from Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden.

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Impressed by the standard of entries, our campaign mentors have in addition to an overall winner agreed to provide mentoring for runners-up Highdown Vineyard and motors company Car Doctors.

Judge Gill Fielding is patron of Worthing and Adur Chamber of Commerce and a star of C4’s Secret Millionaire.

She said: “It was an absolute delight to be a judge in this programme for our area and to see the entrepreneurial spirit is thriving in our part of the country. Many of the entrants were small businesses, started in the last couple of years, and employing just one or two people, but by ensuring that those businesses grow, develop and prosper we can make a significant difference to the UK economy.”

She added: “As an entrepreneur myself, I am passionate about the impact other self-motivated business people can make. We know Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) comprise over 90 per cent of private enterprises in the UK and they employ over 20 million people across the country. If every one of those SMEs employed just one more person then there would be no unemployment in the UK. By encouraging and supporting small businesses, as the Local Business Accelerators programme does, we can all contribute to the economic recovery this country needs.”

Fellow judge and mentor, Chay Took, partner in West Sussex accountancy firm Spofforths, shared her enthusiasm.

He said: “Funky Lunch came out at the top of a very strong list of entrants. It is a unique business – its owner, Mark, is clearly very passionate and has already won awards. We loved the objective of the business, improving nutrition for children, and really look forward to working with Mark. It is a local business that could have a very wide market and we already have plenty of ideas how that potential could be developed and realised.”

Mentor James Stoner added: “What an amazing chance for Funky Lunch to grow its business with the support and help from a group of people who understand business growth, sustainability and success.”