Apprenticeships, Training and Skills Award
Founded in 1885, Clearly drinks is a soft drinks manufacturer with a firm commitment to investing in its employees. The business runs the World Class Operator programme, designed to nurture the next generation of manufacturing talent, and help them begin their careers. Developed in partnership with Derwentside College, the programme provides internal training to staff, as well as paid job experience for apprentices - with both getting the chance to acquire level 2 and 3 NVQ qualifications. After completing the programme, candidates are given the chance to come aboard at Clearly Drinks - at which point they can begin a two-year course designed to help them reach the next level. Clearly Drinks currently has 15 employees enrolled on this programme - helping them carve out their careers and strengthen the business.
Unipres UK Ltd
Based in Sunderland, Unipres UK Ltd is a supplier of steel pressings and sub assemblies to the automotive industry. With more than 1000 employees and 30 years of experience, Unipress knows how important it is that a workforce is continuously given the opportunity to improve and grow. In 2017, the business opened its training academy, to become an approved provider of apprenticeship training. Unipress offers apprenticeships in different subjects - from engineering to business administration - giving learners a permanent post and dedicated mentoring to ensure they get the most from their experience. In the last year, the business recruited 12 maintenance apprentices - and has also been involved with the government Kickstart initiative over the last few years, taking on 67 learners through this programme.
High Growth and Ambition Award
Advanced Renewable Power (AR Power) is a business that proves the design and installation of bespoke Solar PV and battery storage systems. Founded a decade ago, the team behind the business have worked tirelessly to overcome a turbulent start - and in the last two years AR Power has seen impressive growth. Over the past twelve months, the company has achieved a growth in turnover of 94% - as well as an increase in staff from eight to 27, and a move from a 646 sq ft premises to one that is 6000 sq ft. AR Power’s dedication and tenacity has seen it win a variety of important tenders - and it is currently designing solar systems for 47 sites across the North East.
Premier Roof Systems Ltd
Premier Roof Systems Ltd is a business that offers high quality fenestration products - windows, conservatory roofs, home extensions, rooflights, doors and more. Since its founding in 2011, Premier has always been an ambitious business - and its goal of growing persisted even during the pandemic. Despite a difficult period for business, Premier was able to thrive during this time - acquiring Classic Windows NE Ltd, increasing turnover to £4m, launching new products and taking on new employees to grow its team to 25. Premier’s determination and success has seen it win Company of the Year at the Durham, Sunderland and South Tyneside heat of the North East Business Awards, as well as Best Conservatory Roof Fabricator at the 2021 National Fenestration Awards.
Superior Recruitment Group Ltd
Launched in 2019, Superior Recruitment Group Ltd is a company that strives to provide professional and trustworthy recruitment services to clients - tailor-made to fit their needs and achieve the best outcome for employers and employees alike. In spite of the pandemic, Superior has managed to achieve impressive results over the last three years - raising revenue from £740k in 2019 to £8.6m in 2022, and launching offices in Tampa and Houston to stand alongside its UK offices. The business has also created new jobs during this period going from three staff in the uk to 10, and taking on two new hires in the U.S. Superior’s ambition and quality services have won it clients in 16 different countries - and plans to keep growing in the years to come.
Innovation and Technology Award
Design X-Press Ltd
Design X-Press Ltd provides a range of large format print solutions to the trade, design and print management industries. Established in 1995, the business has always operated in the spirit of innovation - working in recent years to drastically improve its ability and efficiency. Pre-covid, the business made significant investments in new equipment - a process interrupted by the pandemic. Nonetheless, Design X-Press was able to adapt - investing yet again in new equipment, and meeting needs created by covid19 - such as the creation of floor stickers to aid with social distancing. Design X-Press’ commitment to quality and innovation has served it well - with the business winning contracts with brands including Sony, Pfizer, L’Oreal and HMRC over the years.
