The News Business Excellence Awards reached their 20th year, and as the country eases its way out of the pandemic, the can-do attitude of those gathered in Portsmouth Guildhall last night showed why the city has plenty to be hopeful about.
Leading the way was overall business of the year Pro Pods.
This company is finessing a new way of living, creating ‘boutique’ style houses for young professionals - house sharing, but a world away from the stereotypes.
Pro Pods picked up not just the overall title but the Entrepreneur of the Year gong for boss Daryn Brewer.
‘I’m absolutely ecstatic, a lot of hard work and a lot of investment, a lot of long hours but it’s all paid off.
It just shows that if you have a dream you can create it,’ he said.
Other highlights included Carrington West winning both the Training Programme of the Year and Large Business of the Year award.
Co-founder, 38-year-old Simon Gardiner, said: ‘It’s a real honour, unbelievable. We’ve been on a real journey with these awards. In 2013 we won start-up of the year, then small, then medium and it’s just nice to reach the last hurdle.’
And some of the variety of Portsmouth business was seen in the triumph of Package Free Larder, the joint winner of the Sustainable Business of the Year award alongside Wightlink.
Connie Fenner, who co-owns The Package Free Larder with Len Wuscher, said: ‘We’re so proud of all our volunteers and customers, and this just shows that the people of Portsmouth are committed to making the city more green.’
Employer of the Year Award went to the Coastal Kitchen Family, and Lucy Branson said: ‘It was amazing, unexpected. The competition was amazing, we’re just a family run company that respects our employees so we’re thrilled.
‘The hospitality industry has been through a really hard time because of the pandemic, we just feel like we’ve done everything we can to try and support our staff through it.’
Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said: ‘It’s fantastic to be back at Portsmouth Business Awards and celebrate some of the outstanding achievements that local businesses, apprentices and entrepreneurs have made over the last year.
‘Small businesses are the lifeblood of our city, but it’s also encouraging to see how long-term industry partners of our city are helping to develop the next generation of talent, as Portsmouth begins its economic recovery from the pandemic.’
Editor of The News Mark Waldron said: ‘Each year we celebrate local business success whatever the challenges – and this year’s awards are extra-special after all that we’ve been through.
‘So many businesses have been affected by Covid and the business world has seen a huge change as many people continue to work from home.
‘For some the pandemic has meant pivoting and showing enterprise after government restrictions affected their ability to trade. How they have coped and adapted has been inspirational.
‘Now restrictions have been lifted and society returns to a new normality, it is a good moment to reflect on and celebrate how much has been achieved even in the face of adversity.’
And as guest speaker, Paralympian Lauren Steadman said: ‘You can achieve what you want to but it will be on your timeline. You are in control of it.’