AN extraordinary array of talent was on show at the 4th annual Fenland Enterprise Business Awards embracing small and large businesses, fledgling companies and that special breed of Fen entrepreneurs.

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Host Mark Peters, managing director of Star Radio, was in ebullient form as he told nearly 200 guests at March Braza Club that “you and your businesses are what make this event the success that it has become”.

It was a theme touched upon by John Elworthy, editor of the Cambs Times and Wisbech Standard and the principal sponsors with Fenland District Council of the awards.

“Businesses in Fenland continue to surprise and delight us with their support,” he said. “For some it has been a torrid time but the range of companies represented here and the stories they have to tell suggest we are in a part of the country leading us out of recession. We live in exciting times.”

Mr Peters reminded guests the awards provide recognition for companies and individuals who are contributing to the business success, innovation, best practice and positive environmental impact in Fenland.

He explained the thoroughness of the judging process that included hefty commitments from both the chamber of commerce and the federation of small businesses.

“Our finalists this evening represent the highest-scoring entries for each category and as such represent best practice and excellence within their fields,” he said.

Young Apprentice of the Year

This category was introduced in 2011, by our main sponsor Fenland District Council in memory of Craig Bird, an apprentice at Metalcraft Ltd in Chatteris, who was killed in a car crash in 2010.

To be considered for this category the applicants had to show how they have exceeded expectations, how the apprenticeship has shaped their career, personal life, confidence and self-esteem and any obstacles the person has had to overcome.

Craig’s parents attended and co presented the award with Alan Melton, leader of Fenland Council.

Winner: Florence Cliss

The judges found Florence Cliss from Holiday With Us to be a really worthy winner of the Apprentice Award. Florence’s passion and commitment to her work shone through. Not only has she exceeded her employer’s expectations she has also exceeded her own having overcome long-term personal obstacles. She has evidently grown in confidence and has set herself demanding goals. Florence looks set for a successful career in tourism – the ideal apprentice.

Green Award

The Green award is designed to recognise significant achievement in protecting or improving the environment, major contribution to local communities without the expectation of direct commercial benefit, or both.

The finalists for the Green Award are:

CCORRN

This innovative scheme collects unwanted paint from six recycling centres around the county. The re-usable paint is then distributed to people on low incomes as well as community groups and charities.

HOPE Social Enterprises

Its focus is on improving the lives of vulnerable Fenland residents while re-using and recycling unwanted goods and furniture, saving 200 tonnes from going to landfill.

Commercial Utility Brokers (UK) Ltd

Founded in 1994, this third generation award-winning energy specialist employs more than 25 staff including 10 apprentices from the local area. In 2011 the company won the Peterborough area Contribution to the Community Award.

Foster Property Maintenance

The leading contractor has achieved British Standards in energy management thanks to its implementation of solar power, recycling and low energy schemes.

The award is sponsored by Local Generation. Dawn Terry, Sales & Marketing Director for Local Generation announced the winner: CCORRN.

The judges said: Cambridgeshire Community Reuse and Recycling Network (CCORRN for short) collects unwanted paint, disposes of the bad using best practice and redistributes the good to needy people and causes. It is an excellent example of contribution to the green agenda and social good, making it a deserving winner of the Green Award.

Employer of the Year

Staff are the most important asset of any business. This category will find businesses that demonstrate strong commitment to staff and assess how employees benefit the business.

The finalists for the Employer of the Year are:

Allpress Farms Limited

The company employs 85 full-time staff, mostly from Eastern Europe, who benefit from training, development and benefit schemes. This has resulted in minimal staff turnover.

Fenmarc Produce

The vegetable packing company offers some of the best opportunities within the fresh produce industry, setting it apart from its competitors.

The Ferry Project (Hope Social Enterprises)

The charity supports and houses homeless people in Fenland and its 33 members of staff help to provide people with hope and a vision for the future.

This award is sponsored by Almary Green Investments.

Managing Director Carl Lamb announced the winner: The Ferry Project.

The judges were impressed with the in-depth induction programme, rolling appraisals, robust training and development and the effective internal communication between management and staff.

The investment in staff engenders loyalty and great performance rewarded by a generous incentive and benefit package.

Business Person of the Year

This is a very special and hotly contested award. Individuals can make the difference between a good and a great company, and the skills, experience and vision that they bring can be invaluable. The nominations for this category are for senior individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to their company’s performance.