Evidence Based Education
Evidence Based Education is an organisation dedicated to improving learning outcomes by helping teachers themselves learn and develop. In 2021, the business began developing the Great Teaching Toolkit (GTT) - a web app that allows teachers and schools to access high-quality professional development services. The app uses concrete, research-based findings to outline a model for good teaching - before providing teachers with the detailed feedback they need to meet this model. The GTT offers a development pathway that lets teachers and schools track their coaching, as well as a variety of courses. In doing so, it provides a comprehensive and cutting-edge way for teachers to learn. Evidence Based Education’s work saw it receive the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2019, in the innovation category.
Lingotot is a children’s learning franchise - committed to helping children ages 0-12 across the UK learn languages in a way that truly benefits them. Working across eight different languages - including English, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic and Welsh, Lingotot teaches more than 20,000 children each week. Innovation was key for Lingotot during the pandemic - with the development of its online platform was key to this allowing schools and parents to access lessons remotely. The platform used video streaming to deliver lessons - utilising green screen technology to ensure that they were engaging for young learners, and an online learning hub to make learning interactive. Lingotot also adapted lessons for different environments - allowing lessons held at home to be as fruitful as those in schools and nurseries.
Heart of the Community Award
Coach Campbell is a support service that specialises in veterans mental health, cancer support, disabled children's families support and help for NHS and care workers struggling with mental health. The business was set up by Robert Campbell, who started struggling with his own mental health after years of military service and several personal challenges - and found that it was hard to find the proper support for his mental health needs. It was then that Coach Campbell was started, with the goal of helping people change their lives for the better. The business offers online courses to assist personal development, alongside private support services - and also provides corporate courses designed to help people boost their own mental health and properly support others.
Just For Women Centre CIC
Working with women who struggle with a wide range of issues - from mental health, to poverty, to domestic violence - the Just For Women Centre CIC offers varying types of aid including counselling, employment support and health support. These services were vital during the pandemic, as mental health was severely impacted, and abuse and isolation increased. Just For Women also worked with the wider community during this time - offering mental health support to care home workers, as well as gift hampers to residents. All in all, the centre has delivered more than 10,000 gift hampers across the community. Just For Women has also developed wellbeing products to help individuals at home, and is currently developing an online platform, to make it easier for women to access resources and help.
Keepmoat Homes is a business dedicated to delivering quality housing, while engaging with the community and working in a way that provides social value. Keepmoat builds with the aim of revitalising areas, and building communities - with 70% of its homes going to first-time buyers. The business also invests in community engagement activities - working with young offenders and sports clubs among others, raising money for community groups - and often partnering with local colleges on community refurbishment projects. Keepmoat also works to support the local economy and workers - supporting 18 apprentices in 2021, as well as providing 330 hours of work experience. The business also works with schools to help young people gain work experience - providing enterprise days, careers advice and practice interviews.
Artech Lighting is a business that designs and manufactures a range of indoor and outdoor lighting solutions - using innovation and experience to produce the perfect lighting product for clients. Created over a decade ago, the business offers everything from discreet internal lights to large suspended products - and offers bespoke services to clients with a specific vision. Artech recently invested in new machinery at its Durham factory - including a state of the art cutting machine and new 3D printer - allowing the business to print its own parts and become far more self reliant. This innovation in manufacture helps Artech keep its design and manufacturing processes at the cutting edge, and meet client visions with ease and efficiency.
Classic Windows NE Ltd
With more than 20 years of experience, Classic Windows NE Limited has a long record of quality in the manufacture of window products. In 2021, the business was acquired by Premier Roof Systems Ltd - beginning a modernising process that has made the business far more efficient. Adopting a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, Classic Windows was able to identify and smooth out hiccups in the manufacturing process, and communicate better with customers to make the overall process smoother. The business has also expanded its manufacturing line - recently purchasing the rights to produce Alutech bi-folding doors, to better access this growing market. Classic Windows is also working on becoming a more sustainable manufacturer - recycling all of its PVCu waste to avoid an unnecessary negative environmental impact.
