A WOMAN who launched a successful business by restoring an old ice-cream van has won an award.
Tara Cole, from Wargrave, was given a certificate by Dragon’s Den star Theo Paphitis for winning his Small Business Sunday competition.
Ms Cole, the daughter of actor George Cole and his wife Penny, bought a 1972 Bedford van on eBay for £1,000 in 2011 and spent six months repairing and refurbishing it.
The vehicle, which she rechristened Daisy, has attended scores of weddings, parties, festivals, fairs and other events over the past two years. Ms Cole entered the competition, which has been running since 2010, by sending Mr Paphitis a message on Twitter to introduce her business.
The entrepreneur picks his six favourite entrants every Sunday evening and retweets their message to his 400,000 followers.
Each winner is showcased on the Small Business Sunday website and gets a 10 per cent discount with stationers Ryman, which Mr Paphitis owns.
The winners can contact each other to share information or offer to help each other. Ms Cole received her award at a ceremony in Birmingham attended by several hundred other winners from the past three years.
She then attended a three-hour talk and question-and-answer session hosted by Mr Paphitis.
She said: “It took me two years of weekly tweets before I won and not giving up is one of the elements Theo looks for when he picks his winners.
“When I went up to get my certificate, he said he remembered me because I was so unusual compared with all the other businesses. I was impressed with the amount of time and patience he had for us. It was also really nice to finally meet the people behind all the other businesses I’d been talking to online. It was very inspirational and motivational.”
Ms Cole, who studied business at The Henley College, said her venture had gone from strength to strength.
She said: “I’m already at 100 bookings for next year, which is a massive increase compared with 12 months ago. My biggest booking period is in January so hopefully there will be more.”