IT was a night of celebration as triumphant firms and entrepreneurs across the Portsmouth area clinched prestigious awards thanks to their hard work and success.
The Business Excellence Awards, organised by The News, recognises those who stand head and shoulders above the rest through their work.
And the latest get-together of the finest business-focused men and women around at Portsmouth Guildhall last night proved once again to be memorable.
There were 13 hard-fought categories at the annual awards.
And lucky enough to bag three accolades was Chris Phillips, on behalf of his firm Just Develop It, which has a portfolio of commercial properties across the area.
Mr Phillips celebrated winning best business personality, employer and overall business of the year.
The judges said the ‘dynamism’ of the business ‘sang off the entry forms’ and has gone from strength to strength.
Mr Phillips, 29, said: ‘Genuinely it was a surprise.
‘I hadn’t planned to come along until four hours before the awards.
‘Hopefully on the back of this we will be able to bring in more employees and add to our talent.
‘It’s very nice we have been able to do so well – we have always been very private in what we did until six months ago when we took on a HR representative.
‘I am normally a very private person.’
It was a special occasion for former Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Cheryl Buggy, who picked up the lifetime achievement award in recognition for her vast catalogue of work for the city.
Not only has Ms Buggy championed the economic growth of the area, she is a founding member of Express FM, a former broadcaster and producer and Gosport town councillor.
Speaking of her huge win, Ms Buggy – described at the awards as an ‘all round wonder woman’ – said: ‘It’s an absolute surprise, I am extremely grateful.
‘I do things because I believe in everything I do, but it’s extremely nice to get recognition.
‘I feel really honoured, because I know there are lots of people in this city who do amazing things.
‘It motivates me to want to do more.
‘A lifetime achievement seems like a full stop, but in a way when you get recognition and people celebrate what you have done, it makes you want to do more.’
Opening the evening, editor of The News, Mark Waldron, praised the ‘unbeatable spirit’ of companies and the city’s success as it prepares to host the hotly-anticipated America’s Cup World Series this summer.
But he said the ‘stars of the night’ were those present who had made a difference.
And he praised firms for overcoming challenges and pulling through the recession.
Tasked with the difficult challenge of determining who the awards went to were; Mr Waldron, Natalie Culver, of BAE Systems; Maureen Frost, of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce and Sue Bell, of Verisona Law.
Praise was also reserved for those who gave their time helping to judge individual categories.
Sir Keith Mills, who helped to ensure the 2012 Olympics came to London, challenged businesses to get involved in the America’s Cup World Series event this summer – whether as a sponsor or contributing towards the running of activities on Southsea Common. And he praised the awards and said they were a great opportunity for companies to attract new employees and get their name out there.
‘These sort of occasions are fantastic for companies,’ he said. ‘They are fantastic for the people who work for these businesses.
‘It’s a great way of reaching people and a good way of promoting your business.’
The fun spilled over on to social media as well, with businesses shortlisted in the categories tweeting from the ceremony using the #newsbizawards hashtag and taking selfies.
The News Business Excellence Awards
Winner: Treat your Skin
Highly-commended: Precision Creative & Media
Winner: Lucketts Travel Group
Highly-Commended: Just Develop It
Special recognition: Douglas Stafford
Winner: Seagrass Communications Ltd
Highly-commended: Perfect Skin Solutions
Highly-commended: Shepherd Hospital Equipment Ltd & Solent Mobility
Apprentice of the Year
Winner: Emily Bell, Coffin Mew
Highly-commended: Alice Appleford, Portsmouth Hospitals NHS
Special recognition: Josh Young, Absolute Calibration
Special recognition: Amy Chuter, Lant Taverns
Winner: Mercator Media Ltd
Highly-commended: Mercator Cargo Systems
Team of the year
Winner: Mercator Cargo Systems
Highly-commended: Coffin Mew
Special recognition: Novatech
Community contribution of the year
Special recognition: Churchers Bolitho Way
Innovation of the year
Winner: Silver Lining Convergence
Highly-commended: Barnbrook Systems Ltd
Retailer of the year
Winner: Creatiques Bridal Boutique
Highly-commended: Anne Gill Eyecare
Winner: Chris Phillips, Just Develop It
Highly-commended: Ben Sargeant, Douglas Stafford
Employer of the year
Winner: Just Develop It
Hospitality, leisure & tourism
Winner: Mary Rose Trust
Winner: Cheryl Buggy
Winner: Just Develop It