The party was in full swing as the best of West Sussex business was celebrated at our annual Business Matters Awards.
Owners, staff and special guests from business across the county packed out the Hilton Hotel, in Eastway, Gatwick, on Friday, July 21.
Nineteen awards were handed out to a host of companies from across the area at our annual event in a glittering ceremony presented by BBC One Show presenter and national news reporter Nick Wallis.
Zuma the Dog was one of the many stars of the evening, picking up both the Overall Business of the Year award as well as the Small Business title.
The children’s lifestyle brand was inspired by Samantha Morgan-Bertish’s pet Jack Russell Terrier Zuma which came into her life nine years ago. Since then he has become the main character in many educational story books, a quirky clothing range and a new television show.
Samantha said: “I am ecstatic. I didn’t think I was going to get one award let alone two.
“I can’t believe it there were so many amazing businesses.”
Samantha first launched the business in 2010 and said the last six years had been very challenging.
“It has been a really long slog. There has been moments when I wanted to give up.
“I want to thank everybody for the support I have had. The Pop-up team in Horsham have been very supportive and I would not be here without them.”
Zuma’s new series is set to be released in the Autumn.
There was also another double award winner.
Lucy Pitts, of Strood Copy, picked up the Start-up Business award as well as the personal accolade of Business Personality of the Year.
The company provides marketing materials including website copy, blogs and speeches to small and medium enterprises.
Lucy said: “I have worked really hard over the last couple of years especially in the face of not having any connections in the industry at all.
“I was genuinely shocked when I won. I looked at all the competition and thought that’s quite tough. I am ecstatic.”
Horsham jeweller Dominic Sakakini was presented with the Lifetime Achievement award.
His store, Sakakini Jewellers, has been serving customers in the town for 13 years.
He said: “I am too young to win this award. I have so much more to do.
“When you win an award like this there is nothing I can say. I am overwhelmed to be honest and would like to thank everybody who is part of our team. I am looking forward to the next 13 years.”
Horsham based Business Pulse picked up the Readers’ Choice award.
The company has been run by Nasser Elaheebocus for more than five years and helps small and medium business grow.
He said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be recognised by the readership. I enjoy what I do and I am very passionate and all the clients I work with are just as passionate as well.”
The Young Achiever award went to Horsham businessman Josh Hough.
Josh set up website development company MAS Design whilst he was at secondary school. By 2011 he had his first employee and in 2012 he launched a second company MAS Networks, which specialises in IT. Both are now within the MAS Technique Group and the Slinfold based business has gone from strength to strength.
MAS also won the Innovation award.
Declan Norton, of MAS, said: “We are absolutely ecstatic, we couldn’t be happier. Everyone that works for the company, whether it is full time or contractors, it is a win for all of us.”
The Linen Shop in Horsham’s Carfax picked up its second award in as many years.
The business won the Retailer of the Year and owner Fran White said she was very pleased that the business was building on last year’s success.
She said: “I am partly shocked but very excited.
“We won the Judges Recognition last year. It is interesting because we are building our image and we can see how we have improved since last year.”
Meanwhile there were also awards for Horsham town centre businesses Trend and Wabi.
Trend, which has been in Horsham for more than 30 years, picked up the Manufacturing and Construction award while Japanese restaurant and cocktail bar Wabi won Best Place to Eat or Drink.
Verity Craig, owner of Wabi, said: “We are just over the moon. There are so many good restaurants and cocktail bars across West Sussex so it is lovely to be the best place to eat and drink.”
Alan Carter, of Trend, said: “It is a win for the whole team.”
Hello Baby Gifts picked up the Customer Service award.
The company has had stalls in both Horsham’s Carfax and Swan Walk shopping Centre and now caters to customers and staff at Virgin Media.
Nikki O’Connor, owner of Hello Baby Gifts, said: “I am absolutely ecstatic really. Customer service is one that means so much really.
“After spending all those long days on Horsham Market and leaving at 5 o’clock not being able to move my feet, knowing everyone has gone home happy makes so much difference.”
Wobblegate in Boleny, which produces apple juice and cider, picked up the Green Award.
Tom Stephens, of Wobblegate, said: “It is fantastic because we do an awful lot of work to make sure we are responsible for our environment because everything we use comes from the environment.”
Burgess Hill insurance brokers Bennett Christmas won the Medium Business award.
The company was formed in 2010 following the merger of two long-standing insurance brokers, Bennett Dawes and Christmas Insurance Brokers.
Roger Christmas said: “It was quite a shock. It is the first time we have entered these kind of awards. We won a national award three years ago but this was different and it is nice to get local recognition.”
Mark Bennett added: “It is lovely for the staff. It is the staff that make it and it is a testament to what they have done in the last six years.”
Susan Fleet, of Lea Graham Associates, in Burgess Hill, won the Outstanding Contribution to the Community award.
As well as running the successful public relations and marketing company she has spent the last 46 years getting involved in community activities and in particular organising, taking part and teaching in singing events.
She said: “Obviously I am absolutely delighted but I can’t accept this just for me. I want to say thank you to everybody.
“Burgess Hill has changed in the last 30 years but it has such a sense of community about it. It is great to feel very involved with something that is on my door step.”
Mewes Vets, in Haywards Heath, picked up the Training and Development award.
Julia Mewes, practice principal and veterinary surgeon, said: “We are over the moon. I feel very strongly that every member of the team should be challenged and supported to undergo and do everything they are trained to do. Without the team we have nothing.”
Haywards Heath based Juno Health Management won the Employee/ Team of the Year award.
Derek and Tracey Evans, who run the independent financial advice service, said they were very happy.
Derek said: “It’s absolutely fabulous. We won Small Business last year and we have won team of the year this year.
“Team of the year is what we wanted to win. We could not deliver the service we deliver for our customers without the team we have got.”
The Hilton Hotel in Gatwick picked up the Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure award.
Carla Rollin, director of business development, said: “For us this is a great achievement and great recognition for the team that work here.”
Haywards Heath car insurance providers 1st Central picked up the Large Business award.
One of the event organisers Claire Carter was delighted with how well the evening had gone.
“Our awards really do show the best of the local business world so many congratulations to all the worthy winners,” she said.