SME Cambridgeshire awards provide glitzy showcase for winners

PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 April 2017 | UPDATED: 10:08 12 April 2017

SME Awards Marriot Hotel Huntingdon. Winners

SME Awards Marriot Hotel Huntingdon. Winners

ILIFFE

Backed by the Cambridge Independent, the inaugural awards were a major success

SME Awards Marriot Hotel Huntingdon. Cambridge Independent Business Person of the Year Winner - Lucy Argent, Salon at Number 5SME Awards Marriot Hotel Huntingdon. Cambridge Independent Business Person of the Year Winner - Lucy Argent, Salon at Number 5

Ed Williams was a double winner at the SME Cambridgeshire Business Awards – and then admitted that his successful swimming school business was the result of a “happy accident”.

The winners of 21 categories at the inaugural awards, backed by the Cambridge Independent, were revealed at a glitzy gala dinner last Wednesday at the Marriott Hotel in Huntingdon.

The awards were open to all sole traders or small and medium enterprises in the region with fewer than 250 employees who began before January 2015, and to new businesses which started after that date.

SME Awards Marriot Hotel Huntingdon. My Mustard Entrepreneur of the Year Winner - Edward Williams, Elite Swimming Academy LtdSME Awards Marriot Hotel Huntingdon. My Mustard Entrepreneur of the Year Winner - Edward Williams, Elite Swimming Academy Ltd

The overall winner was Photocentric, the Peterborough-based manufacturer of liquid photopolymer resin for printing.

The Cambridge Independent Business Person of the Year was Lucy Argent, of Salon at Number 5, the eyelash extension bar in Milton Road, Cambridge, while Tilly Dalton, of Savernake Capital, was named Apprentice of the Year.

The Stanair Enterprising Business of the Year award went to British Essentials, the St Ives-based online food shop specialising in helping expats get their home comforts. Founder Merik Chadda 
was also Young Business Person of the Year.

SME Awards Marriot Hotel Huntingdon. Young Business Person of the Year Winner - Merik Chadda, British Essentials LtdSME Awards Marriot Hotel Huntingdon. Young Business Person of the Year Winner - Merik Chadda, British Essentials Ltd

Another double winner was Ed Williams for his Elite Swimming Academy. Mr Williams, a marathon swimmer and motivational speaker based in Cambridge, won the My Mustard Entrepreneur of the Year title and his company was joint winner of the Slater & Gordon Community Business of the Year with Conscious Communications.

Mr Williams started his business after swimming the English Channel at the age of 19 in 2006, raising £70,000 for Prostate Cancer Research. This was the launchpad for a life dedicated to swimming.

He has swum several other iconic long-distance events – including Lake Windermere, the Gibraltar Strait and, most recently, the Irish Channel – and Elite Swimming Academy has gone from strength to strength in the meantime. Mr Williams said: “I started teaching swimming for a bit of pocket money. But I soon discovered a niche in the market for quality swimming lessons, private tuition and five-star facilities, and it just snowballed from that to what it is today, which is one of the largest independent swimming schools in Britain. Swimming across the Channel was an ambition of mine – it was something I’d always wanted to do.

SME Awards Marriot Hotel Huntingdon. Runners-upSME Awards Marriot Hotel Huntingdon. Runners-up

“If you want to be an inspiring teacher, it doesn’t hurt to do inspiring things. That way, you can prove you’ve done it. All our coaches have done something quite special. I’ve since done other swims all over the world.

“I guess the business kind of developed by a happy accident. It was a bit of pocket money with a few private customers when I was 19. It’s just expanded since. I’ve never had another job.

“When I swam the Channel I was at university and got so far behind on my work because I was swimming all the time, so after doing the Channel I just dropped out and became a swimming teacher at local leisure centre. A few months later I decided to set up on my own.

