Awards celebrate the best in business

Business Person of the Year at the 2014 Larne Business Awards, Steven Wier. INLT 39-177-GR
Business Person of the Year at the 2014 Larne Business Awards, Steven Wier. INLT 39-177-GR

The Larne Times, in conjunction with Larne Borough Council celebrated the best in business in the borough at the Ballygally Castle Hotel recently.

The 2014 Larne Business Awards ceremony was a gala occasion in the newly refurbished Coast Road hotel, where Dr Howard Hastings, OBE, NITB chairman and managing director of Hastings Hotels, was the guest speaker.

On the night, Dr Hastings commended all the companies and individuals shortlisted for awards. UTV’s business correspondent Jamie Delargy announced the winners. Here is a synopsis of the winners.

Best Community Engagement:

Acceptable Enterprises (Larne) was set up in 1999 as Northern Ireland’s first social firm providing disadvantaged people with support of access to further training and employment opportunities which in turn allows them to play a fuller part in the community. AEL offers a range of services to the public and private sector, including sub contract, repair and recycling work and lately has opened the Lunchbox café at the Centre Point building. As an economic social enterprise, AEL is responsible for more than 95 per cent of its own income generation through work-based activities.

Excellence in Tourism:

Carnfunnock Country Park has more than 191 hectares of mixed woodland, colourful gardens, walking trails and coastline, which are maintained to a high standard by Larne Borough Council. The park retains many of the original features of the estate, formerly owned by Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon.

Alongside the natural beauty of the park, there are attractions for all the family from within the borough and further afield and it attracts more than 200,000 visitors each year.

Readers’ Favourite Restaurant/Cafe:

The Little Cafe, offers a unique homely atmosphere with a contemporary feel serving freshly baked and prepared food. Warren and Sarah Rea’s specialities include chicken and mango salad served with a chilli lime dressing, Freshly made pancake stack with bananas and maple syrup, a nice warm latte with a slice of fresh homemade banana cake, and freshly baked scones with Coffee and Drinks.

The Little Cafe is great for groups or parties and walk-ins are warmly welcomed.

Excellence in People Development:

Kilwaughter Chemical Company’s learning and development strategy puts importance on producing a flexible and adaptable workforce underpinned by a re-emphasis on sound technical and specialist skills.

Benefits to the business have been fewer errors, less equipment downtime, higher workplace morale through more effective management practice, maximized productivity of new employees and a reduction in absenteeism.

Best Customer Service:

Based in a charming three storey Victorian House in Larne, Haze @ No 10 is a L’Oreal Approved hair salon offering a range of hair styling services to customers.

They provide quality hair products giving you that lasting impression whatever the occasion.

Haze @ No 10 is so much more than just a hair salon. It’s a luxury experience where you can also learn better hair care treatments from their professional hair stylists.

Best Environmental Business:

ACJ Trading Ltd is a family-run engineering company that sources, installs and services wind turbines and which strives to maximize the environmental benefits of wind energy through a life cycle approach to sourcing and refurbishing recycled turbines and pro-actively ensuring a reduction in the company’s carbon footprint.

Excellence in Marketing Award:

Larne’s Discount Day in November 2013 was spearheaded by Larne Traders Forum and linked to the overall Main Street Central campaign. It successfully attracted participation in a large number of businesses and provided a new opportunity for increased footfall and sales. With 58 per cent of businesses reporting the initiative was good for trade and 97 per cent interested in participating again, the concept is being repeated this November with plans to build on the success of the first Discount Day.

Best Digital Initiative and Use of Social Media-Caroline Smyth Photography:

Since setting up her photography business in January 2013, Caroline Smyth recognised that many of her potential customers would be young mums who used Facebook and so she set about building up her customer base through social media. For example, by tagging customers in photos she was able to reach out to their friends to further build her audience and potential trade.

Excellence in Innovation:

Raptor Photonics Ltd is a leading developer and supplier of next generation, high performance camera solutions for the scientific, surveillance and industrial markets. As well as its portfolio of commercial of-the-shelf products, Raptor provides custom solutions to instrumentation companies throughout the world. Established in 2006 as a four-person business start-up, Raptor moved to Willowbank in 2008 and this year doubled the size of its premises in order to cater for the growth in business, which now employs 16 people.

Best Export Business:

Market research is at the heart of Raptor Photonics export strategy. In the past two years Raptor has increased its sales by nearly 50 per cent, achieving more than £6m sales in 2013 and with 2014 promising to exceed that again, It is now truly a global player providing solutions to multinational organisations, small and medium corporate clients and the scientific research community worldwide. It now has customers in 37 countries.

Best Retailer:

Inver Garden Centre: The expertise of staff at Inver Garden Centre is evident to anyone who visits its base at Millbrook. The focus on plants and gardening products, along with helpful and expert advice, makes it a firm favourite for gardeners from Larne and much further afield. A gardening club, a customers’ newsletter, website, workshops and informative talks are all ways in which Inver Garden Centre inspires, informs and encourages its customers throughout the year.

Young Business Person of the Year:

Rachael Garrett: As general manager of Emergency Fire and Safety, Rachael Garrett combines her responsibility of managing the business with her role of rescue technician and trainer. She has helped the business expand the variety of accredited courses it offers and to secure business with some of Northern Ireland’s top companies such as NIE, AES, Calor Gas and Harland and Wolff. Rachael shows great determination in her own personal development which, in turn, continues to have a positive impact on the company through her innovation and adaptability.

Business Person of the Year:

Computer Science graduate Stephen Weir has combined his IT experience with determination and commitment to grow Stealth Translations into the global success it is today. Maintaining a growth of around 20 per cent year on year, the business now is soon to move into new premises to advance new opportunities and grow employment levels.