Fenland Business Awards: Meet shortlist for Business Person of the Year

WITH just five weeks until the Fenland Enterprise Business Awards, it’s time to take a closer look at the companies and the entrepreneurs who have been shortlisted for the big prizes.

We start our previews with a look at the shortlist for Business Person of the Year. The award is sponsored by Hugh Crane (Cleaning Equipment) Ltd.


Bantoft & Co, Wisbech

NICKIE Bantoft realised a life-long ambition last summer by launching her own accountancy firm in Wisbech – despite the downturn.

She came to a crossroads in her accountancy career so opened Bantoft & Co Ltd at the Boathouse Business Centre.

She promised to tailor her accountancy expertise to give both individuals and companies peace of mind at competitive rates.

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Qualifying in 2002, Mrs Bantoft has 12 years experience in the business having trained and taken 14 professional exams between the age of 18 and 22 to gain her Association of Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA) qualification.

In July last year, shortly after launching, Mrs Bantoft said: “I had the opportunity to buy into where I was or set up on my own.

“With two young children I wanted the flexibility of working for myself and I had always wanted to have my own business – that was my ultimate goal.”

Mrs Bantoft is born and bred in Wisbech and is a former student of Wisbech Grammar School.


Next Steps Community Care, March

STEPHEN Croxton founded Next Steps Community Care after realising there were few opportunities for work in his chosen field when he moved to the area.

Mr Croxton qualified as a mental health nurse at the University of Nottingham and worked with abused children and their families.

He later worked with adults within hospital units and as a community mental health nurse before moving to March with his family and forming Next Steps.

The company offers supported living opportunities to people with a learning disability or mental health problem.

Mr Croxton’s wife Caroline said: “Steve has grown the company from an idea whilst working in his spare room, to a company with a staff team of 44 and an annual turnover of �1.1million.

“Steve is highly motivated, creative in his thinking and is a strong leader with clear visions towards the future with which he pushes his team along. He is able to spot opportunities, often before they become apparent, and seizes them.”

Mr Croxton has also developed new strands of the company as it starts to offer services to those with physical needs.

One strand is a housing company which offers homes to the vulnerable. It has a housing stock of nine and an annual turnover of �48,600.

• Next Steps won the Medium Business of the Year category at last year’s awards.


James Graven & Son, Chatteris

JONATHAN James is managing director of James Graven Ltd, which runs three forecourts and two supermarkets. Two of the forecourts are in Chatteris.

Mr James has spent the majority of his working career in the fresh produce industry after a brief spell working for Barclays Bank. He has been in senior management within a number of companies since 1988, mainly in the trading departments.

Mr James and his wife Rebecca (nee Graven) took over the company 10 years ago and it has grown and developed rapidly since.

In 2000 the company had two filling station in Chatteris, but today it also has supermarkets in Soham and Dersingham and a third forecourt in Ely. Work has started on a fourth forecourt in Littleport.

Caroline Bosworth, of James Graven, said: “Apart from dedication, enthusiasm and commitment to James Graven, he is passionate about empowering a team to help with the company’s growth and development.

“He is grounded and approachable by both staff and customers and establishes real links with communities.”


The Ferry Project, Wisbech

KEITH Smith is Director of Ferry, with full operational and development responsibility for the organisation. Ferry provides housing and support to 200 single homeless people in Fenland per year.

Ferry’s most recent project is Octavia View, a �2.5million restoration of the former Queen’s Hotel in Wisbech. The building has been transformed into a community hub comprising a shop, art gallery, caf�, education suite, medical room and eight function rooms available for hire.

In December 2007, Mr Smith and Ferry established HOPE Social Enterprises in March, a furniture recycling business which now has a turnover of �500,000.

Mr Smith started Ferry in 1998 in conjunction with members of Wisbech Churches Together and volunteers. In 2004, he secured Ferry’s financial future by bringing the project into Luminus.

Lorraine George, of Luminus, said: “Keith has led the organisation from the beginning and the key to success has been his vision and passion to change the world for the better.

“No business of this size is the work of just one person. However, someone has to lead the way, see the business before it exists and explain how the business will work to investors and staff.

“They have to drive the business forward to create a quality product and continually look at ways of developing new products that will not only reach the current market but break into new ones.

“Keith Smith has been this leader of Ferry, HOPE Social Enterprises and the new Octavia View community hub.”