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

Kate Norris

Global Director of SME Strategy | IHG Hotels & Resorts

A Hospitality Professional with a career spanning over 25 years.  Kate has extensive expertise in sales, strategy, and the hospitality industry. She has had the privilege of contributing to the success of multinational companies, while also establishing and leading her own sales hospitality business. Having spent the last 7 years as an IHG Sales Leader she now leads the team responsible for IHG’s SME Sales strategy

Justin Belobaba

Founder & CEO | Nowsite

Justin Belobaba is the Founder & CEO of Nowsite. A serial tech entrepreneur with three successful exits, he was also recognized as the Canadian Young Entrepreneur of the Year. A magna cum laude graduate of Harvard, Justin is a Crossfit enthusiast and a proud dad to three awesome young boys.

Steve Baxter

Marketing Manager, UK | ZOHO

Steve has worked in B2B marketing for over 30 years. He joined Zoho in March 2022. During his career, Steve has worked for a wide variety of company types: big multinationals like Kyocera and Zoho, SMEs in the West Midlands and even for himself.
When he’s not working, he’s drumming in his rock band, following F1 or being dragged into equine activities by his wife and daughter.

Jimmie Brennan

Founder | Love Mondays Office Space

Founder of Love Mondays Office Space, a leading office space consultancy that helps companies of all sizes and industries to thrive. With over 16 years of experience in the real estate and hospitality industries, Jimmie has a proven track record of success identifying and negotiating on behalf of clients to secure new premises.

Love Mondays Office Space was born out of the idea that you should never have that ‘urgh it’s Monday again’ feeling, that an office shouldn’t be ‘just another office’ – that your environment supports your businesses culture and helps your team thrive. Employers have a responsibility to provide the right environment for their staff, and the right office can support that.

Prior to starting Love Mondays Office Space Jimmie has won several personal accolades including the Flex Space Association’s Broker of the year.

As a judge for this year’s business awards programme, Jimmie brings his extensive experience and knowledge to the table. He is passionate about recognizing and celebrating excellence in business and is committed to supporting the growth and success of innovative companies around the world.

Aside from working Jimmie runs a Sunday morning football team as well as volunteering as coach and referee for local sports teams. Recently Jimmie has welcomed his first child so finding time for everything a skill he is yet to master.

Emily Ashman

Director | The Various Group Ltd

I am Emily, a director of The Various Group, a creative design and print agency based in Northamptonshire, working with clients across the UK.

Various strives to ignite imagination and empower brands online and offline, elevating our client’s presence and captivating their audiences.

Our varied services mean we can support you in all your company communication and marketing needs, including branding, print, creative design, social media, animation, packaging and promotional merchandise.

A bit about me, originally a Chartered Accountant with 10 years experience, I recently left the accountancy profession and partnered with Rob, our Creative Director to further grow The Various Group, managing operations and account managers to ensure our ethos of great customer service is achieved.

With a background in the printing industry, from a family run business, the progression into running my own business in this area with a creative twist has allowed me to combine a wide variety of knowledge and skills, continuing our success and growth.

Tony Murdock FIH

Founder & CEO | TR Global Events

Tony has over 20 year’s experience in the Hospitality sector having managed many luxury hotels around the UK. In 2019, he founded TR Global Events, a complete service events company based in Cambridge. Now a multi-award-winning events company, TR Global delivers exceptional events every-time.

Sally Jane Ilsley

Business Women’s Ambassador

Sally brings to the judging panel over 25 years of experience in the wonderful world of business as a Company owner, Director, Mentor, Ambassador, Coach, Judge & Customer Experience professional.

Sally has worked extensively within the Performing Arts & Education sector, Hospitality, Events, Night-time & Security industry and Property Developing.

Sally launched her first company at the age of 17, having left education with a fierce ambition to revolutionise dance teaching in a sector much unchanged for decades. ‘Miss Sally’ & her team, went on to win a number of business awards and establish herself as an industry leader. ‘Inspiring Dreams to become Reality’ for thousands of students, many of whom have continued with that mantra to become highly successful in their chosen careers, with many launching their own businesses.

