A look at the first two finalists for this year's Harrow Business Den - a competition which gives growing businesses a chance to earn a year's worth of support:

Aspiring Panda

This website and app development company has put forward an app which can help with recording employee attendance.

It hopes to make things easier for small to medium size businesses that rely on managing various people in several locations.

Their pitch will be led by consultant Anoop Panesar and trainee Trishan Chandarana who have been working hard on the app and believe it is ready to be put out there.

“It’s a very simple app that’s easy to use but it’s incredibly useful and very versatile,” Anoop said.

“It allows businesses to see where their employees are at certain times and is a very cost-effective way of managing this.

“As a small to medium sized business ourselves, we realise that, sometimes, it’s difficult to plug all the holes when it comes to running things – this will help with that.”

The programme allows people to log their attendance via the app and removes the need for signing time sheets and extensive spreadsheets.

It was inspired by a community development project in Uganda, which Aspiring Panda was involved in.

Anoop explained that the cost of implementing biometric fingerprint systems was extremely off-putting and forced the company to look at another way of addressing the issue of absenteeism.

“It would cost an arm and a leg to introduce the fingerprint system. This is much more accessible and much more effective,” she said.

“It levels the playing field and allows people to get a handle on how much they are losing through people missing work.

“We wanted to give this app to our local community. It’s not just about what we sell, we’re problem solvers and we want to help businesses like ours,”

She added that the company is keen on promoting its links to Harrow, as well as its commitment to inclusivity, including the high percentage of experienced women employed there.

And while the team is aware that there is a long way to go – and that the competition will be tough – it is an exciting time for those involved with the project.

“We know it is a good app; we’re passionate about it and we know it’s ready to market,” Anoop said.

“But we were all pleasantly surprised to hear that we’d made it through to the final and have the chance to present it.

“Now it’s all about preparing well so we can explain the true value of what we are offering.”

The Dandies Clothing

Trupti Akhadkar created this clothing business as an opportunity to showcase her own work, as well as that of up and coming designers.

Building on her experience in the fashion industry, and inspired by the birth of her son, Tylden, she set up the store in Harrow to provide eco-friendly clothing to residents.

And while it started out as a project for babies and toddlers, her customer list soon grew to take in people of all ages.

“People appreciate that this enables them to reduce their carbon footprint and buy something that comes from quality and dedicated suppliers,” Trupti said.

“You get something that is handmade, a British product, and one that is eco-certified. Plus it gives local designers the chance to showcase their range – if you have talent, it deserves to be seen. This can be achieved at the Dandies shop.”

As well as supporting up-and-coming clothing designers – something she would have appreciated before setting up her business – she is focused on delivering products to the people of Harrow.

“After people bought clothes for their younger children, men started asking if we could offer something similar,” she explained.

“But, particularly as a mother, I couldn’t forget about the mums. Now we have clothes for everyone – from babies to senior citizens.”

Trupti added that she is well-supported by her husband, Hilbert, who convinced her to take on this venture even though she had just had Tylden.

He also brought the Harrow Business Den competition to her attention, suggesting that she go for the top prize and helping her with her entry.

“I didn’t have a hope of getting through to this stage, I only knew about it when my husband mentioned it,” she said.

“I must have entered with hours to go but I am grateful for the opportunity to put my work in front of lots of other people.

“I am well-prepared and believe in my business – it gives me the chance to provide great, eco-friendly products, as well as support to the fashion and local community.”

The Harrow Times will be featuring the other two finalists of the competition in the run up to the big day.

The event takes place between 5.30pm and 9pm on March 14. Tickets can be booked at www.harrow.gov.uk/businessden or visit www.eventbrite.co.uk and search ‘Harrow Business Den’.