The finalists for the Business Person of the Year are:

Tamara Baranova - TJ Consulting

Tamara works with entrepreneurs and micro-business owners who are serious about raising their profile and was a finalist in the prestigious Outstanding VA of 2012 Award.

Julia Prichard - The Ferry Project

Julia joined as Neighbourhood Wardens Manager in 2007 and was promoted to Operations Manager in 2010. Within 12 months the scheme was re-organised into a more effective and efficient social enterprise.

Matthew Plumb – Commercial Utility Brokers (UK) Ltd

Over the last few years Matthew has been an integral part of the CUB team, recognising his many strengths and talents. CUB has nurtured Matthew and this, along with Matthew’s clear focus and ambition, has seen a big impact on the business.

Steven Foster - Foster Property maintenance

Steven has worked full-time for the family business since 2003 and has presided over the controlled strategic growth of the business which now has turnover in excess of £20million.

This award is sponsored by Specsavers of March. Director Trevor Clark announced the winner Steve Foster

The judges said: Steve Foster left a stable secure job to join the family business that employed eight people in a role that didn’t really exist. Eight years later the company now employs 300 people and turns over £21.5million, operating across a large part of East Anglia. Steve explains that recruiting the right people and empowering staff underpins to the spectacular growth of Foster Property Maintenance.

Regular communication through initiatives such as Toolbox Talk impressed the judges in what proved to be a very closely contested category.

The Tourism Award

New for 2012, this award has been introduced to highlight those companies that are bringing recognition to Fenland by way of Tourism.

The finalists for the Tourism Award are:

Fields End Water Ltd

The beautifully presented eco-friendly caravan park has two thriving fishing lakes, scenic walks and first class on-site facilities. It caters for holidaymakers and local anglers.

The Secret Garden Touring Park

The camping and caravanning destination began trading in September 2010 from a private four-acre garden which has been developed to attract a wide range of wildlife.

Fox Narrowboats Ltd

Has been building narrow boats since 1973. After moving from the West End to March in 1981 it now has a fleet of four weekly hire boats as well as moorings for 200 vessels.

This award is sponsored by Fenland District Council

Cllr Chris Seaton, deputy leader of Fenland District Council announced the winner: The Secret Garden Touring Park.

The judges said: The Secret Garden Touring Park is a delightful child, dog and adult friendly caravan and camping site. It has excellent visitor facilities, varied and abundant wildlife, and a herd of charming rare breed pigs and will soon boast its own on-site brewery.

This is a well-considered and excellent addition to the tourist attractions of the area and a worthy winner of the Tourism Award.”

New Business of the Year

Setting up a new business can be a very daunting affair and the first few years can, more often than not, involve a lot of blood, sweat and tears. This category rewards the efforts of individuals committed to entering the marketplace with a new business proposition.

The award recognises strong planning, business strategies, innovation and promotional activities. Our finalists have all demonstrated success during their first years in business.

The finalists for the New Business Award are:

Georges March Ltd

Previously known as The George Inn, the pub, restaurant and coffee tavern was launched in March 2011 and employs 10 staff. The rundown pub has now been turned around into a profitable venture.

Barefoot Birth Pools

Suppliers of birthing pools that can be used before, during and after the birth. Launched in May 2011, the business became a Limited Company in May this year.

Button up & Stitch

The family-run business sells gorgeous fabric and haberdashery supplies for the modern crafter and runs workshops for all ages and abilities.

Kingfisher Canoe Trails

The company provides canoe trips on the rivers and creeks around the Fens. Based in Upwell, the business offers canoes and equipment for hire with bolt-on services including wildlife tours, sunset trails and a wedding proposal experience.

This award is sponsored by Sainsbury’s. Bruce Smith of Whitacre Management Ltd, the company behind Sainsbury’s supermarket bid for Whittlesey, announced the winner: Barefoot Birth Pools

The judges said: Shona Kitchener started this business following her extensive experience as a birth partner, which led to her researching the market and identifying a growing need for birth pools. Shona demonstrated a strong business model with the potential to grow into an established business.

Small Business of the Year

The Award for Small Business of the Year is recognition of the role that small businesses play in our economy. Small businesses are big news – providing a large percentage of Fenland’s employment. Open to any business employing 1-9 full-time employees, this award is for the self-employed and small business owners.

The finalists for the Small Business of the Year Award are:

Holiday With Us

The independent retail travel agents opened branches in Wisbech and March and aims to offer customers great service while matching all online prices.

The Sparkle Oven Cleaning Company

The professional domestic oven cleaning service began in 2005 with one employee. In 2011 the business had a turnover of nearly £250,000 and now cleans up to 100 ovens a week.

