Just two years after taking the plunge and starting his own business, Ben Turner of Simply Race was standing centre stage at the Milton Keynes Business Achievement Awards (MKBAA) collecting the hotly contested trophy for Young Business Person of the Year. Now, only a few months later, Ben is looking forward to being a judge at the 2018 awards and says he is astounded at the pace his business is growing and the benefits of the awards to his brand and personal profile.
We bumped into Ben at the launch event of the 2018 awards and asked him a few quick fire questions.
Tell us a bit about your background and your business Simply Race?
I started working for a karting company as a flag waver and marshall in my teens, and then got promoted to Assistant General Manager whilst I was studying at University. Shortly after leaving Uni, at the age of 21, I became GM of that karting company, but always had the idea of indoor simulated driving in my mind and was keen to develop my business model.
At 23 I set up Simply Race, a dedicated facility of 10 (now 15) simulators, where enthusiasts and amateurs alike can race in a relaxed and safe environment, which is affordable, accessible and most importantly, fun.
We pride ourselves on having the highest quality hardware and most up-to-date software, giving motorsports enthusiasts the most realistic and reliable experience possible off the track. We wanted to develop the social side of motor racing too, and at Simply Race, corporate groups, private parties, and friends can enjoy the competitive element of motor racing, whilst also enjoying a drink at the bar in our relaxed venue.
How did you hear about the Milton Keynes Business Achievement Awards? And what prompted you to enter?
I saw some posts about the awards on Twitter and thought they looked really interesting. With a slightly different business model to anything else locally, I thought that we would stand out and had a good chance of being shortlisted. In fact, I was really surprised when we got to the evening to see how stiff the competition was for this category, I hadn’t realised that there was so much young business talent in Milton Keynes.
How did you feel when your name was announced as the winner of Young Business Person of the Year?
It was slightly surreal to be honest! I’d spent most of the evening convincing everyone that had come to support me that I wasn’t going to win, and that the others in my category were much better than me, so that in my head when it didn’t happen I wouldn’t be disappointed and could take the positives away, that I’d been shortlisted and we’d all enjoyed the food and the entertainment. I really like the way they do it actually, talking about that person first, which prepares you slightly more for when you do have to stand up. It was surreal, but great and I feel like things happened very quickly afterwards, with lots of people coming over and congratulating me.
So, how has it changed things for you and for Simply Race?
I feel like winning the Award at MKBAA has given me much more of a presence in the Milton Keynes business community. I’m getting lots more followers on social media, getting invited to lots of events and networking opportunities. It’s definitely helped to open a lot of doors and raised the profile of our brand.
We were excited to hear that you are going to be joining the judging panel for the 2018 awards, how did that come about?
I got a call from the organisers out of the blue and just said yes straight away… that’s the way I tend to work, I say yes now and then work out how I’m going to find time for it later! It was a real honour to be asked and I’m looking forward to getting involved.
I’m interested in looking at submissions and analysing the entries that come in, and seeing how the other judges look at things and how my views compare.
What will you be looking for (i.e. what makes a winning entry) from this year’s MKBAA entrants?
The main thing that I’m going to be looking for is passion for the job that their business does, and what makes it different, interesting or innovative compared to other businesses within that sector.
What advice would you give to businesses who are thinking about getting involved in the awards, either by entering, sponsoring or attending MKBAA 2018?
I’d tell them to do it, what have they got to lose. It’s amazing exposure, even if you don’t win – every shortlisted entry has their business showcased to 600 people at the awards dinner and it’s a great place to connect with other local businesses.