Clearly Drinks is a drinks manufacturer that produces a wide range of soft drinks, flavoured water, and still and sparkling water - and which has invested a great deal in manufacturing in order to meet demand. In 2021, Clearly Drinks began production at a new canning facility - which is capable of producing 500 cans per minute, and 160 million cans per year. This investment makes it possible for Clearly to not only increase production, but also to diversify its product lines. The business also provides bottling and canning services to other brands - with the new canning line helping it win contracts with brands like Britvic, Fentimans and Carabao. This new facility also allows Clearly to manufacture a sustainable alternative to glass and plastic packaged drinks.
Newcomer of the Year
People Spark Solutions Ltd
Founded in June 2020, People Spark Solutions Ltd works with businesses to help them improve their learning and organisational development practices. People Spark Solutions offers a range of services - from the provision of employee surveys and assessment forms, to the development of new, organisation-wide learning and development strategies. People Spark Solutions has demonstrated an impressive growth in a short time - taking on projects for large organisations within months of starting up, and at one point going from a team of two to a team of six overnight. The business endeavours to meet the specific needs of each client - working to help them become as efficient and effective as possible in achieving the best from employees.
Stand is a business that strives to give the voices of local people a platform in public sector decision making processes. A public relations and communications agency, Stand specialises in NHS and public health projects - providing organisations with support and advice in patient, public and stakeholder consultation, as well as strategic communication. This was particular important during the pandemic, when Stand helped public health departments develop their COVID response programmes, and provide key information around vaccination. Founded in March 2020, Stand has demonstrated an impressive ambition and commitment to growth - in two years it has grown from a team of two to a team of 11, and is already in the process of recruiting for two more roles.
Transmission Engineering Services
Transmission Engineering Services (TES) provides engineering design solutions to the transmission and distribution industry - working to protect high voltage electricity infrastructure across the UK. TES provides a range of services - including project management, site visit reports and interfacer engineering - creating bespoke solutions to ensure the efficient and safe transmission of electricity. Since it started trading in February 2021, TES has been dedicated to growing its business and supporting employees. It has gone from two employees to nine in the space of a year - including an electrical engineering apprentice and CAD engineer in training to become a design engineer. TES provides extensive support to these employees - including the financing of their college fees - and strives to provide a friendly and inclusive working environment.
Beach Accountants Ltd
Beach Accountants Ltd strives to help clients grow and develop their business through a better understanding of their accounts. Working with SMEs, Beach provides a range of services - including bookkeeping, tax advice, payroll services and accounts support - providing accurate and up to date information to help businesses make informed decisions. Beach has worked to make communication with clients easy and effective - providing client questionnaires, a facebook group to let clients communicate with Beach and each other, and quarterly accounts reviews to keep businesses informed. Beach’s dedication to its clients won it the Hero Accounting Firm Award at the 2021 National Accounting Excellence Awards, - and has helped it grow, with the accounting team doubling in the last year, and turnover increasing by 40% over the last 18 months.
Concept IT Services
Founded in 2005, Concept IT Services provides SMEs with high quality IT services and support, designed to help them build their infrastructure efficiently and effectively. Concept works closely with clients to understand their business - tailoring a support package to their specific needs. Concept is dedicated to providing excellent and timely service - supported by its internal professional service administration system, iTrac. iTrac monitors systems 24 hours a day, seeking out problems and at times solving them - capable of completing almost 4000 tasks a day. Concept’s speed at solving problems is such that it closed 6474 tickets in 2021 - with 86% of those tickets closing within one hour, and 97.7% of customers rating the service as excellent.
