SME Cambridgeshire awards provide glitzy showcase for winners
PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 April 2017 | UPDATED: 10:08 12 April 2017
Backed by the Cambridge Independent, the inaugural awards were a major success
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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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
Winner - Bruno Pereira Photography
Overall Winner -