SOUTH Cheshire Chamber of Commerce honoured its best in business at a sell-out awards ceremony at Crewe Hall.
The Chamber’s 22nd annual awards paid tribute to local companies whose growth strategies have proved a huge success while focusing on staff welfare, team-building and corporate social responsibility.
Business stars in ten categories stepped into the limelight before an audience of more than 200 VIPs, entrepreneurs and civic dignitaries during an event widely-regarded as one of the best in the region.
It was a memorable night for white goods delivery giant AO Logistics which picked up three awards for its people-led approach to doing business.
The company, which employs more than 600 people in Crewe, won the Contribution to the Community award, sponsored by Cheshire College South & West and supported by Cheshire Connect, for its charity work which has amounted to more than £42,000 in goods and money to local causes over the past two years.
Employer of the Year, sponsored by Assurant, also went to AO for its commitment to ensuring a good work-life balance for employees and there was further success as its Commercial Finance Manager, Adrian Webb, 26, was named Young Leader of the Future, in a category backed by KPI Recruiting.
Dave Ashwell, AO managing director, explained a unique culture led by ‘caring people’ and a recruitment policy based on personality.
“Our core values are caring, smart, driven and bold. Our people are all these and help us achieve our mission to create happy customers,” he said.
There was double joy for family business Right at Home South Cheshire with awards for Excellence in Customer Service, sponsored by 1825 Financial Planning, and Start Up Business of the Year, sponsored by the South Cheshire Development Agency.
In less than two years, the Nantwich-based company has grown to 37 care-givers providing support and companionship services to people in their homes.
It was a special night for another family business also – Crewe-based Chrysalis Rail Services which scooped Ambassador of the Year, sponsored by Crewe Town Council and Reaseheath College.
Chris Steele, a former Crewe Works apprentice, founded the company in 2007 after 37 years in the rail industry and now refurbishes trains for big names in transport including the First Group, Great Western Railway and Northern.
Watts Commercial in Nantwich continued a phenomenal run of success carrying off Business of the Year (25 plus employees) sponsored by Eze Talk.
After three major industry awards for Watts this year, managing director Phil Gray said:
“It’s nice to receive awards in London but we take great pride in this recognition in our local community.”
Business of the Year (under 25 employees), sponsored by Hibberts LLP, went to health and safety specialist Rhino Safety run by husband and wife Simon and Cate Walter who were back on the winner’s podium after winning Start Up Business three years ago.
Young talent was recognised with the Bentley-backed Apprentice of the Year award which went to Megan Jones, 19, a coach at Crewe and Nantwich Gymnastics where she has introduced new classes and marketing initiatives to support the Camm Street-based charity.
There was rapturous applause for one of the most heart-warming business success stories of the evening – Direct Access – winners of International Trader of the Year sponsored by Manchester Metropolitan University.
Based in Nantwich, the company was founded by life-long friends Steven Mifsud and Stephen Dering who are profoundly deaf and over the past 15 years have become global leaders in disability access.
The pair, who met at a boarding school for deaf children, employ a team of disabled people on Regent’s Park.
They have overcome their disabilities to win contracts overseas including a new deal with the Government of Dubai to ensure the city is fully accessible.
“Networking events and phone conversations are difficult for us so we went to Dubai to meet people face to face. We turn the barriers we face into opportunities.”
There were bumper entries in this year’s awards and all 28 finalists pipped at the post received Highly Commended certificates.
Chamber Chairman Shaun Cafferty said:
“The Gods of business tend to reward those who show a willingness to help themselves and adopt a positive proactive approach.
“In South Cheshire we have some great businesses doing great things on the local, national and international stage.
“We have generally good educational attainment, relatively well-balanced living costs and fantastic connections to the rest of the UK and wider world.
“The South Cheshire world of business has advantages over many other areas. We are amazingly placed to seize our day.”