Three firms have scooped the top prize in an Argus-backed scheme to promote businesses.

Parentskool, Office Creche and Callaways Estate Agent have won the prize of free advertising and mentoring from Sussex business leaders, as well as the chance of progressing to the national stages of the competition which will see the overall winner receive mentoring support from the Dragons’ Den’s Deborah Meaden.

The winners in the Local Business Accelerators (LBA) scheme were chosen by Penina Shepherd, boss at Acumen Business Law in Hove, Karl Jones, owner of Moshimo Restaurant in Brighton and Julia Chanteray, president of Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce.

Sarah Watkins said she started Parentskool after paying £200 to go to antenatal classes that told her nothing about looking after a baby.

She said: “I started at the beginning, with my own experience of having a baby and absolutely panicking about how to stop her from crying, how to hold her properly and how to keep her alive. “I researched the market and all the evidence out there to come up with a balanced, non-judgemental, parent-led course which is about empowerment, confidence building and fun, and which teaches first-time parents all the basic stuff so when their baby comes, they can have fun watching them grow instead of being anxious or worried.”

Elizabeth Moody-Stuart at Office Crèche said: “We are a local business that helps local families who do not work the same hours each week.”

Julie Healey at Callaways said: “We have resurrected the Callaways brand and made it once again a contender on the Brighton and Hove estate agency circuit.”

Supported by the Government and the private sector’s Business In You campaign, LBA has seen 500 local newspapers join forces to provide a boost to promising young businesses.

Research found that local newspaper advertising is highly valued by small business owners with 60 per cent agreeing that advertising in the local paper is the best way to attract customers.

Deborah Meaden, the campaign’s national ambassador, said: “I would like to congratulate the winners of this year’s Local Business Accelerators who should all feel extremely proud to have got this far in the competition.

“The first LBA created hundreds of business success stories across the UK and I am confident that we will see hundreds more again this year, as the winners receive the campaign prize of free local newspaper advertising and mentoring.

“We need to do everything we can to support small business owners and entrepreneurs and LBA is helping to do just that.”