Leading South East businesses celebrate best and brightest

The leading lights of the area’s business world gathered to celebrate their achievements and successes at this newspaper’s Business Matters Awards last Friday.

Covering Horsham, Crawley, Mid Sussex and parts of East Sussex, the annual awards were hosted by television newsreader and presenter Fred Dinenage at Gatwick’s Copthorne Hotel Effingham.

The business event has run successfully in Horsham district for many years, but was expanded this year to cover other parts of the South East.

Nominations were sent in by readers, then judged by James Stoner, managing director of JSPC Computer Services, Daniel Grainge, a partner at chartered accountants’ Spofforths, and Gary Shipton, Editor In Chief of the host newspapers - the West Sussex County Times, the Crawley Observer, the Mid Sussex Times, and the Sussex Express.

Polegate’s Drusillas Park, a superb tourist attraction was named Overall Business of the Year, while Newhaven Enterprise Centre took Small Business, Crickmay Chartered Surveyors Medium Business, and Gatwick’s International Logistics Group won the Large Business Award.

Drusillas’ Laurence Smith said the award was a particularly good one to win, while his wife Christine added that their customers had recognised the service they provided as an attraction.

ILG chief executive officer Grant Ashley said: “It’s very very important for our team to get recognition, for them for what they do for the company, and what we do for our clients.”

Praised by judges for offering practical help and support for businesses, Newhaven Enterprise Centre’s Claire Duc, said: “This is recognition for the team and all the people associated with us.”

Repeat winners included Tory’s Cafe in the Park, run by Tory Smith in Haywards Heath’s Victoria Park, taking the Start Up and Young Business Person Award; and Stay Safe Driving School, which collected the Employee/Team of the Year as well as winning the Readers’ Award.

Steve Lintott, founder of the driving school and a Southwater resident, said: “Two awards is unbelievable. It shows the public support we have got and we are starting to make a difference.

“The parents understand we are not just a driving school, we are about safer driving.”

The group said they were speechless, hugged and kissed each other, danced in celebration and even shed a tear or two.

Miss Smith, 23, added: “It’s really an amazing surprise. I didn’t expect to be nominated in the first place, never mind win. It’s a special achievement, but one I could not have reached without support from Heidi and my family.”

The most nominated category was Customer Service, won by Ifield’s White Dresses and Tiaras.

Claire Miller said: “The team are everything and I could not do it without them. It’s about the environment we provide and the relaxed service. We do not push people, it’s about personal service.”

Joanne Chandler, founder of Pulborough business Classroom Capers, which won the Education and Training Award, said that her business success proved that you did not always need a bright spark of an idea, just the will to succeed.

All winners will be automatically entered into the Southern Business Awards held in Brighton in September.

Tom Stephens, of Bolney’s Wobblegate Juice and Cider, took the Editor’s Special Award.

Asked how the award would affect his business, Mr Stephens, 28, said: “It will help massively, not just from the people in the room, but the further coverage we will get.

“There were all sorts of businesses there and the award gives us gravitas and a confidence boost, which will help no end I’m sure.”

Wobblegate, based in Old Mill Fruit Farm in Bolney’s Cowfold Road, started trading in September 2009, serving West Sussex, and plans to move into Surrey and London in 2013.

Mr Shipton congratulated all the winners and highly commended businesses as well as thanking the event’s sponsors.

“There was a very large number of entries so even to be highly commended was a huge achievement,” he said.

He also thanked his colleagues on Etc magazine for their support as well as JP South Events which organised the awards on behalf of the newspapers.

Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure (sponsored by Brighton Racing & Events and Fontwell Park Racing & Events):

Highly Commended, Drusillas Park.

Winner, Holiday Inn Gatwick Worth.

Young Business Person (sponsored by Media Word Waves):

Winner, Tory’s Cafe in the Park.

Going Green (sponsored by Holiday Inn Gatwick Worth):

Winner, Sussex Green Living.

Retailer (sponsored by Bowalker Windows):

Highly Commended, Wakefield Jewellers.

Winner, Crystal Brides.

Innovation (sponsored by Mayo Wynne Baxter):

Highly Commended, The Easy Lunch Company.

Winner, Permanent Makeup Training Academy.

Start Up (sponsored by Newhaven Enterprise Centre):

Winner, Tory’s Cafe in the Park.

Small Business (sponsored by JSPC Computer Services):

Highly Commended, Creative Pod and The Easy Lunch Company.

Winner, Newhaven Enterprise Centre.

Medium Business (sponsored by Richard Place Dobson):

Highly Commended, PMW Communications.

Winner, Crickmay Chartered Surveyors.

Large Business (sponsored by Spofforths Chartered Accountants):

Highly Commended, First Central Insurance Management.

Winner, International Logistics Group.

Manufacturing and Construction (sponsored by West Sussex County Times):

Winner, ERG (Air Pollution Control).

Education and Training (sponsored by RMJ Promotions):

Highly Commended, Education and Training, Smart Monkey Marketing.

Winner, Classroom Capers.

Employer of the Year (sponsored by Mid Sussex Times):

Highly Commended, Over the Rainbow Playschool.

Winner, First Central Management.

Employee/Team of the Year (sponsored by Sussex Express):

Winner, Stay Safe Driving School.

Business Personality (sponsored by Crawley and Horley Observer):

Winner, Dean Orgill of Mayo Wynn Baxter.

Place to Eat (sponsored by Wabi Restaurant):

Highly Commended, Zari Restaurant.

Winner, Restaurant Tristan.

Customer Service (sponsored by Frankie & Benny’s):

Highly Commended, The Martins Family Funeral Directors

Winner, White Dresses and Tiaras.

Overall Business (sponsored by Checkaprofessional):

Winner, Drusillas Park.

Reader’s Award:

Winner, Stay Safe Driving School.

Editor’s Special Award:

Tom Stephens of Wobblegate Juice and Cider.