People who have triumphed against the odds to set up a small business are to be recognised in a unique awards scheme, sponsored by Barclays and backed by Government. The Barclays Trading Places Awards, which are presented in association with The Sun, aim to recognise men and women from all over the UK who have overcome various barriers and battled against adversity to positively change their lives by setting up in business. The Awards - supported by The Prince's Trust, Business Link and Jobcentre Plus - will recognise sole traders and smaller businesses less than three years old, who are still on the first rungs of the commercial ladder. Entries will be judged on how enterprising individuals have overcome personal challenges and obstacles - such as long-term unemployment, financial hurdles, physical disabilities, discrimination and personal tragedy - to set up on their own. This year's Awards have been endorsed by a host of celebrity entrepreneurs - including Dame Anita Roddick, Sir Terence Conran, Simon Woodroffe, Bill Wyman, Martha Lane Fox and Lord Sainsbury - who know first-hand the difficulty of going it alone against the odds.


Barclays, which is spearheading the awards as part of its local business community programme, helps around 80,000 fledgling entrepreneurs get their feet off the ground every year - that's one every six minutes. Launching the awards, Barclays' Marketing Director for Local Business, John Davis, 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. "Barclays Trading Places celebrates the inspiring achievement of these individuals whilst highlighting an increasingly important sector of the business community - the sole traders and small business operations that underpin our economy." Barclays and the Awards' partners are now inviting people to share their business start-up experiences - good and bad - as an inspiration to others. Individuals must have been trading for a minimum of three months and no more than three years, with an annual turnover of less than £1million. The judging panel includes Ian King, Business Editor of The Sun, senior representatives from The Prince's Trust, Business Link and Jobcentre Plus - and they are joined by entrepreneurs Michelle Mone, founder of Ultimo and MJM International, and John Bird, founder of the Big Issue, as special guest judges for the 2006 Awards.


Together, the panel has the unenviable task of selecting the top 10 candidates who can show how they have triumphed over adversity to successfully begin a business. The 10 National Finalists will all attend a glittering gala Awards Dinner at London's Café Royal on Wednesday September 27, where the top business will be announced. The 'Gold' first prize is £5,000 cash from Barclays, £7,000 worth of directory advertising from Thomson Local Directories plus £2,000 of consultancy from marketing communications agency Foxmurphy. A 'Silver' Runner-Up will also receive £3,000 cash from Barclays, plus £3,000 worth of directory advertising from Thomson Local Directories and £1,000 worth of marketing consultancy from Foxmurphy. Nomination forms are available by calling the awards hotline on 020 8673 2020 or visiting www.barclays.co.uk/tradingplaces. Closing date is Friday May 26.