Cancer-beating company named Britain's best small business of 2014

The Pitch
Published October 24, 2014

We are delighted to announce that the co-founder of a company that tests buildings for radon gas which causes more than 1,000 UK deaths a year from lung cancer has been crowned champion of BusinessZone's entrepreneurial competition The Pitch 2014.

Bath-based Rebecca Coates was of one of 30 shortlisted entrepreneurs who pitched in front of an audience of more than 200 during an 11 hour entrepreneurial extravaganza in Bristol, organised in association with AVG, and supported by ICAEW, Constant Contact, .uk, Microsoft Devices and Xero.

The contestants made it to The Pitch 2014 Final, which was attended by big names including Bristol mayor George Ferguson and entrepreneur Mark Pearson, who sold his business MyVoucherCodes for £55m earlier this year, after 1,000 applications were submitted, of which 100 were shortlisted to attend two intensive training boot camps in September before being whittled down to 30.

Founded in 2011, by Coates and her business partner Martin Freeman, propertECO is one of the few UK firms involved in testing buildings for radon and installing specialist ventilation systems to reduce concentrations if high levels are detected. The company provides inexpensive test kits for homeowners and also works with commercial landlord.

It is estimated that radon is a cause in over 1,100 lung cancer deaths each year in the UK.

New European legislation was announced in February that requires the UK to have more stringent regulation and enforcement in place by 2018 along with a plan to increase public awareness.

With her co-founder Martin Freeman and three other firms, Coates, who receives a package of business support worth thousands of pounds, recently founded the UK Radon Association, a trade body to disseminate information to the public, provide training and promote the industry.

The PropertECO commercial director was one of five pitching entrepreneurs selected by judges Judith Bitterli, chief marketing officer at AVG; Charles Carter, director of regions at ICAEW; Karen Darby, founder of and Lara Morgan, founder of Company Shortcuts to pitch again and explain why they should win the top prize.

Judith Bitterli said: “We believe passionately in entrepreneurs. Our company was founded by entrepreneurs in the Czech Republic and most of the business leaders at AVG are entrepreneurs. We support the endeavours, creativity and imagination of small businesses. 

“The most successful contestants at The Pitch 2014 Final had one thing in common; clarity of purpose, mission and how they make money.

 “When looking for a winner, I wanted to see a clear understanding of the marketplace, an understanding of how to make money and someone who could do it all in three minutes in a beautiful way. Congratulations to all the contestants. They did a great job. But a special shout out to the winner, PropertECO.”

The other finalists in the competition were Alistair Callender from Gate8 Luggage, Paul Hutson from Night Zookeeper, Ed Ward from Veglo and Richard Graham from Pulsate.

Richard won the One to Watch category for non-trading companies and pre-revenue startups and receives £1,000 of accountancy advice from ICAEW.

Another prize on the night went to Emma Davidson, founder of Gecko Clothing. She won the Constant Contact Digital Marketing Award following an online marketing campaign run by the 100 shortlisted contestants.

Here's an exclusive interview with The Pitch 2014 Champion recorded immediately after her victory was announced: