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

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…

Our Partners

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