Celebrate the best in business

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AFTER two difficult years, the Times Business Awards returned last week, where more than 200 guests representing more than 100 companies came to celebrate their success.

The event at Salomons Estate on Thursday March 24 was hosted by none other than daytime and breakfast TV legend Eamonn Holmes.

Eamonn told the audience his story of getting into broadcast journalism from a family that had never known such a career.

After finishing his journalism training, his mum told him, ‘You’re going to get a job, a real job’, and he did – at Primark’s women’s lingerie department in Belfast.

Being threatened with refunds that could be worth as little as 60p restored his ambition to complete his training and get a new job, even though he had to work in a pub five days a week to provide an income for the family.

“My mother, I love and bless her, but… no ambition. You guys-“

Eamonn told the audience, “You have to be something more. If you have an ambition, if you have a dream, tell someone.

“Let people know what you want, and you’ll be surprised at the opportunities that come your way.

“It’s hard to get in. It’s hard to settle down. It’s hard to make a living,” he told the audience.

“If you’re here tonight, I applaud you.”

Guests also heard from Ian Alsop, Managing Director of Lexus Tunbridge Wells, lead sponsor of the event, before Eamonn was joined on stage by Chief Justice Jo James OBE, Managing Director of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce , before the couple announced the good news to ten companies.

If at first you don’t succeed…

After two and a half years since the last Times Business Awards and the petty affair of a global pandemic, you’d think we’re starting over with a clean slate, but time and again the winners have shown they have long memories – for both their past successes and their past near failures.

Neill Thomas, of lawyer Thomas Mansfield, winner of the Best Business 25+ Employees award, said: “It’s amazing. We are very satisfied. I am really shocked. We were pretty sure we weren’t going to win it because we won one in 2019.”

Oliver Corkery of Corker Outdoor, the Young Businessman of the Year, was delighted to settle accounts with the past, telling The Times: “We came to the awards in 2019, and it’s nice to come back and win. Something.”

Meanwhile, a number of 2019 sponsors have returned to make the category awards possible.

Childrensalon remained staunch sponsors of the Family Business of the Year category, while Thomas Snell & Passmore moved from sponsoring Startup Business of the Year in 2019 to Outstanding Business of the Year in 2022.

Handelsbanken named the Resilient Business category – new for 2022, to recognize imagination and courage in response to pandemic conditions – after supporting the Service Excellence Award in 2019.

Yet there are always new faces, as the Start Up Business of the Year category proves. Demonstrating the cycle of economic renewal in the region, there were nearly 30 entries from businesses that were less than two years old when entries closed, coinciding almost exactly with the period of pandemic restrictions.

And eventual winner Jess Gibson of the TN chart told The Times she was shocked to have beaten others in her category.

“I can’t believe we won this!” There were so many deserving recipients in this category. The TN card supports our local businesses, but the other three finalists have opened up during the pandemic,” she said.

Other finalists in this category were Lumiere, Manic Ceramix and TAW Hairdressing.

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