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

Sanjeev Patel

Managing Director | PPP Capital

Sanjeev is Managing Director of PPP Capital, the 2021 Gold Winner of the SME National Family Business of the Year.

PPP Capital is an acclaimed developer, owner and operator of Build-to-Rent private rental apartments in and around London. It was seeded from the retail estate retained from the sale of a second-generation family newsagent business, which was founded in 1971 and expanded nationally into hundreds of stores.

Sanjeev is an award-winning entrepreneur who worked in the finance sector in London and Los Angeles before joining the family business to spearhead its growth into several new sectors.

Ash Higgs

Managing Director | MCG Healthcare

Ash Higgs is the multi-award winning Managing Director of MCG Healthcare, a leading provider of primary and secondary care recruitment across the UK. They specialise in providing fully compliant healthcare professionals in permanent & temporary roles for the NHS and private providers. During lockdown, despite facing unprecedented challenges, Ash doubled his staff, doubled the company turnover and acquired 2 additional businesses, expanding MCG Healthcare’s geographic reach.

He began his career as a marketer and set up a successful marketing agency that he sold to become Marketing Director of a Healthcare recruitment agency. Ash loves this fast moving and exciting sector, having developed a deep understanding of how to attract the best candidates despite a national shortage of healthcare professionals. Inspiring his strong team, this has been the basis for the impressiive success of MCG Healthcare.

Clare Gallagher

Founder and Managing Director | HCUK Group

Clare Gallagher is the founder and Managing Director of the HCUK Group which includes Healthcare Conferences UK Ltd, Social Care Conferences UK and more recently Education Conferences UK. Clare was the 2021 Gold Winner of the SME Business Woman of the Year.

Healthcare Conferences UK Ltd was founded in 2011. This multi-award winning company organises and produces high quality CPD certified healthcare conferences and exhibitions with a specialist interest in a clinical audience. The company has been the recipient of the ABPCO Excellence award for Best Agency Conference Organiser, 2021 Gold Winner in the Business of the Year Less Than 50 Employees, and is this year a finalist in both the Conference and Event Awards, and Association of Event Organisers Event of the Year. Clare has recently also driven expansion into the education and schools sector setting up Education Conferences UK.

Clare is passionate about excellence in conference delivery, improving patient care in the NHS and championing mental health in the workplace. As a working mum with four children Clare works to support and mentor women in business. Clare’s current and past voluntary roles include: Advisory Group Member, National Postgraduate Education Training Board; Editorial Board Member, The Journal of Integrated Care Pathways; Board Member, The European Pathway Association; Vice Chairman, PPI Board, Ashford and St Peters NHS Foundation Trust; Editorial Board Member, The Journal of The Journal of Clinical Risk and External Consultant to Patient Concern.

Debbie Lewis

Founder and Managing Director | Salon Angels Ltd

With 25 years of salon experience; fifteen of those as an award winning salon owner, Debbie Lewis is now a successful business coach and industry speaker. Founder and Managing Director of Salon Angels Ltd; a recruitment, training and events agency for the hair and beauty industry. Debbie is also an Entrepreneur Acceleration Manager for NatWest, based in Milton Keynes supporting hundreds of business owners with growth and scale challenges each year.

Chris Luff

CEO | Watford and West Herts Chamber of Commerce

For 30+ years I have witnessed the rising demand for corporate social responsibility. If you do not have strategic planning for your CSR initiatives, you’re falling behind the times and missing opportunities to earn customer loyalty and grow your business. In a 2016,in a report published by Statista Research Department, UK C-suite executives interviewed listed “demonstratable CSR” as one of the leading concerns of their customers.

Let me ask you, what socially responsible actions do customers associate with your brand? If the list is short, I can help…

My consultation provides you with a stakeholder analysis, assessment of corporate values, and guidance on the best way forward to communicate these values to your community. Ideally CSR design is forward-looking, meaning we work together to determine actions that will benefit your customers and your bottom line. However, my CSR guidance can also lead you to the most appropriate response to a public crisis.

Socially responsible actions yield benefits money cannot buy. If you are looking to generate more positive business outcomes.

