Entrepreneur Deirdre Bounds, star of Channel 4’s Millionaires’ Mission, is one of five experts judging the Midlands heat of a competition to track down the UK’s best new small businesses.
The five business brains will be on the panel of the Birmingham leg of The Pitch 2009 on Wednesday.
Ms Bounds, who founded volunteer travel company i-to-i.com in 1994 before selling it to First Choice for £20 million, took part in Millionaires’ Mission, a programme which saw successful entrepreneurs travelling to Africa in an attempt to use enterprise to relieve poverty.
She said: “New business is about dreams, drive and devotion on a bed of common sense. That’s why I’m thrilled to be a judge and can’t wait to meet the dreamers.”
One contestant taking part in the competition will go through to a grand final in November for the chance to secure a £50,000 package of support, including one-on-one mentoring from former Dragons’ Den judge Doug Richard.
Established in 2008, The Pitch is a showcase event for entrepreneurs running UK businesses less than three years old, and employing up to 20 people.
As well as being backed by the Government, partners include Make Your Mark, Barclays Wealth, Business Link and 10 Yetis Public Relations Agency.
At each of the five regional heats, six entrepreneurs have four minutes to present their business and outline why they deserve a place in the final. Each pitch is followed by questions from the panel, with contestants judged on their innovation, understanding of their target market, engagement with customers and financial management.
All pitches will be videoed and the winner in each of the regions will be joined at the final by a wildcard finalist selected from the runners-up by visitors to BusinessZone.co.uk.
The £50,000 prize package includes website consultancy, market research, serviced office services and a three-month public relations campaign as well as mentoring from Doug Richard, who will also be a judge at the final.
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said: “Entrepreneurs have a vital role to play in the economy. They are innovative, and have the conviction and enthusiasm to make their businesses succeed.
“They are uniquely placed to respond to the new opportunities which will arise during the current economic climate and as we look ahead towards recovery.
“The Pitch 2009 offers an excellent opportunity for innovative businesses to access the advice and support available from fellow business leaders and other support organisations.”