O2 and Arena today announce that six British businessmen have been shortlisted for the finals of the Arena O2 X Awards 2006. The finalists have been selected as some of the most innovative men, who away from the spotlight are pushing back the boundaries to put their city on the UK business map. Following a successful launch in 2003, this year the prestigious Arena O2 X Awards has visited six regions across the UK (including Manchester, London, Leeds, Bristol, Birmingham and Glasgow) to identity and un-cover entrepreneurs who stand the chance of being named Arena O2 X Entrepreneur of the year. “It has been even tougher this year to pick one finalist from each city. Every year we see new businesses spring up in different corners of the UK, who are doing something genuinely different and taking risks to make their business work” says Will Drew, editor of Arena magazine, “From the final short list, I’m excited to see such a mix of up and coming entrepreneurs whether they are striving to launch a new alcoholic drink or a ‘try before you buy’ Art gallery.” Peter Rampling, Head of SME Marketing at O2, comments: “Small businesses and the innovation they bring, continue to be the real driver behind the UK economy both in terms of employment and turnover. This innovation and diversity has been very clear to see in the range of different small businesses nominated for the Arena O2 X awards. Although they operate in very different markets, they share some common attributes. Each of the candidates I met had an incredible business vision, executed in a fresh way with tremendous passion.” Drew continues: “It is good to work with a company like O2 who share our values and recognise the way in which these entrepreneurs are shaping our lives, our cities and ultimately the future of business in Britain.” The six chosen men will be invited to the Arena O2 X Awards dinner in London on 8 June, where one of them will be awarded the title of ‘Arena O2 X Entrepreneur Of The Year.’ The 2006 Arena O2 X finalists for Entrepreneur Of The Year Award. Birmingham: Veejay Lingiah – Art Lounge As owner of Art Lounge, Veejay is changing the way people buy art through offering home trials and making sure that customers don’t accidentally buy something they can’t afford. Veejay’s mission is to “demystify contemporary art and make it more accessible.” When not overseeing the operations at his second site in Manchester, he works as a consultant for BBC and Harvey Nichols. Bristol: Matt Connolly – Enable Interactive Matt is the co-owner of Enable Interactive, a company that provides online marketing / digital communications for ethical companies that take their ‘corporate social responsibility’ projects seriously. Clients include Alliance & Leicester and Microsoft. It’s about targeting people who “vote with their credit card,” says Connolly. Glasgow: Paul Derwin – Become Interactive and teetonic.com Paul’s big idea was inspired from his boredom with high-street menswear. Paul launched teetonic.com, an interactive T-shirt retail site where the general public can contribute their design ideas, which are then voted into production by the site’s members. teetonic.com already has 1,400 members, 400 active designers and 10 shirts in production. London: Tim Day – Extreme Spirits Extreme Spirits created Wokka Saki, a blend of Vodka and Sake that is currently being trialled in Harrods and selected bars across the UK. Tim is the Director of the company and believes that originality is key, Wokka Saki has inspired many drinkers who are bored with the typical flavoured vodkas. Wokka Saki won gold at the 2005 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Manchester: Nicky Rybka-Goldsmith – The Bay Horse and Soup Kitchen The Bay Horse is a “modern pub” that successfully combines contemporary design and solid boozer basics. The Soup Kitchen is “the Northern Quarter’s canteen”. Manchester has been crying out for a buzzy, communal eating space like Soup Kitchen, while The Bay Horse, like the Northern Quarter itself, is relaxed and unpretentious. Newcastle: Matthew Mavir – Windtrap and Last Night Of Freedom Matthew has set up Wind Trap, a company that sells small self-assembly turbines which individual householders can use to generate electricity – filling a niche in the market for those who want to do something for the environment starting at home. Last Night of Freedom is a hen and stag night travel company which organises civilised trips that include structured day-time activities. Last year’s Arena O2 X award winners included Paul Curtis, Symbollix (Entrepreneur of the Year), Andrew Strauss (Sport), Carlo Brandelli / Graeme Fidler (Fashion), Synola (Design), Patrick Lynch (Architecture), David Morrissey / Peter Serafinowicz and Robert Popper (TV and comedy), Matthew Vaughn (Film Director), Daniel Craig (Acting), Tom Vek (Music Artist), Paul Epworth (Music Producer), Anthony Flinn (Food), Daren King (Literature) and Doug Fishbone (Art).