Arun Kar

Co-Founder & Executive Director | Xpertnest, Earthnest & Gamenest

Arun is the Co-Founder of the multi-award winning Xpertnest group of companies. Xpertnest is a British-based digital innovation and technology company that utilises advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud-based software, augmented reality, data processing and analytics to find and deliver technology solutions for social and environmental challenges. Arun has led Xpertnest in harnessing the power of latest advances in IT such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud-based software solutions, augmented reality, data processing and analytics to deliver added value to clients and wider society.  Arun’s inner drive to make a difference to society has seen him develop innovative biobags to replace the ever pervasive plastic bags that are the cause of so much plasic pollution around the world. His award-winning Earthnest biobags are 100 per cent plastic free and fully biodegradable and  compostable.

Arun – named Global Indian of the Year (on CNBC) and a member of the Forbes Business Council. Arun is also featured on Fortune’s Magazine Cover Page (along with Elon Musk) and featured on the Telegraph, CIOReview, Mobile World Congress, etc. Arun’s businesses have won SME National Business Awards in Best Enterprising Business and Best New Businesses categories in 2021.

Diane Butterworth

Design Director and Founder | Diane Butterworth

Diane is the Founder and Design Director of Diane Butterworth Ltd, a technical consultancy providing digital models of proposed office buildings for visualisation, planning and construction.

The business was founded in 2016 when the UK government mandated digital transformation within the construction industry. At 26 years old, Diane saw an opportunity to offer a niche service to other businesses required to collaborate their trade product within an interactive 3D model.

As an outsource partner, we can remove the cost of software, take responsibility for continuous training and free up valuable in-house resources for our customers. To date, we have now worked on digital buildings for companies such as Google, Netflix and Microsoft.

“Having experienced the SME awards first hand for a few years and proudly winning SME MK & Buckinghamshire Business Women of the Year 2021, I am excited to now be a judge in 2022. For me, I am most interested in learning about others’ journeys. Why did they start, what were the key pivotal moments, and where have they ended up!”

Matt Moss

Managing Director | Smart Garden Rooms, Offices and Studios

With a strong professional financial background and longstanding experience in the advanced manufacturing sector, Matt Moss is one of Suffolk’s most successful young business people.

Matt trained as a Chartered Accountant at one the region’s largest firms, qualifying in 2008. In 2013 he became finance director and then commercial director for a national precast concrete company, Matt helped expand both its product range and market share, helping it secure key contracts in a range of high-profiled infrastructure projects, including Hinckley Point C. Following the successful turnaround and sale of this business, Matt become Managing Director of SMART in early 2019.

Within 6 months of joining Matt led the successful management buyout at Thurston-based business which became SMART Garden Rooms, Offices & Studios.

Since then, the company has become the national market leader in its sector through a successful blending of agile marketing, new designs, a comprehensive customer service culture and an expanded and well-supported workforce. In 2021 the company launched the only Garden Room configuration with Augmented Reality in the UK.

Matt’s business acumen has been recognised by his peers and has been the chair of Suffolk Chamber in Bury St Edmunds and is now a director and the treasurer of the parent company, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.

Jennifer Raines

Founder | YRH Finance Team

Jennifer Raines is the Founder of YRH Finance Team. With a background in commerce rather than practice, Jennifer has worked in over 150 businesses across her career. Although she is a qualified FCCA, her real passion is around business improvement and helping business owners get what they want from their business, which is why she established YRH Finance Team in 2007.

YRH Finance Team works in a flexible, affordable way to professionalise the operational finance function of SMEs. Our part-time finance teams work with business owners to help their businesses grow faster and be even more successful; more efficient and profitable, with better cashflow and less business risk.

Katie Underwood

Director | KUCO

Katie Underwood is director and founder of KUCO, an innovative full-service communications agency based in Cambridge. KUCO are on the cutting-edge of social media and digital content production, specialising in hospitality and experiential destinations.

Katie’s leadership has established KUCO as one of the fastest growing UK agencies, with a portfolio of clients across the hotel, restaurant, health and wellness sectors.

In a particularly challenging time for the industry, Katie has been recognised as a dedicated supporter of hospitality SMEs, advocating for greater industry recognition, and promoting training opportunities for the next generation. Katie is passionate about identifying and developing excellence, working closely with business owners to elevate their communications to generate growth.

Josh Gill

CEO | Everflow Water

Josh Gill is founder and CEO of Everflow Water, a water retailer based in Stockton.

The firm was launched in 2015, after Josh saw a gap in the market for an ethical water retailer which could utilise technology to operate efficiently. Since then, he has been striving to make water simple for Everflow’s business customers, who had traditionally been poorly served by the utilities market.

