Making Northamptonshire proud

Thursday 7th November saw the second Northamptonshire Business Awards take place at the Northamptonshire County Cricket Club.

There were eleven award categories, and the room was buzzing with anticipation.

After networking over arrival drinks, the 500+ guests took to their tables to hear a few words from Ben Thomas of All Things Business.

Ben talked passionately about Northampton-shire and referred to it as a ‘fantastic place to live, work and learn’ and went on to say that he personally wanted to do more to support education in the county. He believes that ‘education needs business and business needs education’ and we should all be pulling together to bridge that gap. He also talked about how rife homelessness was in our county and urged the businesses in the room to think over the course of the evening about what we could all do to tackle this.

After this powerful speech, guests were treated to a performance of I Dreamed A Dream by opera singer Faryl Smith before host Stephen K Amos took to the stage to kick start the awards.

First up was Apprentice of the Year, sponsored by Starting Off. Harry Peart of Sloane Helicopters walked away with the award but all of the finalists - Matthew Gillin, Lewis Clevely, Kira Alakija and Laura Roirke - were asked to stand and received an applause and special recognition from judge John Harley who had met each of them and said he left feeling inspired. Harry was named the eventual winner after ‘demonstrating huge commitment despite challenging setbacks’, for showing ‘ambition for further development’ and for becoming ‘a team player within the company’.

The Marketing Campaign of the Year title, which was sponsored by Franklins Solicitors, went to Tresham College. Following a merger with Bedford College, the team faced an urgent student recruitment crisis and undertook a programme of extensive market research to formulate a marketing campaign with clear, measurable objectives – to see an increase in student applications. The team successfully exceeded its targets and goals and reversed the decline in student applications. Runner ups in this category were NAB Sight Support for Northamptonshire and Swanspool Vets.

Morton Wykes Kramer Ltd won the Land and Development Award, sponsored by Moore. The judges were impressed by the company’s focus on innovation and impact, particularly its ‘careful and forward-looking approach to environmental issues and sustainability, without driving up the cost or duration of the projects’. Other finalists included Daventry Norse Commercial Services and Catalyst Land Solutions.

The Food and Drink Award, sponsored by SH Pratt Group, saw four completely different businesses battle it out in the final – British organic vodka producer Jelley Distilleries, country pub Brampton Halt, fresh fruit company Blue Skies Holdings Ltd, and Kettering Park Hotel. Brampton Halt scooped the award after demonstrating to judges that, as well as good food and drink, the pub ‘provides a fully holistic experience’ and makes ‘a significant contribution to the community, local schools and charities in the area’.

The Professional Services Award, sponsored by BHIB Insurance Brokers, was up next and saw Towergate Insurance Brokers, Fortitude Financial Planning Ltd, AFP Services Ltd, DFA Law LLP and Ellacotts go head to head for the title. Fortitude Financial Planning came out on top after impressing judges with its ‘solid foundations’, ‘focus on developing and rewarding its people’ and ‘approach to continuous improvement and investment in professional accreditations beyond what is expected in their sector’.

The Innovation Award, sponsored by Santander and Elavon, saw some fabulous entries from a wide range of companies, all them using technology and/or being innovative in their approach to business. Finalists included Specific Learning & Coaching, Simply Business, Alchemy Virtual Assistance, MAHLE Powertrain Ltd and Acorn Analytical Services. Acorn Analytical Services won the award after utilising modern technologies, including video cards and a podcast, to educate and advise businesses on the hazards of asbestos. The judges said: “The winner of this award has taken an unsexy subject and found a successful way to make it engaging - for the industry, the community and young people. Using accessible technology, their audience has been able to take away information to create or change processes.”

Next the audience watched five powerful videos from the people or organisations behind community projects from across the county, outlining their good work. These included KidsAid, Rust Bucket Rally, Niamh’s Next Step, RS Components and Kazper Restaurants Limited. Niamh’s Next Step, which raises awareness of neuroblastoma and helps support families affected by the disease, was crowned Community Person or Project of the Year, an award sponsored by Goodwill Solutions. The video for this particular charity had many people in tears and one company – Hi-Force Limited – was so moved that it pledged to give the charity £25,000.

The Businessman of the Year award, sponsored by ACS Office Solutions, came next and was between three dynamic businessmen – Alex Goldsmith of Medigold Health, Parm Bhangal of Bhangals Construction Consultants and Brian Harding of Catalyst Land Solutions. Alex was awarded the Businessman of the Year title for his ‘impact on company performance’, ‘desire to provide opportunities to the next generation’ and being an ‘inspirational leader’.

There was more competition in the Businesswoman of the Year category, sponsored by Northamptonshire’s Best Surprise, with five finalists in total. These were: Julie Walker of BHIB Insurance Brokers, Nisha Tanna of Dyslexia Diagnostics, Clare Colacicchi of Hewitsons LLP, Nicola O’Brien of ID Card Centre and Swati Patel-Champion of Miswa Chemicals. Nicola O’Brien triumped in the category, taking home the award. Nicola’s approach to flexible working made her stand out to judges, with them saying: “The winner of this award wants parents to excel at work without missing their children’s sports days and nativity plays. Family-friendliness is non-negotiable.” Nicola was also recognised for the work she does with the homeless.

There were six finalists in the Business of the Year award category, sponsored by Lambert Smith Hampton. These were: OCEE Design, Hi-Force Limited, Croyland Car Megastore, Sloane Helicopters Limited, Chandler Communications Ltd and Amplitude Media. The award went to Hi-Force Limited after a fantastic financial year. The judges said: “The winner of this award has an outstanding leadership team that has proven success in leading and developing employees to be the best they can be. This has been underlined in their financial performance as they have shown significant growth.”

Kevin Brown, Group Managing Director at Hi-Force Limited, added: “We were delighted to receive the award for Business of the Year at the Northamptonshire Business Awards. Coincidentally, the whole Group Board of Directors of Hi-Force were in UK for a board meeting so it was great to all celebrate this award together. This award is for everyone within the Hi-Force Group worldwide and we are all very proud that a Northamptonshire-based business, that has grown significantly worldwide in the past 15 years, has received recognition for its efforts and successes. The award is even more appreciated given the level of competition amongst all the finalists and I would like to congratulate everyone that was shortlisted for this award.”

The penultimate award to be presented was BIG Business of the Year, sponsored by MHA MacIntyre Hudson, and this saw four finalists – Medigold Health, The Glazerite UK Group Ltd, Simply Business and Briggs & Forrester Group. Medigold Health took home the title. Judges said this was a particularly tough category as every finalist had contributed so much to the local economy in terms of jobs and business generation. The eventual winner was recognised for its ‘measured and successful approach to growth’, ‘investment in staff’ and its ‘support of local and national initiatives’.

The final award of the evening was the Contribution to Northamptonshire Award, which went to Lord Lieutenant David Laing, a man who came to Northamptonshire 20 years ago and has since made it his mission to raise the profile of the county at a national level, attending hundreds of charity events and raising thousands of pounds in funds for various charities and organisations in Northamptonshire. Ben Thomas presented Lord Lieutenant David Laing with the award and said: “He has touched the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of people in Northamptonshire. He is quietly spoken and charming, but what has impressed me most about this gentleman, is how he listens and genuinely cares. It gives me great pleasure in presenting this award to Lord-Lieutenant David Laing.”

Looking back on the evening, Ben said: “We are all absolutely thrilled with how the evening went. It was very special night with lots of memories made and we raised £28,000 for charity! Well done to all of the winners and finalists and a massive ‘thank you’ to our sponsors. Roll on 2020!”

View all the images of the night on