Thursday 15th November 2018 was a night to remember as the inaugural Northamptonshire Business Awards took place at the Northamptonshire County Cricket Club.
It was clear from the arrival that tonight was going to be special. The building was lit in the branding of the awards, and the flags of the sponsors greeted everyone, a fantastic first impression. After welcome drinks and the opportunity to network, the curtains drew back and people took to their seats. The evening began with All Things Business co-founder Ben Thomas explaining that the event had been 16 months in the planning and a vision of his long before that. He wanted to light the skies and deliver a credible awards ceremony that celebrated the amazing people and businesses we have in this county.
He said: “There are more than 700,000 people in Northamptonshire and 25,000 businesses. I am very proud of our county and the people and businesses within it - this is why I wanted to launch All Things Business magazine.
“Whilst the awards have taken around 16 months to organise, they have been a vision of mine for around six years now. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the award sponsors for seeing that vision and getting on board with it to make it happen.”
As well as planning the event itself, the team at All Things Code Ltd created a bespoke app as part of the judging process, which scored entries impartially and dictated the finalists in each of the categories. Ben stressed the importance of the awards being “the most credible in the region,” and thanked the independent scorers who dedicated the time to provide a shortlist. The finalists were then judged by an independent panel; David Summers, Stakeholders Relationship Manager at OCR, Stephen Mold who is the Crime & Police Commissioner for Northamptonshire, Dr Mairi Watson who is the Dean of Faculty & Business at the University of Northampton, Simon Longhurst, Head of Apprenticeships at the University of Northampton, Susan Helman also from the University of Northampton and Luke Biddle who is Director of Marketing for Northern Europe at RS Components.
Back to the evening itself, which also included a delicious four-course meal served up by chef Adam Church. In between the starter and main course Faith Tucker, an 18 year old opera singer, took to the stage with her extraordinary voice. When dinner had finished, comedian Jimmy Carr treated the 468-person audience to an exclusive stand-up set before launching into the presentation of the awards.
First up was Business Woman of the Year, sponsored by Avon. Sarah Bentley of Upkeep Training walked away with the award, despite stiff competition from finalists Shabs Kwofie, Emma Wilberforce, Caroline Lucy and Deborah Charles. Sarah, who set up Upkeep Training in May 2016 to provide courses to those working in the building and property management sector, was praised by judges for her ‘ambition to succeed through the good times and not so good times’ and was tipped as one to watch in the future, saying that she was ‘obviously a leader in her field’ and ‘will go on to inspire others as well as continuing to fulfil her business objectives’.
The Apprentice of the Year title went to Reece Minards of OnlineDIRECT who completed his Level 2 diploma in Business Administration earlier this year. Sponsored by Church’s Shoes and Northampton College, the standard of entries in this category was high, but Reece pipped Oliver Cockerill, Michael Kinsella, Karina Viscusi and Ellie Bishop to the post after performing well at the interview process and demonstrating the big contribution he has made to OnlineDIRECT since joining the company, which was evidenced in his recent promotion to Account Manager.
Orange Juice Communications of Brixworth won the Franklins Solicitors Marketing Campaign of the Year Award for its Hypo Awareness Week campaign, which raised awareness of hypoglycaemia. The campaign was embraced and rolled out by more than 350 hospitals and doctors’ surgeries, reached millions on Twitter organically, and, ultimately, improved health outcomes for people with diabetes across the UK. Other finalists included Northamptonshire Community Foundation, St Andrews Healthcare and Bubbles.
The Land and Development Award, sponsored by Moore Stephens, saw three great projects make it to the final – Eckland Lodge Business Park in Desborough, Cransley Park in Kettering by Lambert Smith Hampton, and Rushden Lakes by The Crown Estate. The eventual winner was Rushden Lakes, a retail complex just off the A45, comprising shops and restaurants that was created to give people a place to eat, shop and explore. The judges said the winner was selected as ‘not only were all of the key category requirements met, but well exceeded’ and ‘the innovative development has embedded within the local community along with a design intended to complement the surrounding habitat and support local wildlife’. Phase 2 of Rushden Lakes is set to open in 2019 and bring leisure facilities to the space, including a Cineworld cinema, an indoor trampolining centre and an indoor climbing facility.
Five of the county’s finest providers of food and drink went head to head for the Food & Drink Award, sponsored by SH Pratt Group, including Tollemache Arms, The Hopping Hare, Sara Jayne Catering Ltd, Friars Farm Bespoke Chutneys & Preserves, and Sinple Treats. The Hopping Hare hotel and restaurant in Northampton was awarded the prize due to the ‘outstanding services offered, as well as the ongoing support provided to the local and regional community’.
FG Solicitors beat Grant Thornton, MHA MacIntyre Hudson and Lamb and Holmes to win the Professional Services Award, which was sponsored by BHIB Insurance Brokers, after demonstrating ‘a positive impact on their customers and an above expectation investment in their staff’.
The Innovation Award, sponsored by Velocity Growth Hub, went to In Town Automotive for its innovative garage management system which, according to judges, ‘closes the gap between increased business and process efficiency and improves customer reassurance, experience and satisfaction’. This system has not just revolutionised this business but is now being adopted by the industry. Other finalists in this category were Spraylat International, DP Marketing Communications and Postworks Limited.
The Community Project or Person of the Year category was sponsored by Goodwill Solutions and proved a tough task for the judges with all of the entrants doing amazing work to improve their community or help people in some way. Finalists included Kazper Restaurants/McDonalds, Adrenaline Alley, Wicksteed Park and The Quarters Barbers & Academy. The award went to The Lewis Foundation for the work it does supporting cancer patients and their families.
The next award was Businessman of the Year, sponsored by MHA MacIntyre Hudson. Three fantastic business men were shortlisted for this category – Parm Bhangal of Bhangals Construction Consultants, Andy Hollinson of The Square Metre and Kieron Salter of KW Special Projects. Kieron took home the title after judges recognised him for ‘building a business that has shown innovation and impacted across multiple sectors’ and acting as ‘an advocate for providing career opportunities for the local community whilst supporting and inspiring other businesses to thrive and grow’.
Kieron and his team also took home the next award, Business of the Year, which was sponsored by CS2 Chartered Surveyors. Up against Ensafe Consultants, The Square Metre, Briggs & Forrester Group, Utility Bidder and Bhangals Construction Consultants, KW Special Projects won the award for its ‘big ambitions’ and a working structure that ‘enables and encourages innovation through the engagement of their employees and a significant investment in research and development’.
The final award of the evening was a special one, the Contribution to Northamptonshire Award. This went to Tony Bellott who has worked tirelessly to raise the profile of the logistics sector and Northamptonshire and encouraging young people to choose a logistics career path.
“We are all thrilled with how the evening went,” said Ben Thomas. “We have received dozens of emails congratulating us on the inaugural awards which made for a very special night with lots of memories made. Well done to all of the winners and finalists and a massive ‘thank you’ again to our sponsors, venue, caterers and everyone who was involved in pulling it all together. Roll on 2019!”
View all of the photos from the Northamptonshire Business Awards 2018 here.
You can now register for the 2019 awards here