Since then, the company has seen incredible growth; it has opened new offices in Wynyard and Nuneaton, increased its turnover to more than £75 million by the end of 2021, was named third in the 2021 FT1000, listed in the Financial Times’ 2020 list of Europe’s top 1,000 growing businesses, and was shortlisted for no fewer than 26 awards across customer service, leadership and digital innovation last year.

Alongside the company’s success, Josh has also been recognised as a pioneer. In 2021, he was named as one of the UK’s most ambitious business leaders in a list produced by LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Bank, and was named Entrepreneur of the Year at the North East England Chamber of Commerce Awards.

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.

Career

  • 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.

Andrew Merritt-Morling

Chief Executive Officer | Smart Cities Connections Limited

Andrew Merritt-Morling is an entrepreneur, business angel, accredited coach and mentor. He has held various positions across a number of organisations spanning public, private and not-for-profit, including as Chair, Non-Executive Director, Trustee, board advisor, Chief-of-Staff, Company Secretary, interim manager, and consultant.

He has created 3 start-up businesses, using proceeds to turn around a further 3 failing companies.

Between 1997 and 2002, he was an advisor to four Secretaries of State for Trade and Industry during the Blair administration before taking key roles in both the Small Business Service and as a national policy advisor with the Federation of Small Businesses. Since 2005, he has invested in 11 loss-making businesses as a business angel, one of which was floated on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM).

Since the 2008-2010 financial crisis, Andrew has supported and advised more than two dozen public sector and not-for-profit organisations to achieve significant financial savings through leading a portfolio of programmes and projects.

Andrew participates in Dragons Den-style panel events for companies and nurtures young entrepreneurs to develop their own business ideas.

He is now the CEO of Smart Cities Connections Limited whose purpose is to make smart cities everyone’s business

Rebecca Wall

COO | Alliance Intelligent Scaffolding Ltd

Rebecca is COO of multi award winning Alliance Intelligent Scaffolding in St Albans, Hertfordshire. A former Hertfordshire Business Person of the Year, Rebecca is a national and international business awards judge and has a wealth of experience in both starts up and established SME’s within a diverse range of sectors, from Professional Beauty and Spa to Construction.

Sally Hindmarch

Director | Partners With You Ltd

With a degree in Psychology & Drama and a Diploma in Management, Sally spent much of her career in sales and client service roles. Having witnessed first-hand that poor communication can make or break a deal, a relationship or a business she set up Partners With You in 2000. They use techniques from the world of theatre and the skills of professional actors to help people in business communicate more effectively and confidently; typically working on areas such as presentation, storytelling, team building, leadership, sales and customer service.

Sally is a certified PRISM Brain Mapping practitioner and Language & Behaviour Profile practitioner which she also uses to help clients understand their communication preferences and how to adapt them to get better outcomes.

Sally writes a monthly column for Newsquest, is a contributor to “Transform Your Communication Skills” by Steve Bridger and the author of “Step Out From The Shadows: How to be seen and heard at work”.

Charmaine Vincent

Owner & CEO | Baltimore Consulting

An award-winning female entrepreneur, CEO, business owner and coach.

With 23 year’s professional experience, Charmaine has achieved some incredible career millstones. Some of which include, completing an MBO and taking 100% ownership of her business.

Awards:

National Business Women’s Awards – Business Owner of the Year 2021

SME National Business Awards – Lockdown Leader 2021

SME National Business Awards – Business Person of the Year 2020/21

Best Business Women Awards – Best Business Woman in Recruitment 2020

Business Leader Awards – Entrepreneur of the Year 2020

National Business Women’s Awards – Business Woman of the Year 2019

National & South West Institute of Directors Awards – SME Director of the Year 2019

A confident businesswoman with a caring ethos and strong moral compass.

Charmaine is super passionate about making a difference to the community & being a positive role model for her daughter.

Throughout her career, Charmaine hasn’t been afraid of showing vulnerability, to which, she believes has contributed to both her personal and professional growth. A development advocate, she continues to invest heavily in herself and her staff by empowering them to become the best version of themselves.

Eyal Ben Cohen

Founder, CEO, Investor | Verifile Limited

In 2003, the story of a security driver who faked his identity to gain employment before committing a robbery sparked my interest in the dangers of lax recruitment processes. Consequently, during my Cranfield MBA, I founded Verifile, a technology-led background screening company, applying investigative rigour to quality data sourced from around the world within a proprietary, highly secure platform. Eighteen years on, and with Verifile receiving the Queen’s Award, and me receiving Cranfield University’s Entrepreneur Alumnus of the Year 2020 Award, I’m still passionate about creating transparency within a workforce and understanding how technology can help achieve this.

