A FRESH national award has proved testament to the growing reputation of a Darwen businessman.

Imran Hakim, chief executive of an eponymous chain of opticians, was up against the cream of the crop at the EY Entrepreneur Awards in London. He walked away with the event’s Scale Up gong, presented to firms experiencing rapid growth.

The pedigree of past EY winners is impressive - Easy tycoon Stelios Haji-Ioannou, Dragons’ Den star Peter Jones and Richard Reed, one of the Innocent Drinks founders, have all scooped honours before now.

One of the keys to his success has been to a provide back-office support for ambitious independent opticians, allowing them to expand.

Mr Hakim said: “When you get a group of people that share the same vision and are doing it together as a collective, great things happen.”

He has thanked colleagues for their steadfast commitment, in picking up the award, on behalf of the 15-year-old India Mill-based group.

But he especially singled out his late father Ismail for instilling the values necessary to succeed.

He added: “My late father came to the UK in the 60s with just 50p to his name. He worked two jobs to make ends meet and although didn’t have the opportunity to pursue his entrepreneurial aspirations, made many sacrifices so that I could chase my dreams.

“When I started my first practice, I needed to borrow £2,000 which my father lent me, I can still remember his words loud and clear.... he said, ‘Son, don’t let me down’.

“As I walked onto the stage, I could not help but feel emotional as I cast my mind back to those words from my father some 20 years ago.

“So this one is dedicated to you dad. I hope I didn’t let you down!"