Two Birmingham men, who have triumphed over personal adversity to successfully establish their own business, have been recognised in a national awards scheme.
Ian Richardson and Nathan Dennis have both been named one of the country's Top Ten business heroes in The Barclays Trading Places Awards.
The awards, which are supported by the Department of Trade and Industry, Jobcentre Plus and The Prince's Trust, were launched in March to recognise men and women who have overcome various barriers and battled against the odds to positively change their lives by setting up a business.
Mr Richardson, originally from Birmingham, was an RAF technician employed at RAF Saxa Vord on Unst, Shetland. After leaving the service, he and his family along with two colleagues, Ryan Thompson and Jim Kyle, decided to settle on the island and the three men had just taken up MoD posts when the camp was closed without warning.
The three men and Ian's wife Ann, consulted various local agencies and were offered the opportunity of purchasing an existing printing business and relocating it to Unst.
Despite little cash and no experience of the printing trade, they took the plunge and established North Isles Industries, which opened for business in two portable buildings on the local airfield.
The previous owner provided training and the three new partners set about learning their new trade, while Mrs Richardson looked after accounting.
The business also offers a PC repair and advice service, and they are on the lookout for communications jobs as well.
While working hard to establish the business, Mr Richardson was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Nevertheless he continued to work and now concentrates on graphic design and administration, and has organised the company's computer system so he can work from home when he is not well.
In two years' time they intend to increase their market share by 20 per cent and break into the mainland UK and Norwegian markets.
Mr Dennis, who has had to overcome prison together with the death of his sister, aunt and best friend, decided to improve his life by going back to college and developing new skills.
He went on to found First Class Youth Direct, a networking organisation that works with the community and public bodies to help young people.
Such was the network's success that he went on to set up another business, First Class Youth Direct, a youth marketing and consultancy agency.
Both men are now hoping to go on to scoop the top prize worth over £7,000 at an awards dinner, to be held in London on October 2.
Barclays' regional director for local business David Slane said: "Trading Places is a celebration of unsung heroes who, in spite of great personal challenges, have taken steps to establish a sustainable business and, in doing so, changed the direction of their lives for the better.
"North Isles Industries and First Class Youth Direct shine out as real-life examples of an outstanding business that has thrived despite what seemed like impossible odds."
"I congratulate them on reaching the national finals and hope their inspiring stories will prove to other people in Birmingham that self employment can be possible if you've got a dream and the guts and determination to make it work."
Each finalist receives £2,000 worth of free business advertising from Thomson Local Directories, plus software worth £450 courtesy of Microsoft.