Black belt in fight for final of Richard Branson’s awards

Liam Richardson, founder of Excel, is a semi-finalist in VOOM. Photo: Chris Etchells
Liam Richardson, founder of Excel, is a semi-finalist in VOOM. Photo: Chris Etchells
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Three firms from South Yorkshire have moved forward in Richard Branson’s huge business competition, VOOM, including one with an all expenses paid trip to the Caribbean in its sights.

Excel Martial Arts is down to the final 10 in the Impact Award which measures social impact as well as profit.

Founded by Liam Richardson, and based on Holbrook Industrial Estate, he is pitching today, Wednesday, June 8, in an attempt to win through to the final three. They will be invited to the VOOM final on June 28 where a winner will be announced. The prize is an all-expenses paid trip to Richard Branson’s Necker Island in the Caribbean.

Two other companies are still in the competition, which attracted 15,000 entries.

Jerome Jacob, of Phrooti, is into the final 20 in the start-up category. His company makes tea made with up to 97 per cent fruit.

John Johnson, of Reach Housing, is into the final 20 of the grow category. His firm makes affordable and eco-friendly housing.

Liam Richardson is a black belt who used to suffer from bullying. He believes martial arts can improve self-confidence and counter depression.

He launched Excel in 2007 at Sam Jones Health Club and in local schools. In 2008, he and pal Danny Ball reached the final of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent as Martial Arts duo Strike.

The school now has 320 members and Liam is looking to build a larger academy and franchise out Excel martial arts and Excel dance.

He said: “It’s such an honour to be considered in this category and alongside such amazing businesses which put impact at the heart of everything they do.

“The opportunity to go to Necker Island and meet Richard Branson is once in a lifetime.”

Holly Branson, Richard Branson’s daughter, said: “The final shortlist of entries for this year’s Impact award is nothing short of incredible - I’m so excited to meet the semi finalists.

“I believe passionately the impact a business has shouldn’t just be measured by the size of its bank account.

“We need to look at what they contribute to society and their local community.

“We must reward those who find unique solutions.”