Savvy Cinderella Ltd

The bridal retailer is a former Retailer of the Year and has continued to grow with its own range of dresses as well as popular designer labels.

Georges March Ltd

The popular venue has been rejuvenated with a new look and innovative business plan which has turned the pub into a restaurant, bar and coffee tavern.

This award is sponsored by Archant Herts and Cambs to announce the winner please welcome Cllr Ralph Butcher, Fenland District Council’s portfolio holder for rural affairs and health and wellbeing, to the stage to present the award on behalf of Archant Herts and Cambs.

Cllr Butcher announced the winner: The Sparkle Oven Cleaning Company.

The judges said the Sparkle Oven Cleaning Company is a well established and professionally-run company. In the past 12 months the company has seen an increase in turnover and subsequent increase in profitability. In a category that was incredibly close in scores, this business has done exceedingly well to win this award.

Medium Business of the Year

Open to any business employing 11+ full-time employees. Being a medium sized business is no bar to success. The judges will be looking for performance against business plan and proven success in adapting to market.

The finalists for the Medium Business of the Year are:

Roberto Mac Ltd

The independent recruitment agency has a strong agricultural bias working with farms, factories and food processors. In 2011 the company had a turnover of £2.8million.

Foster Property Maintenance

Over the past 12 months the family-run business has evolved its core business to provide a wealth of other services and developed new markets in different sectors.

This award is sponsored by Delamore Young Plants

Managing Director Wayne Eady announced the winner: Roberto Mac Ltd

The judges said Roberto Mac has consistently grown over the past 10 years, beginning life in small rented premises in Dartford Road, in March, to now calling the former Salvation Army citadel, in High Street, its home.

Its conversion subsequently won the Best Commercial Conversion at the 2011 Building Design Awards, run by Fenland District Council in conjunction with the Cambs Times and Wisbech Standard.

Adding to its business portfolio with the nursing home in Manea, which is being redeveloped at present and due to open in 2013, the business has managed to hit its forecasted profit margins – in fact exceeding them by more than 100 per cent – whilst remaining completely customer focused.

Customer Service Award

This category was open to any business no matter what sector. Our judges were looking for companies which consistently exceed their customers’ expectations. Entrants were able to submit up to five testimonials from happy customers.

The finalists for the Customer Service Award are:

A2G Assessments Ltd

Based in Wisbech, the company provides energy performance certificates and floor plans to home owners, landlords, estate agents and solicitors. It is proud of a reputation built on word of mouth recommendations.

Buttercross Auctions

Founded by public demand, the market-based auctioneering company has provided a successful springboard for Whittlesey’s business regeneration. Its levels of operational excellence are highly regarded by many, including fellow auction houses.

The sponsor of this category is Larkfleet Homes. Helen Jones, Marketing Director for Larkfleet Homes, announced the winner: A2G Assessments Ltd.

The judges said “A2G has a varied customer base and in all cases it is passionate about treating every customer as an individual and really understanding their needs. This ensures that A2G consistently meets and exceeds its customers’ expectations resulting in excellent customer service”

Pride of Fenland Award

This special award put the decision in the hands of residents, business partners and owners in each Fenland town. People had to vote for the town which, they felt, demonstrated the greatest entrepreneurial spirit in the last 12 months.

The public had to take into consideration what each town has done to combat the recession, increase visitors to the town, promote enterprise and work closely with business groups.

Foster Property Maintenance Ltd & Foster Renewable Energies Ltd sponsored the award:, Steven Foster announced the winner: Whittlesey

Judges’ Award

An award to recognise an individual or company that has not won a category but that the judges felt needed special recognition.

Peter Watts, from Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, our head judge, announced the winner, Savvy Cinderella.

Business of the Year

The winner of this award is chosen by our judging panel from the winning entries. It is given to a company they feel has demonstrated great business practice as well as financial success.

This award is sponsored by Whiting & Partners. Andrew Band, Partner at Whiting & Partners, announced the winner: Foster Property Maintenance.

The judges said that Foster Property Maintenance was a great example of a business which had achieved exceptional levels of growth over recent years without compromising on their strong company values.

The company aims to have the standards and processes of a large corporation within a friendly, family-run business and has put a strong focus on getting the right people and organisational culture to make it happen.

A strong management team and effective communication throughout the workforce enables the company to provide high standards of customer service and this, along with its focus on involvement in the local community, has helped it to build an excellent reputation locally.

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