WHEN The Nail Retreat first burst onto the Business Awards scene two years ago, some people in the Huntingdonshire business community believed the activity was too trivial for the business to be taken seriously.

WHEN The Nail Retreat first burst onto the Business Awards scene two years ago, some people in the Huntingdonshire business community believed the activity was too trivial for the business to be taken seriously.

But the judges did not think that and the award-winning company, based in Bridge Street, St Ives, has gone on to prove the doubters emphatically wrong.

One of the big rewards for the organisers of The Hunts Post Huntingdonshire Business of the Year Awards is for the independent judges to be proved right. Nowhere is this better illustrated than when the winner of the News Business Award one year (as The Nail Retreat did in 2008) goes on to secure the Business Development Award, as The Nail Retreat did in 2009.

Last November, the judges said: "Not only have the owners of the business achieved their growth targets, but they have exceeded them significantly. And in the first 12 months they doubled the number of staff. In the next eight months they added 50 per cent more.

"They have plans to expand further because they are booked up for several months ahead.

"Staff are trained to competition standards. The Nail Retreat is widely recognised as being expert in the industry, employing prize-winning technicians, who provide state-of-the-art techniques. This is appreciated by the leading European supplier of professional nail care products who has offered to create specific training programmes for them."

At the time, Clare Moss, who founded the business with her friend and colleague Lyndsay McIntosh, said: "If someone had sat us down two years ago, when we opened the salon, and told us this is where we'd be, we would have laughed. We can't believe it - it's beyond our wildest dreams."

Maybe not any more. Clare is determined to continue to prove the doubters wrong by entering for this year's Employer of the Year - for which The Nail Retreat was shortlisted in 2009 - and Training and Development Awards.

"Winning is great for morale," she said yesterday. "That's why we keep on entering.

"The most important thing was that it brought the team together - it means a lot to the girls to be part of a winning team. And it helps out profile with our clients as well."

After the first win in 2008, when they also took the Small Business of the Year Award, Clare and Lyndsay said they had every confidence in their technical skills but it was good to have independent recognition from the judges that they were astute enough to run a business as well.

"Winning for the second year confirmed that it wasn't beginners' luck. We now have the same confidence in our business skills as in our technical skills.

"Let's just hope we can win again this year."

Although the six-girl team has been too busy to enter many competitions since last November's success, it was one of five finalists in the Professional Beauty Salon of the Year competition.

But they always make an exception for The Hunts Post Business Awards. "We do tend to leave it till the last minute but we shall definitely be trying to make it three years in a row," Clare said. "The girls have done lots more training and we hope we're in with a good chance."