LAST year's Small Business winner in The Hunts Post Huntingdonshire Business of the Year Awards is so proud of its title that it plans to defend it later in the year. The Nail Retreat in St Ives was just a year old when it scooped the trophy last November. At the time co-founders Clare Moss and Lyndsay McIntosh said they knew they were good at nails, but it was very rewarding to be praised by the judges for their business skills. Since then, both women have repeatedly been asked for expert contributions to the trade press, underlining why the judges were so impressed last autumn. "To win Small Business of the Year when The Nail Retreat was only one year old was an incredible honour and privilege, when we were up against some very well-respected and established companies," Clare said this week. "It was a delight to receive recognition for our business skills. We have received awards and accolades for our nail skills but to be rewarded for all our hard work on the business side of The Nail Retreat was immensely satisfying. It just goes to show we don't need business degrees or qualifications to succeed - just a passion and a pride for our work and a bit of good old fashioned hard graft. "Aside from the personal satisfaction of being named Small Business of the Year, winning this award has been a real bonus to our business. We have gained a great deal of exposure not only locally but also within the nail and beauty industry. "And being award winners has really brought the Nail Retreat team together. It is brilliant for morale and makes us and our staff very proud indeed," she added. Claire said The Nail Retreat had attracted new clients since the award, and existing clients' judgement in choosing the salon got endorsement from the success. She, Lyndsay and their employees had enjoyed considerable success in national competitions, and they had used the time since the win to continue employees' training and education. One of them, Catriona Elliott, achieved first place in the novice category in the International Nail Competition held in London in March. Another, Holly Gowler, achieved very high scores and a personal note from the judge on her excellent massage skills in the manicure category. And for the future: "We will definitely be entering The Hunts Post Business Awards later in the year - we have a title to defend," Clare declared. "We will be entering the Professional Beauty Nail Salon of the Year again in October, and the International Nail Competitions in March 2010. "We will take on further training and education, and raise our profile in the local business sector and nationally within the nail industry," she added. "We will continue contributing and setting standards for our industry. But, most importantly, we will carry on providing excellent treatments and outstanding customer service to all our clients in the salon.