Operating three residential children's homes across Sunderland, Forevercare provides supported living services to young people ages 16-18 - aimed at helping them achieve independence and develop their life skills. Since its founding in 2013, Forevercare has strived to grow and expand the services that it can offer young people. In 2021, the business turned one of its supported living units into a parental assessment centre with five family units - as well as opening two new residential children’s homes, which have gone on to receive a rating of ‘good’ from OFSTED. Forevercare currently has a team of 130 staff, offering flexible contracts comprehensive training to ensure quality for residents and staff. The business plans to expand further - with the aim of opening three new residential homes in the next 12 months
Small Business Award
Coote O’Grady is a business that provides legal spend solutions, technology and consulting - working to help clients take control of every aspect of their legal spend. Founded in 2005, the business provides a range of services - from invoice management, to performance analytics, to bespoke consultancy services - allowing clients to become far more efficient and make significant savings. Coote O’Grady has worked to create a diverse and progressive working environment - with more than 80% of staff being women, and a flexible, remote-working policy that let staff thrive even during the pandemic. Coote O’grady also gives back to the local economy, with more than 95% of its workforce located in the North East - and a target to have at least 50% of hires come from the region.
Excelpoint works with businesses to automate their critical processes. Its no-code software creates streamlined processes that help reduce costs, improve customer experience and improve business results - with scalable solutions to match a client’s specific needs. Excelpoint prides itself on speed and efficiency - implementing solutions within just a few days or weeks, and constantly developing its software to provide greater functionality. The business is also committed to ethical practice, with sustainability and employee wellbeing as priorities. Excelpoint helps clients move away from excessive paper consumption with digital solutions - and in 2020 moved to a more sustainable office that uses solar panels, harvested rainwater and insulated panelling. The business also works to cultivate an inclusive and equitable working environment - alongside the provision of health and wellbeing services.
Redrose Nutraceutical Manufacturer
Redrose Nutraceutical Manufacturer is a producer of nutraceutical products - specialising in the development of tablets, capsules and softgels. With almost 27 years of experience, Redrose has developed a wide reach despite its small size - with 40% of its products being shipped to customers all around the globe. The Redrose team comprises 27 members of staff, all dedicated to producing products of the highest quality - and to providing fast and efficient service, delivering most orders within three to four weeks. Redrose also works to be a sustainable business - re-using materials where possible, sending minimal waste to landfill, and working to have capsules and tablets taken for bio-conversion and made into fuel or fertiliser.
Company of the Year
Cell Pack Solutions Ltd
Established in 1998, Cell Pack Solutions Ltd is a custom battery pack assembler - producing portable battery power solutions for a range of industries. With a team of 28 people, Cell Pack Solutions has developed more than 4000 designs for customers in industries as varied as film and tv, environmental monitoring and the emergency services. With more than two decades of experience, Cell Pack Solutions continues to grow - in 2021 the business acquired Tracer Power, expanding into rechargeable and portable lithium battery solutions. The business also made its first move into major exports - and within 12 months had shipped products to more than 32 countries, and increased its turnover by more than 50%.
Providing organisations with diversity, equity and inclusion solutions. eQuality Solutions is a business that works to remove barriers to education, work and life. Working with clients in business and education, eQuality provides a range of services - including disability services, assistive technology training and e-learning solutions - as well as consultancy on how to make workplaces more inclusive. During the pandemic, eQuality was able to thrive in a challenging time. In 2021, the business acquired Amano Student Support - and has acquired three more companies since, as well as achieving a 23% growth in sales. The business also set up a volunteering scheme designed to help people who had been out of work during the pandemic - giving them the chance to gain experience and develop their skills.
Premier Roof Systems Ltd
Founded in 2011, Premier Roof Systems Ltd is a provider of fenestration products. Designing, manufacturing and supplying windows, home extensions and conservatory roofs among other products, Premier has been committed to satisfying customers since its inception. The business has seen impressive recent growth, even during the pandemic - launching new products, acquiring Classic Windows NE limited and hitting a turnover of £4m. Premier also continued to hire during the pandemic, bringing its team to 25 and providing much-needed jobs. Premier plans to continue its growth, but to be a sustainable business alongside this - recycling all of its cardboard with a local company, as well as recycling aluminium, UPVC and timber offcuts to reduce its carbon footprint.