Innovation and collaboration - awarding entrepreneurs - Business Works
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Innovation and collaboration - awarding entrepreneurs

by Growing Business Awards The words 'digital' and 'innovation' were never far apart at the 2013 Growing Business Awards, held in association with Lloyds Bank. Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, delivered a key speech at the awards, which are now in their fifteenth year. He hailed the "hard work, vision and risk-taking" of British businesses, but called on them to invest more. He said, "We’ve done the emergency repairs. The engine has had a full service and is getting going again. But it won’t get into top gear until British business starts investing some of the half trillion pounds worth of cash it’s built up in reserve."

With Steve Bartlett scooping the Young Entrepreneur accolade for his online student platform Wallpark and property site Zoopla scooping the Company of the Year – Larger Firms award, it seemed that creativity in the online sphere was a characteristic of success across the board.

Steve, who left university to develop Wallpark, was frustrated by the lack of connection between Manchester’s 100,000 students so built an online noticeboard to help people get together, advertise jobs and find accommodation. As one of Manchester’s fastest growing sites, Wallpark is now being rolled out across seven other cities. The judges described him as a 'passionpreneur' and someone who is 'firmly set on the path to success'.

The Entrepreneur of the Year category was won by Adrian Pike from energy efficiency firm Anesco, for his 'clear sense of fun and purpose and culture of sharing the gain', as well as a type of entrepreneurial thinking that the judges described as 'peculiarly British'. Anesco were also named Young Company of the Year for their 'visionary approach to building a team'. The judges predicted that "the firm is building an army for the future, one that will tackle the challenge of energy efficiency across the UK".

Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Mobile platform provider Blippar was awarded Digital Champion for, as the judges put it, "creating a market for something you didn’t even know you needed". The company’s strong brand and links with big names helped to convince the judges that "soon we’ll all be using the phrase ‘to blip’".

Some of the winners

Tony Banks, Chairman, Balhousie Group – Local Hero

Self-proclaimed 'Dundee man who did well', Tony Banks is Chairman of Balhousie Care Group, which provides accommodation for up to 1000 local residents. A Falklands war veteran, Tony’s experiences shaped his life-long commitment to care for people. Tony also supports a wide range of charities, including Combat Stress, dementia foundation Memory Box, and his own 'Get Into Care' training initiative, run in partnership with the Prince’s Trust.

Oliver Valves and Sun Mark (Joint Winners) – Export Champion

Some fantastic growth stories emerged in this category, with strong customer services and relationship-building skills putting this pair of joint winners ahead of the field. Knutsford-based Oliver Valves was praised for its impressive growth across the US, Middle East, South America and the Far East whilst Sun Mark, exporters of UK goods to developing or niche markets, stood out in part for the 'fantastic story' of its founder Rami Ranger, who was born in Punjab, India but has spent the last 40 years in the UK building up his business.

Versarian – Innovator of the Year

The scalability of the businesses in this category was high on the judges’ list of criteria, something which Versarian was able to demonstrate in spades. The judges said: "Versarian really captured our attention for its potential to disrupt its sector. Though small, we believe it could be explosive - it is inventive and a true example of innovation."

Acturis – Company of the Year – Mid-Sized

Acturis, a commercial insurance company who use cloud-based software as a service platform, were recognised for their clever strategy and superb financials. The judges said that they were "outstanding on every level. Management is on a mission and they are tearing the competition to bits".

Chase Distillery and OGN Group (Joint Winners) – Made in Britain

A strong group of contenders resulted in another joint win, this time for potato-vodka producers, Chase Distillery and engineering firm, OGN Group. "Quality, innovation and a commitment to UK-based production" helped these businesses take advantage of the 'premium' that people are willing to pay for British products – something the judges said, "doesn’t often resonate in the British psyche – but should".

"Huge congratulations to all the winners for their commitment and determination," said Mark Stoke, Managing Director of Mid Markets, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking. "They have all demonstrated a keen eye for innovation which is crucial to drive growth in their respective sectors. Their success stories are an inspiration for future UK entrepreneurs."

"Small and medium-sized firms will be critical to getting the UK economy back to a sustainable level of growth" said Dr Neil Bentley, CBI Deputy-Director General. "It’s great to see so many thriving despite the challenging economic conditions and the Growing Business Awards present the perfect opportunity to celebrate their success."

"It is important that we continue to recognise and reward the passion and commitment amongst the country’s most entrepreneurial business-people as they are essential in creating the next generation of exciting UK brands."

The awards are supported by Cass Business School, Business Voice, Professional Engineering, Land Rover, Lloyds Private Banking, Spring Law, Cavendish, Visa, Your Business Your Future, Bdaily Business Network and the Financial Mail.

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