A ‘fabulous’ night at the Inspire Business Awards 2015 saw a host of business stars presented with well-deserved prizes to recognise their achievements.
The annual awards, hosted by Destination Basingstoke at Highfield Park in Hook for the second year in a row, was attended by hundreds of smartly-dressed company representatives and some of north Hampshire’s leading entrepreneurial lights.
Trophies were handed out to the winning finalists in 13 categories , with Croydex winning the top prize and a dozen other finalists spread across Hart, Rushmoor, Basingstoke and the surrounding areas.
The event this year raised £4,125 for the Ark Cancer Centre Charity, which is seeking to build a state-of-the-art cancer treatment centre to serve Hampshire patients and their families.
Rushmoor and Hart dominated the 2014 awards by scooping eight of the 13 awards up for grabs, and the region started strongly as Fleet company Bubblegum Balloons was named New Business of the Year.
Founded by Sally Hodge, her sister Laura Slater and friend Meg Robertson in 2013, the business provides balloons for parties, bespoke events and photo shoots.
Posing for photos and victory selfies with her colleagues, Mrs Hodge said: “This is just awesome, totally awesome. We didn’t expect to win. It’s really, really cool.”
Employee of the Year went to Leonard Smith at Andover-based Be Wiser, followed by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council winning Employer of the Year.
Manufacturer of the Year went to Blatchford, a Basingstoke company that specialises in prosthetics and other rehabilitation equipment.
Family Business of the Year - a new prize for 2015 - was Fresh and Clean Services in Bramley, followed by FHC for Hair winning the Business and the Community award - the most hotly contended category of all.
Cobalt Telephone Technologies in Basingstoke, which has seen its mobile phone car parking payment system Ring Go rolled out across the world, was named International Business of the Year, with the acceptance speech aptly delivered in French as well as English.
The Service Excellence of the Year trophy was handed to HireServe, another Basingstoke company named as a finalist.
Hartley Wintney’s Dassi , a company that builds specialist performance bikes using Formula One technology, was a finalist in two categories this year and, although it missed out on the Small Business of the Year award, presented to Basingstoke company JV Bouncy Castle Hire, it did win the Innovation Excellence prize.
Asked how it felt to win, Dassi owner Stuart Abbott said: “One word: awesome.
“This is the first award we have won as a business. It is recognition of the hard work everyone has put in.”
Marc Whitbread was named Young Business Person of the Year for his impressive work building up his Fleet business Whitbread’s Window Cleaning , using clever ideas such as electronic payments to combine modern innovation with a timeless service.
He said: “It’s fantastic. I’m overwhelmed.
“I set the business up when I was 17 and have run it for six years. It’s absolutely brilliant to win.”
Entrepreneur of the Year was film fan Alan Donegan, known for his self-titled radio show as well as creating enterprise support company Pop Up Business School in Basingstoke.
Saved until last, the Business of the Year Award was presented to Andover bathroom supply shop Croydex, who beat Fleet’s CV-Library and Southern Communications in Basingstoke.
After collecting the award with commercial director Jonathan Langford, managing director Nick McGrellis said: “This is testament to the people who we have working with us.
“This Christmas, a couple of people have worked here for 45 years. For people to have worked for that long at the same organisation gives our younger workers confidence that there is a career there.
“We’re also now exporting all over the world.”
He added: “It’s been a fabulous night.”
During the course of the evening, the assembled audience enjoyed a three-course meal followed by a ‘heads or tails’ game requiring participants to put £10 in an envelope, in aid of Ark Cancer Centre, in return for a chance to win an Apple Watch.
Philip Davies, of DCSL Software in Farnborough, ensured yet more success for the north east of the county by winning the prize with a brave gamble on tails on the awards stage.
Cheese and Port rounded off the evening, as Basingstoke soul singer Natasha Watts got the after party going.