Sarah Davis FCIOB MIoD

CEO | Skills4Stem Ltd.

Sarah Davis is a highly accomplished, pro-active, charismatic female business leader.  Deeply passionate about training and education, in 2014, Sarah established Skills4Stem, an industry-focused qualifications provider specialising in providing BTEC, HNC and HND qualifications and career-focused apprenticeships in areas of construction, engineering, and project management with progression routes into professional chartership.  The organisation today employs over 35 permanent people and utilises the skills of 40 trainers across the UK, Dubai, UAE and Ireland.

As an FCIOB Chartered Construction Manager and Fellow, undisputed female leader and powerful industry ‘voice’, Sarah has participated in countless Built Environment committees and governing bodies.

Sarah undertook an advisory role (2017-2019) with the Department for Education on the Building Services Engineering T Panel, developing the Building Services Engineering framework for Technical Education pathways for 16-to-19-year-olds.

Sarah has blended a hugely successful professional career with ‘giving back’.  A passionate philanthropist, she served as a Magistrate at the Luton and Bedfordshire Magistrates court for ten years, been a Trustee for the Friends of Bedford Hospital and is currently an active Trustee for Heart Academies Trust delivering great education for pupils aged 4-18 and improving life chances for all.

In 2017, Sarah won Bedfordshire Businesswoman of the Year, and in 2019, was included in the EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women UK & European class of the year.

Ashley Riley

Managing Director | Ashley Riley Communications

Ashley is the Managing Director of National Award Winning Ashley Riley Communications.

He is regarded as an expert and thought leader on communications and how to use communication to be successful in business and in life.

With over two decades of global experience working in business, in the public sector, in the political world and mentoring some of the most successful organisations on how they communicate Ashley is regularly asked to share his journey, his knowledge and his passion with audiences across the UK.

His keynote speeches deliver thought disrupting, challenging and inspiring content in a captivating and highly energetic manner with a focus on how those listening can practically put what they hear into practice.

Ashley has worked in the NHS as a Children’s Nurse, was an Adviser to an Member of Parliament in the Blair Years, co-authored a book that changed the landscape for school meals, led international campaigns for a global charity in Europe, Africa, Asia and the US and Directed the Communications at London Stansted Airport which was home to over 10,000 staff and saw 23 million passengers a year pass through their gates.

Andrea McGeachin

CEO | Amack Consultants

Andrea is the CEO of Amack Consultants, an SME and FinTech Consultancy firm that helps businesses get off the ground and increase their sales. Andrea has over twenty five years experience with seventeen years at Board level, with a reputation for delivering profitable relationships with clients and partners. She’s passionate about working with new ideas, challenges and clients that succeed in generating growth. Andrea has broad successful experience in start-ups, change management and is also a specialist in FinTech, Digital Solutions and products.

June Cory

CEO | My Mustard

June Cory has a career spanning almost thirty-five years in media management, sales, and training. She fell into selling newspaper advertising space and not only did she love it, but she was also rather good at it. After thousands of deadlines, hundreds of targets, and a few awards she moved into management & training for industry names including Newsquest & Yell.com.

After managing a specialist digital project team in 2006, June understood that the ability to target an audience, measure results & truly control spend would redefine advertising for local businesses & swapped the ink in her veins for zeros and ones and launched My Mustard, an online advertising agency in 2007.

A highly enthusiastic on and offline networker June is a Google Premier Partner and talks about Google to anyone who will listen at various forums. She drinks a lot of coffee…..

Sarah Ainslie

Owner | Network Engineering Services

Sarah has been a passionate supporter of small business and enterprise matters for over 20 years. As a former North East Policy Manager, her professional career has included representing the interests of SMEs at regional and national level, managing SME policy campaigns and successfully building key partnerships with political decision makers, business and community stakeholders. She previously founded a public affairs consultancy company, setting a new agenda within the industry as a social enterprise to help organisations better understand the impacts of complex political and policy environments. Most recently Sarah has been responsible for managing an extensive portfolio of leadership and workforce development training, creating bespoke skills solutions for public, private and voluntary sector organisations. She holds a Master of Arts in Regional Development, formerly co-founded a women’s business network, is an active member of the business community and Trustee of Epilepsy Outlook.

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