Our Judges

We have developed our judging over 18 years and our judges, all top business people within their chosen arena, have cited our awards as both the most transparent and professionally executed. Each application is scored by up to 4 different judges from a panel of up to 30 judges, all applications are seen by different members of the judging panel. The judges spend several hours and score not only their own sponsored category but several others too, this ensures transparency. The first page of questions is designed to give the judges a real feel for your business, followed by several questions that are scored from 1 to 5. It is worth noting that although all judging is computer based please ensure you upload images or screen shots of all important pages. There are no site visits or presentations involved. The finalists are chosen by adding all the scores and up to 16 entrants can make it through to the final, however if scoring is low, less entrants make it through. Should you wish to read our Top Tips, please click HERE

Andrew Gibbs

Co-Editor | Business MK &  MK Pulse

Andrew Gibbs is the editor of Business MK and Business2Business, Bedfordshire’s leading business newspaper. After 20 years working in local and regional journalism across the Home Counties, he set up his own business in 1999 publishing the two monthly business titles that have become essential reading for the business community in the areas they serve.

Today, Business MK and Business2Business are part of the expanding Pulse Group Media portfolio of publications which also includes Business Times in Northamptonshire and the glossy lifestyle magazines MK Pulse and NN Pulse

Qadeer Qureshi

Facilities Director | Aegis Support Services

Qadeer is the Facilities Director at Aegis Support Services, overseeing the UK Facilities Management division of the business. Qadeer has over 18 years of experience in the Industry.

Managing a small team from the Head Office in Luton, Qadeer oversees the cleaning and maintenance services to all Aegis clients. He has also been heavily involved in the Security and Training Divisions in the business imposing his work ethic to encourage a compliant workforce.

He has overseen the substantial growth of the business recently including deployments from Galashiels, Scotland to Cornwall.

Kerry Lewis-Stevenson

Publisher | NN & MK Pulse Magazine, Business Times and Business MK

Kerry is a relative newcomer to awards judging, but as a serial entrepreneur herself and with her fascination for how small and medium-sized companies contribute to the local community, it’s been a real pleasure to see what talented business owners can do.

Kerry studied graphic design, so she has creative flair and a great eye for detail which she has used to provide a laser-sharp focus to the marketing materials of some of the country’s leading food and consumer brands in retail and business to business (B2B) environments.

Together with her husband, who has won awards as a super-heavyweight body builder, she has also run a successful online business focussed on sports nutrition.

For almost 15 years Kerry has published the popular Pulse magazines in the Northampton and Milton Keynes areas which continue to fulfil her vision to create local magazines unlike any others. Reaching over 50,000 households every month, they have found their place in the community as a friendly source of local information and are trusted by many loyal advertisers.

Not to be deterred by the coronavirus restrictions, the magazines continued online until they could be safely welcomed through letterboxes again. At the same time, Kerry embraced the opportunity to take over the reins at Northamptonshire’s popular business newspaper, Business Times. Since then, she has also added the Business MK title to her publishing portfolio.


Jane Varley

Manager | The Green Business Network

I am practitioner member of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment IEMA, and I have been offering businesses advice on sustainability for more than 20 years.  The Green Business Network have worked closely with businesses in the Bedfordshire and the surrounding areas for several years, and in September 2021 we launched an enhanced service for businesses within the Central Bedfordshire area.

Sara Searle

Head of HR and Payroll | Liebherr GB

Sara has worked within Human Resources for over 20 years for a variety of companies. She joined Liebherr-Great Britain and Ireland as Human Resources Manager some 14 years ago where she set up the HR Department from scratch. Now as Head of HR and Payroll with a team of 5, they support in excess of 400 employees spread out over 9 sales and service centres across the UK and Ireland. Sara feels privileged to be a judge for the fourth year running and is excited to see what the future holds for these outstanding businesses.

Jo Bird

Director | AllenDay Recruitment

Jo Bird has dedicated over twenty-two years of her working career to AllenDay Recruitment and its award-winning sister company, Morestaff in Dunstable. As a Director, Jo is responsible for overseeing the business strategy, operations and business development for both businesses and maximising all opportunities for growth and change. Jo has been an instrumental part in the continued success of both companies and is the driving force behind implementing new ideas and innovation in order to remain competitive to the growing number of competitors within the industry.

After graduating from Birmingham City University with a degree in HR and Business, Jo spent two years travelling the world exploring destinations including Australia, America and Thailand. In her spare time, Jo is a keen home baker and well known for creating a delicious Victoria Sponge cake which is a winner for all of the team within the office. Jo is thrilled to be joining the judging panel at this year’s SME awards and is looking forward to celebrating and showcasing the success of local businesses.

Paula Devine

Head of Membership & Global Service | Bedfordshire Chamber of Commerce

Paula heads up the Membership and Global Services team at the Bedfordshire Chamber. She has been at the Chamber for 30 years and in that time has worked her way up through the ranks, and loves every minute of it.

The Chamber’s role is to ensure that, working together, they create connections within their ever growing peer network and become an enabler for business growth locally, regionally and nationally.

Paul Hillier

Managing Director | Oval Law

General Experience

Having led many substantial deals for clients for over 30 years, Paul provides a good practical overview of the commerciality of any sale, purchase or acquisition for any business alongside providing the legal know-how, necessary documentation and agreements.

He is also involved in non executive Director roles for companies giving advice and guidance on the advantages and pitfalls in taking a particular choice or decision in relation to that business, not only in relation to legal issues, but from wide experience in management and business dealings including corporate leaders, dignitaries, government departments, and well known organisations.


  • 1984 -1987 – Solicitor and then Partner in Mellows Solicitors with offices in Bedford, Baldock, Hertfordshire and Kempston, Bedford.
  • 1987 – 2005 – Founder and Senior Partner in Hilliers Solicitors operating in Kempston and Baldock in 1987. One of the youngest Solicitors ever to form their own practice.
  • 2005 – 2013 – Senior Partner in HilliersHRW Solicitors, then became Managing Director of HilliersHRW Solicitors LLP.
  • 2014 – Present – Founded Oval Law in 2014. Managing Director of Old Vicarage Advisory Legal (Kempston) Limited.

David Taylor

Group Estates Manager | Wrest Park Enterprise

David is Group Estates Manager at Wrest Park Enterprise, overseeing the development of the business park from a cold start to the busy hub of Bedfordshire’s’ entrepreneurial community that it has become today and planning ahead to ensure it is ready for the challenges of the next decade!

He has also overseen the expansion of the company to provide business centres which are now established in 3 other locations in the South of England by both acquisition and redevelopment.

Married with three sons, David is a member of Woodside Church in Bedford and last year became FA qualified as a youth football coach (having finally given up his dream of becoming a player for his beloved Leeds United…

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