Firms from across Huntingdonshire have been celebrating after reaching the finals of The Hunts Post’s Business Awards.
The Burgess Hall in St Ives was packed with the cream of local commerce for the glittering ceremony, compered by BBC Look East presenter Stewart White.
Judges from the district’s business world had the difficult task of deciding which of the finalists would walk away with an award in each of more than a dozen categories.
This year’s Business of the Year was awarded to Hail Weston-based Tensor plc, which specialises the design and manufacture of security, access control, attendance monitoring and energy management technology.
The panel of judges said Tensor, which also scooped the Innovation Award, had become a world leader in its field and had shown continued innovation and development, employing more than 100 people.
The Judges Award on the night was won by Wyton-based Instant Home which, the judges said, had shown outstanding committing to quality customer service.
Daniel Mansfield, content editor at The Hunts Post, said: “These awards, now in their 20th year, provide recognition for companies and individuals who are contributing to the business success, innovation, best practice and positive environmental and community impact in Huntingdonshire.
“They are, undoubtedly, the district’s leading awards for excellent business practice and have become hugely prestigious and highly valued, reflecting the achievement of winning companies.
“It is fantastic to see so many leading businesses paving the way on business excellence promoting Huntingdonshire to the rest of the business world.”
Employer of the Year - Sponsored by Luminus Group
The winner was wearable technology firm Activinsights.
Samantha Huff, product support manager, said: “It is fantastic, it is a result of all the team pulling together.”
Activinsights pipped Xtreme Events Ltd to the award.
The judges said they were impressed with the business owner’s strong commitment to staff and the impressive supporting documentary evidence.
Small Business of the Year - Sponsored by the FSB
A second award went to Activinsights, with judges honouring the groundbreaking wearables business.
Managing director Richard Thomas said: “We are really proud. It is a fantastic award and it is a real honour to win.”
The other finalists were Safety Rocks Ltd, Xtreme Events Ltd, Zitko Consulting and Instant Home.
The judges said: “The business is in a financially strong and stable situation, there is not reason to believe that its ambitious plans for growth cannot be achieved.”
The Innovation Award - Sponsored by Alconbury Enterprise Campus.
Access control firm Tensor PLC took the title, with judges being impressed by the firm’s facial recognition security system.
Chief executive Ashley Smith said: “I am very pleased. It is quite a shock, actually. I still can’t believe it.”
The other finalists were Wellington Wise, Cambridge CAD Group Ltd and DC Norris and Company Ltd.
The judges said: “The state-of-the-art facial recognition security system developed by Tensor deserved the title.”
Business Development - Sponsored by George Hay
The title went to Spire Dental Group.
Principal dentist Georgina O’Callaghan-King said: “I am delighted and I would like to say that Jenny Cooke has been pivotal in our success.”
The other finalists were Admiral Windows and Conservatories Ltd, Activinsights and Bright Business Advice.
The judges said: “The entrepreneurial owner has created a strong culture which both the staff and clients enjoy, she demonstrated a clear strategy for the expansion.”
Retailer of the Year - Sponsored by Barford+Co
A serious passion for cricket led to the award going to the Raw Cricket Company.
Founder Matthew Davies-Binge said: “I am ecstatic. Three years ago it started from scratch in my bedroom and our target is to become the world-leading cricket brand.”
The other finalists were Admiral Windows and Conservatories Ltd and Premier Travel, St Ives.
The judges described Raw Cricket as a “small company with plans to grow”.
Employee of the Year - Sponsored by Archant
The award went to Leanne Baker of the Le Mark Group, but judges also singled out Nikki Hurst, of Houghton and Wyton Pre-School Playgroup for a special commendation.
Leanne, head of UK sales, said: “It is amazing, I am completely shocked. I am really happy and it really reflects on everyone else in my team.”
Nikki said: “I am very, very pleased.”
The other finalists were Kerry De’Ath of Wellington Wise and Linda Tanner of Spire Dental.
The judges said: “Leanne has worked for Le Mark since 2005 during which time she has risen up through the ranks and now manages the UK Sales Team and overseen a year on year increase in sales.”
Apprentice of the Year - Sponsored by the Hunts Post
It was a hat-trick of awards this year for Beth Collins, of Premier Travel, St Ives, who won the title.
Beth said: “It is amazing. I wasn’t expecting it at all. It has been an incredible year for me. It has been three out of three this year.”
The other finalist was Nicole Stimson, of South Cambridgeshire District Council.
The judges said: “Beth has put a great deal of energy and enthusiasm into building an extensive understanding of her role in a short time.”
Business in the Community - Sponsored by Archant
Cambridge Regional College took the title, just three months after its merger with Huntingdonshire Regional College.
Vice-principal Michelle Dowse said: “I am delighted. This is our first award as a combined college.”
The other finalist was Bartlett Automotive.
The judges said: “The regional college demonstrated a proactive and innovative approach to their community engagement with encouraging employability at its core.”
New Business of the Year - Sponsored by the Hunts Post
The award went to Utopia Hair Bar Ltd.
Director Claire Sawford said: “I am absolutely delighted. I am extremely pleased because it is a real team effort.”
The other finalists were The Letting Agency, VS Associates Ltd and Big Bear Creative Ltd.
The judges said: “Utopia Hair has excellent customer service, and it has been able to retained existing customers from a previous business. It offers a broad range of services and has taken on apprentices from a local college.”
Online Innovator of the Year - Sponsored by Huntingdonshire District Council
It was a second award on the night for the Raw Cricket Company.
Founder Matthew Davies-Binge said: “I am completely and utterly blown away.”
The other finalists were VS Associates and Di Rita’s Italian Cuisine.
The judges said: “The business has clearly been built on the success of its website and social media activity, which has been used to build the company’s reputation and highlight customer satisfaction.”
Business Person of the Year - Sponsored by Leeds Day
Entrepreneur Alex Hughes, of the Silvertone Cleaning Company Ltd, paid tribute to staff: “It is absolutely amazing. I am incredibly happy. It is 99 per cent everyone else. I am just there to tell everyone else how awesome they are.”
The other finalist was Andrew Di Rita, of Di Rita’s Italian Cuisine.
The judges said: “Alex is being granted this award for his talent, vision, commitment and business ethos and we look forward to seeing him achieve his outstanding potential over the coming years.”
The Judges’ Award - Sponsored by Huntingdonshire Chamber of Commerce
Lead judge John Bridge, chief executive of Huntingdonshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “It was a very difficult decision because of the many excellent entries we have had once again.”
The award went to innovative furniture hire firm Instant Home Ltd.
Hollie Wright, director, said: “I am very surprised and delighted. I am taken aback.”
The judges said: “Instant Home has steadily grown their business against very strong established competition.”
Business of the Year - Sponsored by Archant
It was a double victory on the night for Tensor PLC.
Chief executive Ashley Smith said: “I wasn’t expecting that one either. It is fantastic.”
The judges said: “Employing more than 100 local people including half a dozen apprentices this innovative business has become a world leader in its field – inventing, designing and manufacturing security and energy management technology.”