An entrepreneurial florist has won £2,500 towards her new business start-up in the first ever "virtual" final of the Local Enterprise and Apprenticeship Platform (LEAP) annual award.
Clare Smith beat the other finalists who all had to present their business plans to a panel of judges in a Dragon's Den-style competition, which was held online this year due to the pandemic.
Clare, who lives in Newhaven, enrolled on the LEAP programme to develop her idea for Clare Smith Floristry offering flowers for weddings and events, gift bouquets and workshops.
Judges were impressed by her "wild and modern designs" which veered away from structured, traditional techniques.
Runner-up was Daniel Hignell-Tully who received £500 towards his new video, music and design company 7000 Trees. He offers low-cost services aimed at arts practitioners and students as well as charities and community groups.
All candidates receive a mentoring support package worth £350 to help them develop their business idea further.
Funded by Lewes District Council and the European Regional Development Fund via the University of Chichester Business Hot House programme, LEAP champions new enterprise within the Lewes district and guides local people through a training programme to help them start a new business.
Councillor Johnny Denis, Cabinet member for Communities and Customers, said: "Congratulations to all candidates for showing great enthusiasm for their business ideas, especially Clare and Daniel.
"Small businesses are the drivers of our local economy and the Co-operative Alliance will always support them and all other enterprises in the district at this incredibly challenging time."
Councillor James MacCleary, Leader of Lewes District Council, said: "Congratulations to Clare, Daniel and all those who completed the LEAP programme this year - we wish them the very best for their new business ventures.
"It is a priority for Lewes District Council's Co-operative Alliance to build a sustainable economy, demonstrated by our continued investment into LEAP. It is a free and comprehensive programme and we wholeheartedly encourage any local person considering starting their own business to take advantage of this expert help.
The LEAP programme is free to participate in and delivered by Edeal, a not-for-profit agency.
Anyone who lives in Lewes district and is considering starting a new business can contact Edeal on 01323 641144 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.