2017 Fenland Business of the Year Awards – all the winners and finalists from an uplifting night of celebrating success

24th September 2017

It was the highlight of the business year – the 2017 Fenland Enterprise Business Awards. And the most successful to date.

The Braza Club, March, was packed to the rafters with 220 guests that included sponsors, guests and representatives and owners from a wide range of companies that had made their way through to the final.

They were joined by civic dignitaries from the four Fenland towns to celebrate success.

Sponsored by the Cambs Times and Wisbech Standard and organised by our parent company Archant, the awards ceremony was opened by Editor John Elworthy.

He introduced BBC East journalist Jozef Hall who compered the glittering showcase of all that’s best in Fenland business and enterprise.

Andrea Sutti, Wisbech factory manager of Nestle Purina Petcare, began the formal proceedings after firstly presenting a short video of working with one of Fenland’s most successful companies. Nestle Purina Petcare were the headline sponsors of this year’s awards, joining an illustrious list of other businesses that enable this annual celebration of achievement and success to continue.

After a sumptuous four course meal, guests were invited to resume their places for the awards ceremony that began with employer of the year.

Mr Hall welcomed guests to the ninth annual Fenland Enterprise Business Awards and said that after the success of last year “we are pleased to see new and returning guests in the Braza Club this evening and we would like to thank you for your time and commitment.

“These awards provide recognition for companies and individuals who are contributing to the business success, best practice and positive environmental impact in Fenland.

“They are, undoubtedly, the region’s leading awards for excellent business practice and are hugely prestigious and highly valued, reflecting the achievement of winning companies.

“Tonight is about recognising and rewarding companies and individuals who are making significant contributions to Fenland’s business community and economic development.”

Mr Hall said with the support of sponsors the awards were made possible and “with their help we are able to reward best practice within Fenland, as well as increasing public awareness of the professionalism and importance of our business community to the region.”

He said judges were impressed with the quality of all the applications and wanted to thank everyone who took the time to enter this year.

Each award was marked by visiting judges, who represent The Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses as well as representatives from our sponsors.

The scores were based on a number of criteria “and our thanks go to them for their hard work”.

Mr Hall said: “Our finalists represent the highest-scoring entries for each category, and as such represent best practice and excellence within their fields.”

Employer of the Year

This category involves businesses that demonstrate strong commitment to staff and the judges assess how employees benefit the business.

Winner: Swann Edwards Architecture Ltd

Finalists: Bluebird Care and Pike Textile Display Ltd

The judges said the winner blew them away with their culture and ethos.

“This business takes what they offer their employees to a whole new level the likes of which they judges have never encountered,” said Mr Hall.

“The winner is truly worthy of this award for employer of the year and whose practices should be celebrated across our business community.”

Gareth Edwards, director of Swann Edwards Architecture, said: “I’m absolutely delighted and would like to thank all the staff and clients because that is what it is all about – without them we are nothing.”

Apprentice of the Year

Mr Hall said the category was introduced in 2011, in memory of Craig Bird, an apprentice, who was tragically killed in a car accident seven years ago.

“We are pleased that his parents Kim and Richard are with us tonight,” he said.

With apprenticeships a key focus for many businesses, the originally titled young apprentice award has evolved to include applicants of all ages.

To be considered for this category the applicants had to show how they have exceeded expectations, how the apprenticeship has shaped their career, personal life, confidence and self-esteem and any obstacles the person has had to over come.

Winner: Abbie Davis – The Cornerstone Practice

Finalist: Shelby Green – Stainless Metalcraft (Chatteris) Ltd

Judges said that Abbie has clearly impressed everyone she works with in her time at the Cornerstone practice.

“The attributes listed by her manager and mentor are commendable and it was great to see both emotion and passion from Abbie and her mentor,” said Mr Hall.

“It was clear to the judges that Abbie has not only improved ways of working at the practice but also through her own initiative has created a revenue stream that is much needed in relation to the future needs of the patients.”

Abbie said: “It feels really great to have won.”

Customer Service Award

Customers nominated their local businesses as they felt they demonstrated fantastic customer service and went out of their way to help customers.

Winner: AD Sutton Motor Engineers Ltd

Finalists: North London Skydiving Centre Ltd, The Luxe Cinema, Bluebird Care and Whittlesey and district Business Forum.

The judges said of the winner that the company has a dedicated team of management, engineers and administration staff with a strong customer service ethos.

Mr Hall said: “It handles complaints in a fair and orderly manner ensuring a satisfactory result for the customer.

“The recent appointment of service advisor emphasises the company’s approach and commitment to provide excellent customer service.”

Emma Sutton of AD Sutton said: “We look after our customers rather than just look after the cars we focus on their needs as well as those of the vehicles.”

Commercial Business Person of the Year

Individuals can make the difference between a good and a great company, and the skills, experience and vision that they can bring can be invaluable. The nominations for this category were for senior individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to their company’s performance.

Winner: Natasha Shiels – The Fens Magazine

Finalists: Russell Hornby of Blyth Equipment Ltd and Clare Lilley of Optima Property.

The judges said the winning candidate “whose publication combines food, health and travel articles, has demonstrated herself to be personable, ambitious and successful, having started her magazine only relatively recently.

“With a limited support staff Ms Shiels provides a unique, well designed publication, providing interesting and informative material for her readers”.

Miss Shiels said: “I’m ecstatic, we’ve only been going 17 months so are still fairly new. We’re a very small team; it is great to win.”

Food Producer of the Year

This category was open to any business in Fenland who is producing top quality food for the public’s consumption either as part of a supply chain or direct sale to the public.