SME Awards Marriot Hotel Huntingdon. Overall Winner - Photocentric LtdSME Awards Marriot Hotel Huntingdon. Overall Winner - Photocentric Ltd

“It has grown very much by word of mouth as the high level of service means people tend to tell all their friends about us. The profits have increased substantially year on year. We used to double every year and we’re not far off that now. It is only the beginning as far as we’re concerned. We want to take it national and make it the biggest independent swim school brand, not just in the UK but the world.

“I noticed there was a clear need for high-end private tuition with high-end customer service. I set up with a handful of private customers, many of whom are still with us to this day.

“The company has grown from doing just one or two lessons per week to teaching an average of 1,000 children and adults every week, from complete beginners through to fitness swimmers, triathletes and even members of the British team.

“Small classes combined with innovative teaching techniques and the highest-quality teachers and coaches is why we get such fast results in our students.

“As well as fast-tracking our students’ progression, we like to donate large sums to water-based charities, most recently Wateraid. We’ve donated over £100,000 to charities through sponsored swims including the English Channel, the Irish Channel and the Gibraltar Strait. Giving back to local charities has always been a fundamental principle with our growth from the beginning, and these extreme swims inspire our students to achieve great things.”

Paul Brackley, editor of the Cambridge Independent, said: “SMEs play a hugely important role in driving the economy and we were delighted to support these successful awards. The standard and breadth of entries was striking and the winners’ list is full of excellent businesses and business people. I would like to congratulate all those who won or were nominated.”

Damian Cummins, from the organisers of the SME Cambridgeshire Business Awards, said: “There is clearly an abundance of talent across Cambridgeshire and it is only right and fitting that we celebrate these wonderful achievements.

“With all the doom and gloom around, it is these local entrepreneurs who really are keeping the economy going, and whilst the big multi-national conglomerates dither on whether to stay or go, the winners here this evening will still be strutting their stuff in the years to come.”

* Don’t miss our three-page coverage in the Cambridge Independent on April 12

Here’s the full list of winners:

Apprentice of the Year

Winner - Tilly Dalton, Savernake Capital

Anglia Ruskin University Business Innovation Award

Winner - Photocentric Ltd

Aston Shaw Accountants Best New Business

Winner - Clip n Climb Cambridge

CWL Systems Business of the Year Greater than 50

Winner - Arcus Global

Cambridge Independent Business Person of the Year

Winner - Lucy Argent, Salon at Number 5

Regus Cambridge Business of the Year

Winner - Sports for Schools

Slater and Gordon Community Business of the Year

Winner - Conscious Communications

Winner - Elite Swimming Academy Ltd

Stanair Employee of the Year

Winner - Bayfield Training – Jacob Noble

Stanair Enterprising Business of the Year

Winner - British Essentials Ltd

My Mustard Entrepreneur of the Year

Winner - Edward Williams, Elite Swimming Academy Ltd

Syngenta Excellence in Research and Development

Winner - Photocentric Ltd

Travel 4 Cambridge Green Award

Winner - Enval Ltd

Cambridge Judge Business School High Growth Award

Winner - Arcus Global

My Mustard Networking Group of the Year

Winner - Pecha Kucha Cambridge

JPA Furniture Service Excellence

Winner - Cambridge Nutraceuticals Ltd

Lloyds Bank Tourism and Leisure

Winner - Quy Mill Hotel

THALES Training and Development

Winner - Metalcraft

Young Business Person of the Year

Winner - Merik Chadda, British Essentials Ltd

Business of the Year less than 50

Winner - Kamarin Computers Ltd

Customer Service

Winner - Bruno Pereira Photography

Overall Winner -

Photocentric Ltd

comments powered by Disqus

More news stories

Live Traffic Map

Most read stories

Image alt text goes here

Find the perfect role for you – or advertise a vacancy

Find out more

Image alt text goes here

Search for your next home – and read our sparkling content

Find out more

Image alt text goes here

Share your news, pictures and videos with us

Find out more