Any other business

Growing Business Awards 2010

11 min read

25 November 2010

That's right folks, tonight's the night of the Growing Business Awards! We'll be live blogging from the event, bringing you all the news on this year's winners, Mark Prisk's speech and Stephen K Amos's jokes.

11.12pm: Put your hands together for the winner, Greenergy. Set up in 1992 by Andrew Owens, this £2.8bn-turnover juggernaut supplies fuel to the largest buyers of fuel in the UK – oil companies, bus and logistics groups.

11.10pm: Phones 4U legend John Caudwell is up to present the final award of the evening. Get ready to hear our 2010 Company of the Year.

11.02pm: “None of the shortlisted entrepreneurs were prepared to accept the status quo,” says RB editor-in-chief and tonight’s host, Matthew Rock. This year’s Entrepreneur of the Year is… Errol Damelin, founder of online money-lending service Wonga.

11pm: And now it’s a biggie, Entrepreneur of the Year…

10.52pm: There’s excitement in the room. Stelios is up on stage! He’s here to announce the winner of the Stelios Award for Disabled Entrepreneurs, supported by Leonard Cheshire Disability. This year, 28 people applied, competing for a £50,000 prize. “My aim is to spread the word about this award and boost nominations,” says Stelios. The 2010 winner is… Vanessa Heywood, who runs Tiny Mites Music, providing music and movement classes for babies, toddlers and pre-school children. “I can’t believe I won!” exclaims Heywood.

10.50pm: “Our future is in this room,” says Paphitis, as he prepares to present the next award, Young Entrepreneur of the Year. “They’re the people who are building businesses, paying taxes and hopefully covering our pensions!” The winner for this category, sponsored by Bird & Bird, is… Mark Pearson. His company, Markco Media, owns a number of successful websites, including UK-based and, American website and German discount site “This isn’t for me, it’s for my team,” says the modest Pearson as he collects his trophy.

10.45pm: Well done to Magmatic for scooping the Young Company of the Year award. Founder Rob Law (sporting a Movember beard) says, “My greatest achievement is the team behind Magmatic. What a journey! I also want to thank my friend down here [points to Theo Paphitis sitting in the audience] for helping us to build the brand in the UK.”

10.40pm: Sipping some champagne and waiting to hear who will win our next award, Young Company of the Year.

10.35pm: The next category, New Product of the Year, has joint winners. The audience oohs and ahs. The gongs go to freemium magazine Stylist and TrueCall, which has designed, patented and built a sophisticated call-blocking gadget.

10.25pm: Presenting the People and Performance Award is Reading FC chairman Sir John Madejski. And the winner is… pie-maker Higgidy. The judges said of this company: “It’s destined to be a major food brand in the future.” [We’ve tasted Higgidy’s pies and can guarantee they’re delicious!]

10.20pm: The fourth award is for Green Business of the Year, presented by Gerry Ford of Caffè Nero. Business Stream, set up in 2006 and already turning over £355m, scoops the prize.

10.15pm: And now we move to the Customer Excellence Award. Simon Calver and Will King, members of the Consumer Forum (which is sponsoring this category), get up to present the award. “Love your customers and they’ll love you back,” King advises the audience. Wise words, Will, wise words. And the winner is… Ecotricity, the world’s first green energy supplier, which now provides green electricity and gas to 40,000 customers. [Love the background music which, fittingly, is She’s Electric by Oasis.]

10.10pm: James Caan is up, to announce the winner for this year’s Technology and Innovation Award. “If there’s one sector that will get the sector back on track, it’s going to be innovation and technology,” says the Dragon. This year’s winner is… Coffee Nation. The firm’s one-touch Express machine has helped it to win service contracts worth in excess of £15m.

10pm: Time for the first award! The Global Outlook and Expansion Award, presented by Toni & Guy’s Toni Mascolo, goes to… the Premier League. Despite testing economic conditions in 2008/09, the Premier League increased international rights sales by more than 80 per cent and launched a new broadcast content service for international rights holders, consolidating its position as the biggest continuous sporting event in the world.

9pm: Comedian Stephen K Amos has the audience in hysterics. Example: “Well done to all of tonight’s growing businesses. I used to grow my own business. It was very lucrative. It was green. I grew it in my house.”

8.45pm: The plates are cleared and coffee is served.

8.30pm: Eating smoked Finnan haddock fish cakes and chatting to Karen Patterson (last year’s Entrepreneur of the Year), corporate financier Jo Haigh and Will King. Simon Calver of LoveFilm pops over to our table to say hello. The lovely David Page, former chief executive of Pizza Express, is sitting next to me and enjoying his champagne, having just sold Gourmet Burger King (GBK) to Nando’s for £40m. Nando’s bought a 27 per cent share of the business two years ago and had been waiting for the share price to drop before swooping in and taking the business over. According to analysts, GBK was a “sitting duck”. So what next for Page? “I’ll be heading to Australia with my sons to enjoy the sunshine and watch the cricket,” he says. “I opened up Rocca di Pappa two years ago in South Kensington. Business is booming so I’ll be opening up another, in Dulwich Village, in January.”

8pm: Now it’s Mark Prisk’s turn up on stage. “We’re here tonight to celebrate success, which may sound ironic to all the cricket fans here,” jokes the business minister. Prisk says he hosted a recent event with entrepreneurs where “I asked them all to jot down the one thing I could do to help them build their businesses. One person wrote, ‘Bugger off and leave us alone’.

“In many ways, that guy’s right. All too often, the government is a hindrance. Part of my role, like John’s, is to remove barriers to growth.” He then wishes the audience “bon appetite!”.

7.55pm: Cridland of the CBI takes to the stage. He says the next few years will be “truly great” for SMEs. “There’s evidence of that here tonight, in terms of the enthusiasm and ambition in this room [cue cheer from the audience]. I see it in the labs, in the offices. Whoever says that entrepreneurial zeal is dead is utterly wrong.

“Tonight is not just about patting people on the back,” he continues. “We want to push the winners on to even brighter things. As the PM said, ‘It will be the do-ers and the grafters, the entrepreneurs and the inventors, that will get this economy moving’.”  

Cridland says his job over the next few years is to “demolish the road-blocks that get in the way of business growth”. Watch this space. 

7.50pm: Guests are taking their seats. Up next: the CBI’s new director general John Cridland.

7.45pm: Theo Paphitis is in the building! We had a quick behind-the-scenes interview with him where he had a rant about the London traffic: “Some people say Boris Johnson is intellectual and highly educated. I have yet to see evidence of either of those things in his handling of the London roads. Get off yer bike and get a grip, Boris!” Paphitis told us he’s working on a new programme called The Next Big Thing, due to hit our screens in March.

The film crew has just arrived. To all of tonight’s winners: we’re going to be interviewing you back stage so have your Oscar speech prepared! It took our camera-man almost four hours to get here from Kent (it should have taken half that time), due to a burst mains pipe on Park Lane.

The tables are set. The goody bags have been stuffed. The champagne is about to be popped. One hour to go before the big night kicks off….

Tonight’s VIPs include Phones 4U legend John Caudwell, Dragons Theo Paphitis and James Caan, Toni & Guy’s Toni Mascolo, Gerry Ford of Caffè Nero, Will “King of Shaves” King and LoveFilm’s Simon Calver. We’ll also be joined by the CBI’s new director-general John Cridland, and Stelios will be up on stage presenting his award for disabled entrepreneurs.

To see who will be vying for this year’s trophies, click here.

Stay tuned for our live blog.

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