Winner: Allpress Farms Ltd

Finalist: Fenmarc Produce Ltd

The judges said that in an increasingly competitive market this family owned company impressed though its high quality controls matched by an ambitious, dynamic and adaptable approach to present and future challenges to its industry.

Mr Hall said: “Overall, this niche business demonstrated care and dedication to its craft in a demanding and highly regulated business sector.”

Nick Allpress said: “I’m delighted. It’s a great reward for all the hard work that’s been put in from all of our team.”

New Business of the Year Award

This category was open to any company of any size, including sole traders that have been set up since January 1, 2016.

Winner: The Fens Magazine

Finalists: Cambridgeshire Canine Crèche, Optima Mortgage Services, Partridge Farm Boarding Kennels

The judges said The Fens Magazine is a successful local publication produced by a small dedicated team led by Natasha Shiels who has a clear vision and drive producing a high quality magazine.

Mr Hall said: “Under her leadership and with her vast experience as an editor / designer the magazine has achieved a circulation of copies in its first year with a second magazine being planned and due to launch in early 2018.

“This is clearly a sustainable business with a bright future and a worthy winner of the new business.”

Ms Shiels said: “Two awards in one night are just great. We have a clear vision and it has paid off.”

Small Business of the Year

The award is recognition of the role that small businesses play in our economy.

Mr Hall said: “Small businesses are big news – providing a large percentage of Fenland’s employment.”

Winner: AD Sutton Motor Engineers Ltd

Finalists: iTech Security Ltd, North London Skydiving Centre Ltd and Swann Edwards Architecture Ltd

The judges said that AD Sutton Engineers are a VE group Specialist serving the needs of the motoring community within the Fenland area.

“Adam and Emma Sutton have overcome significant commercial and personal adversity, adapting their business plan to continue to offer excellence to its growing customer base,” said Mr Hall.

“The company has a robust business plan and a clear vision for the future development of the company. There is no doubt in the judges’ minds that this will lead to further success for the company.”

Stephen Turner, vehicle technician with AD Sutton, said: “It’s absolutely amazing to win this award.”

Medium Business of the Year

The award is in recognition of the role that medium businesses play in our economy.

“Being a medium business sized business is no bar to success – which also provides a large percentage of Fenland’s employment,” said Mr Hall.

Winner: Precise Component Manufacture Ltd

Finalists: Optima Property and Pike Textile Display Ltd

Judges said of the winner that it was “an outstanding nomination from a very well organised and forward thinking business.

“The relationship between senior management and staff is exceptional and they have the future of the business thoroughly planned out, they are ambitious and motivated, a very worthy winner.”

Gavin Goates, of Precise Components Manufacture Ltd, said: “Ultimately it’s all about the people of Fenland, the staff who work here.

“Running a business is only as successful as the staff and I have the best team you could ever ask for. Our staff makes us who we are.”

Commercial Business in the Community / Corporate Social Responsibility Award

The award is for any commercial business that contributes to the environment, community and society.

It is designed to recognise significant achievement and major contribution to local communities without expectation or direct commercial benefit.

Winner: Co-operative Travel at central England Co-operative.

Finalists: Discovering Magazines and Whittlesey and District Business Forum.

Judge said The Co-operative showed a deep understanding of getting involved in the local community.

“They have created two great projects working with partners to help local deprived children,” said Mr Hall.

“They recycle or redistribute their magazines and stands to help school projects or for recycling to help the environment.

“They have a great deal of energy and a passion to be part of the local area.”

Natasha Thatcher, branch manager of Co-operative Travel, said: “Being part of the community is essential as a business. We are pleased that local people can recognise us as a face within our community.”

Retailer of the Year

The retail sector is an important sector for UK economy, local business communities and our towns.

Mr Hall said: “The ability to sell is vital whether you have a shop front and or online.”

This category focused on sales performance, plus how the relationship between the business and the consumer is developed.

Winner: Kellyvision KCS Ltd

Finalist: Co-operative Travel at Central England Co-operative

The judges said: “A long standing independent business that truly cares about ensuring a real service to real people in an ever changing world.”

Kelley Shipp, managing director of Kellyvision, said: “We have been in the area for 34 years looking after people; we are part of the community.

“Our aim has always been good customer service; I like to think we get it right.”

Judges’ Award

This is to recognise an individual or company that has not won a category but that the judges felt needed special recognition.

Winner: Fenmarc Produce Ltd

Matt Walton, sales director of Fenmarc, said: “It’s been a great year for Fenmarc. We‘ve created new jobs in the local community and seen phenomenal growth for our retail customers – this award is a summary of that success.”

Business of the Year

This award is not directly entered but is chosen by the judging panel from the winning corporate entries.

It is given to a company they feel has demonstrated great business practice as well as financial success.

Winner: Precise Component Manufacture Ltd

The judges said PCML show excellence is all aspects of business management.

Mr Hall said the company fully embraces technology, and passionate about recruiting from the local economy and have truly developing a USP.

He said the judges agreed that “the culture within the business is relaxed yet clearly focused on a common goal. “We are proud to have them in Fenland.”

Gavin Coates, of Precise Components Manufacturing Ltd, said: “You are only as good as your team of staff and we have 120 great people working with us.

“We are about to open up branches in Cambridge and Peterborough. I’m lucky to be surrounded by really good people. It’s all about the guys on the shop floor and our guys are the best.”

The evening concluded with a prize draw that raised nearly £1,100 for the East Anglian Air Ambulance.