GOING it alone is daring no matter what business you are in, but Local Business Accelerator winner Andrew Hickson had a vision of the kind of service he wanted to offer his clients.

Andrew is one of a handful of independent funeral directors in Huntingdonshire. He opened Kingfisher Independent Funeral Services in St Neots 16 months ago and though he has had to deal with the ongoing economic crisis, Andrew has never looked back.

Setting up a new funeral services business is a brave step. Companies rely on reputation so it can take years to establish a name for oneself.

Though judging from the plethora of thank you cards on display in Andrew's office, clearly he is working fast. But then Andrew has 25 years of experience to draw on.

"I started when I was 17. I was doing my A-levels and working in a funeral parlour as a pall-bearer. I then worked my way up and 16 months ago decided to set up my own business, knowing that I could provide a service that I knew would exceed clients' expectations.

"I am the only locally-owned business of this kind in the area, and it is just me here - every time someone phones, they get me. They don't have to leave a message. I don't want the business to get bigger than I can cope with. I never want to get so big I couldn't personally oversee every funeral."

Local Business Accelerators is a bold initiative, backed by Dragons' Den judge, Deborah Meaden, and spearheaded by the voice of local media, the Newspaper Society.

Nearly 500 local press publications, including The Hunts Post have joined forces to promote the strength and value of local newspapers for local businesses and communities. Andrew was chosen by a panel which included Hunts Post editor Andy Veale as the Local Business Accelerator winner after impressing with his innovative plans for the business.

He has recently recruited an extra pair of paws to help in the form of his year-old labrador Roxie, who he hopes will eventually become a bereavement dog.

Plans are also in the pipeline to use Andrew's base at Gate Lodge, Cemetery Road as a centre for bereavement counselling. He is able to offer eco-coffins in willow, carboard and white hyacinth, ideal for green burials and also suitable for cremations.

As part of his prize Andrew will receive professional advice from social networking coach Lucy Cooney and other business mentors. He will also receive advertising space in The Hunts Post for the next three months.