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Guest speaker announced for 2023 Business Awards
14 Mar 2023

With the closing date for entries now just over a month away, the Shropshire Chamber of Commerce has revealed the guest speaker for its 2023 business awards.

Furniture up-cycler Jay Blades MBE, who hosts BBC’s prime-time show The Repair Shop, will be taking to the stage at Telford’s International Centre on June 23.

In addition to his presenting work, Jay spends a large amount of time working on furniture projects for commercial and individual clients, running workshops and motivating disadvantaged people in the community.

Jay, who has a workshop in the Ironbridge Gorge, inspires individuals, companies and charities to transform old furniture into works of contemporary design.

“We’re delighted to have Jay as our speaker this year,” said Chamber chief executive Richard Sheehan. “I know that the inspirational story of his own business journey will really resonate with our audience.”

There is just over a month left to submit entries for the 2023 Shropshire Chamber Business Awards, which look set to be one of the biggest in the event’s 23-year history with around 500 seats already reserved.

The event, which is now in its 23rd year, celebrates the stars of the Shropshire business community across 12 different categories.

The competition is free to enter, and open to all businesses with an operational base in the county of Shropshire or Telford & Wrekin – whether or not they are a Chamber member.

It includes the return of long-running categories including Company of the Year, Best New Business, and Best Small Business.

There are also new-look categories this year for Global Business recognising international trade, Commitment To People, and a return of the Business In The Community award.

Entries are now open at shropshirechamberbusinessawards.com. The closing date for applications is April 14.

Kelly Riedel, Shropshire Chamber’s events manager, said: “There is a real appetite to celebrate success across our business community this year, and the event is on target to be the biggest yet. We know that Shropshire businesses are going to be facing significant challenges over the coming year, so it’s more important than ever to celebrate and recognise our success stories.”

Here is the full list of categories for 2023, and the criteria which will be used by the shortlisting panel to judge the entries:

COMPANY OF THE YEAR: The showpiece award for an all-round star performer, flying the flag for Shropshire business excellence. Judged on a combination of:

  • Financial track record, and pursuit of excellence
  • Creativity, innovation and ambition
  • Leadership and customer service skills
  • Training, people development and wellbeing strategies
  • Commitment to the community, and environment
  • Effective response to economic challenges
  • Awards, testimonials and accolades

BEST NEW BUSINESS: For businesses in any sector, formed since January 1st 2021. Entries will be assessed on:

  • Strength and originality of business vision
  • Strong and sustainable business plan
  • Evidence of progress and clear financial objectives
  • Creative and ambitious marketing and growth plans
  • Originality – what makes you different and better than the rest?

BEST SMALL BUSINESS: For businesses in any sector employing up to 10 full-time equivalent staff, demonstrating a high level of success. Judged on:

  • Innovation, and forward-thinking strategies for growth
  • Gaining and sustaining a competitive advantage
  • Commitment to staff development, and wellbeing
  • Clear and creative marketing and growth plans
  • Accolades, testimonials, and evidence of financial success

COMMITMENT TO PEOPLE: For companies which go the extra mile in looking after the needs of their customers. Judged on:

  • Ways of consistently exceeding customer expectations
  • Measuring customer satisfaction, and acting on feedback
  • Training and development in customer handling and service skills
  • Awards, accolades and customer testimonials
  • Adapting to the current economic challenges 

GLOBAL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR: For companies which are ‘flying the flag’ for Shropshire in overseas markets, through strong international trading links. Judged on:

  • Evidence of cross-border growth and commercial success
  • Strategy for building overseas awareness of a brand
  • A forward-thinking and structured approach
  • Understanding of different cultures and foreign practices
  • Innovative approach to reaching out to new markets

COMMUNITY CHAMPION - BUSINESS IN THE COMMUNITY: For businesses which believe in the philosophy of ‘putting something back’ into the Shropshire community. Judged on:

  • Top-to-bottom ‘buy-in’ from staff at all levels, over and above statutory requirements
  • Examples of projects which have made a real difference to local people’s lives
  • Promoting the value of community work through company vision and values
  • Supporting Shropshire suppliers by ‘buying local’
  • Fostering links with schools, colleges and other community groups

EXCELLENCE IN MANUFACTURING AND ENGINEERING: For companies which ‘make things’ and are continuing our proud industrial heritage. Judged on:

  • Commitment to continuous improvement
  • Innovation and customer satisfaction
  • Investment in new technologies to achieve efficiencies and comply with latest environmental standards
  • Growth plans and evidence of financial success
  • Customer service standards, and client testimonials

WELLBEING IN THE WORKPLACE: For companies which recognise the importance of supporting both the physical and mental wellbeing of staff. Judged on:

  • Evidence that health and wellbeing of employees is embedded in business culture
  • Training to recognise and address ‘hidden’ issues such as mental health and stress
  • Examples of robust wellbeing policies and their impact on the workforce, and wider business
  • Commitment to flexible working and healthy work-life balance
  • Response to challenges of changing economy such as home working

THE TRAILBLAZER – INNOVATION AWARD: For companies who have spotted a gap in the market, and thought outside the box to fill it. Judged on:

  • Your USP: What makes you stand out from the competition?
  • Use of technology to improve engagement
  • Impact of forward-thinking policies on sales and profits
  • Imaginative techniques used to identify and attract customers
  • Testimonials, sustainability and potential for future growth

THE ECO AWARD: For environmentally aware businesses which promote innovative practices, processes or technology. Judged on:

  • Embracing green technology to lower the carbon footprint
  • Promoting or producing eco-friendly products and services
  • Evidence of successful ‘green’ initiatives and programmes
  • Cross-company commitment to ‘make a difference’
  • Substantial and quantifiable improvements in environmental and commercial performance

YOUNG BUSINESS PERSON: Open to anyone aged 30 or below in January 2023, who demonstrates flair, commitment and an entrepreneurial spirit. Judged on:

  • Evidence of a significant influence on the business
  • A commitment to training and personal development
  • Entrepreneurial attitude, reliability and work ethic
  • Strong people skills and maturity beyond their years
  • Testimonials from managers, work colleagues, and/or customers.

The John Clayton Award, named after a previous Shropshire Chamber president, will also be presented to someone who is judged to have made an outstanding contribution to the local business community.

Aico of Oswestry won the coveted Company of the Year award last summer – retaining its title.

Previous Company of the Year winners include McConnel of Ludlow, Grainger & Worrall from Bridgnorth, Grocontinental of Whitchurch, Salop Leisure and Caterpillar from Shrewsbury, Pave Aways from Knockin, CJ Wildbird Foods of Upton Magna, and Telford-based businesses McPhillips, Dodd Group, Smartwater, Lyreco and Reconomy.