10th anniversary ceremony at Chester Racecourse sees 36% increase in entries
The brightest and best companies in the county have been honoured at the 10th anniversary Cheshire Business Awards.
A packed Pavilion at Chester Racecourse was witness to a celebration of business in Cheshire at an event sponsored by SAS Daniels LLP, Click Consult and Trinity Mirror, publishers of The Chronicle.
Friday night's glittering ceremony was once again hosted by Granada Reports TV presenter Lucy Meacock who has performed the same role at the event since its inception a decade ago.
The former Chester Chronicle reporter is one of the most high profile supporters of business in the county and she was quick to praise the incredibly strong line-up for the 2013 awards which had seen a staggering 36% increase in nominations.
First on stage, however, was Andy Phelan, business development manager at Trinity Mirror North West and North Wales.
He said: “We are proud to organise and support this fantastic initiative which is now in its 10th year.
“We have seen numerous examples of new businesses being created right across Cheshire.
“This is fantastic news despite what has been another testing year for business in Cheshire.”
In her introductory comments, Lucy Meacock - who celebrates 25 years on Granada Reports next month - said: “This is the 10th year of celebrating all that is best about business in Cheshire. So many successful business people have been seen on this stage and have gone on to so many fantastic futures.”
She added the 36% increase in entries showed the strength of business in the county.
“Everyone on the shortlists should feel very proud of what they have achieved.
“I’m passionate about the North West of England and about Cheshire in particular. I am so pleased to live in such a wonderful part of the world.
“If you were looking for one place to set up a business, I think it would be Cheshire.”
Shortlists had been drawn up for a total of 10 categories which had been sponsored by Cheshire West and Chester Council, Blue Orchid, Trinity Mirror Cheshire, ScottishPower, Cheshire East Council, SAS Daniels LLP, Mersey Forest, Metronet (UK) and Bentley Motors.
But there were also two special presentations to conclude the ceremony, beginning with the Judges’ Choice Award, selected from all the entries received.
This year the winner of the award was the Cotebrook Shire Horse Centre based near Tarporley.
This is a working stud farm that has been breeding prize winning Shires for more than 40 years and is the only working stud farm that is open to the public in the UK with over 22,500 visitors last year.
Their mission is four-fold: To promote and preserve the old English breed of Shire horse; promote native breeds both wild and domestic; promote an environment conducive to encouraging wildlife to thrive and flourish; and to raise public awareness.
The final award of the night was the Click Consult Business Person of the Year which is presented to the individual who has shown outstanding leadership.
The 2013 winner was Chris Naylor of Peckforton Castle who received the award from Claire Davies of Click Consult.
Mr Naylor paid tribute to the other members of his family who helped restore Peckforton Castle following a devastating arson attack on the venue a few years ago.
“This award is for all of us, not just for me,” he said.
Before buying his current business, Mr Naylor was a director of an architect’s practice which refurbished hotels, theatres, bars, restaurants and golf clubs, but he was looking for something new.
The opportunity came along when he discovered that the elderly owner of his wedding venue wanted to sell.
Despite advice to contrary, Mr Naylor saw the potential in the place.
With capital raised from re-mortgaging existing properties, investment from other businesses and a bank loan, the family bought Peckforton Castle and its 11 acre estate in 2006.
Quickly realising the business levels were not as positive an initially expected, a strong and robust business plan was needed to ensure the business survived its first year and would become viable moving forward.
Since then Peckforton Castle has been transformed into an enchanting and exciting venue in the heart of Cheshire with 48 bedrooms, five function rooms, it hosts more than 190 weddings each year, has a Tranquillity Spa and the Cheshire franchise of Land Rover Experience Centre.
In 2010 the family continued to add value to the business by restoring the derelict Bell Tower and West Wing which houses a brassiere, spa, 10 executive bedrooms, and a fully fledged bridal suite.
Their business model is relatively unique, and Mr Naylor has been advising other competitor hotels on their approach.
Their financial strength is underpinned by their core market and base business, the wedding market, allowing them to highlight what will be their peaks and troughs 12 to 18 months in advance and build business to fill the dip dates.
Having significant business on the books years in advance allows them to yield and drive revenue effectively.
In 2011 the family and business were the victims of a terrible arson attack that nearly destroyed the business.
The family could do nothing but watch part of their business at the Grade 1 listed venue go up in smoke.
But thanks to the leadership of Mr Naylor, the business survived and continued to grow.
They are currently running at a very high occupancy level and have successfully applied for planning permission to extend into the one remaining wing of the castle yet to be used.
Alongside this development they plan to sympathetically restore the castles original ‘engine shed’ buildings into an outside activity centre with additional yurt village accommodation within the woodland, allowing them to grow their leisure business and become a true leisure destination.
CHESHIRE BUSINESS AWARDS 2013 WINNERS:
Cheshire West and Chester in association with Blue Orchid Business Start-Up Award: LearnerVerse (also shortlisted: MD Supplies and Edgar House)
Trinity Mirror Cheshire Customer Focus Award: Canal and River Trust, Anderton Boat Lift (also shortlisted: Boxed Red Marketing and Green Bough Hotel)
ScottishPower Business of the Year (up to 10 employees): Cube Surveys Ltd (also shortlisted: Warble Entertainment and Cotebrook Shire Horse Centre)
Cheshire East Council Corporate Social Responsibility Award: Daulby Read Insurance Brokers Ltd (also shortlisted: Rotunda Living CIC and Anthony’s Travel)
Inspiring Apprenticeships Cheshire & Warrington Award: Unipart Rail Ltd (also shortlisted: McCann Manchester Ltd and Stein IAS)
SAS Daniels LLP Business of the Year (11 to 50 employees): Global Adventure Challenges Ltd (also shortlisted: MPM Products and Textlocal)
Trinity Mirror Cheshire Employer of the Year: GHA Livigunn Limited (also shortlisted: International Travel Connections and Halton Housing Group)
Mersey Forest Green Business Award: 20:20 Mobile Group Ltd (also shortlisted: Rotunda Living CIC and Muir Group Housing Association)
Metronet (UK) Business of the Year (over 50 employees): UK Container Maintenance (also shortlisted: Peckforton Castle and LiveWire (Warrington Neighbourhood and Wellbeing Community Interest Group)
Bentley Motors Young Business Person of the Year: Terry Hearfield, Aspect Construction Contracts (also shortlisted: Libby Entwisle, Entyce Creative and Liz Shaw, KPI Recruiting Ltd)
Judges Choice Award: Cotebrook Shire Horse Centre
Click Consult Business Person of the Year: Chris Naylor, Peckforton Castle