In recent years Sally has been invited to share her eclectic industry knowledge to motivate & inspire business leaders.

She continues to support & motivate new business owners & work with individuals to realise their full potential.

Philip Irons

Head of SME Development | Global

Phil Irons, Head of SME Development at Global, brings over 20 years of experience within the media industry. Recognised nationally and around the world for his advocacy for small and medium-sized businesses , his roles withing some of the UKs largest media owners have specialised in connecting brands to relevant audiences in trusted media environments at scale. Phil’s work has always been underpinned by supporting SMEs to effectively convey their unique narratives and grow their brands. His background, rich with insight and innovation, has been instrumental in helping SMEs tell their stories to the right people at the right time, ultimately supporting growth of their businesses.

Brendan Brien

Business Banking | Virgin Money

Brendan has worked in the Financial Services industry for over 30 years and has held a wide variety of roles across Commercial and Corporate Banking. In his current role, he is responsible for managing a national team which supports mid-market companies across all sectors.

Fiona Edwards

Head of Sustainability | JPA Workspaces

I’m Fiona Edwards, Head of Sustainability at JPA Workspaces. Our vision is to be the “Trusted, expert designer and provider of workspaces aimed at meeting the needs of both people and planet.” We’re so much more than simply furniture!

I’ve been in the family business almost all my working life and tried just about every role. Finally, 7 years ago, I fell into this one which seems to be the perfect fit because it reflects my own thoughts that the real point of being in business is to try and do some good.

The world needs our help. Climate change, biodiversity loss, resource scarcity and mass migration are the challenges of our time, and I truly believe every person, in every role, in every company can make a difference.

I spend my time figuring out how we can chip away at these big hairy social, environmental and economic issues, raising awareness, talking to counterparts to find out what they’re doing, looking for and sharing information and trying to shape more effective, measurable impact against the Triple Bottom Line.

I’m thrilled our work has been recognised with a King’s Award for Enterprise for Sustainable Development in 2023 as we move into our 50th year of trading.

Undaunted, I’m looking forwards to meeting the challenges that are undoubtedly heading our way.

Julie Shorrock

Managing Director | Hotel and Travel Solutions (HTS)

Julie is a people-focused, entrepreneurial business leader.

With over 30 years of experience in the hotel and travel sector, she has seen the industry survive some of the most difficult challenges and thrive in success. Julie launched Hotel and Travel Solutions (HTS) in 2010. Julie set up her first hotel booking agency back in 1999, having previously amassed industry expertise from leading hotel chains such as Forte and Hilton.

In 2020, Julie was appointed a membership director on the beam board, having formed and led the association’s Agency Committee for four years.

Julie is passionate about developing individuals by understanding their personal and business needs while shaping realistic strategies to attain these goals.

Sian Sayward

Director of People, Partnerships & Strategic Projects | Inntel

Sian has worked in the hospitality and travel industry for nearly 30 years and in her current role she has overall responsibility for all of the People, Talent and Compliance Teams, Commercial Partnerships and Strategic Projects.

Sian is a creative thinker, dedicated to not only achieving commercial success for Inntel but also to the growth of the Business Travel and Meetings & Events industries. She helps to promote this growth through her joint role as Chair and Governance Director for the industry trade association ‘beam’. Sian sits on many action groups, steering groups and committees within our industry. She is passionate about driving best practice forward and will always question the status quo or challenge the norm.

As a parent of a child with complex additional needs, Sain is passionate about increasing understanding and acceptance of disabilities and promoting diversity. Sian works as a volunteer within the Education and Welfare Rights sector, advocating on behalf of others who need legal advice and support.

Outside of work, two teenage sons keep her very busy, in any rare moments of down time you will find her chilling out reading a good book and Meatloaf’s greatest hits on in the background.

James Robson

CEO | FundOnion

James is CEO and co-founder of FundOnion, the UK’s #1 Business Finance platform which has generated over £250M of funding requests since 2021 and caters to over 4,500 SMEs across the United Kingdom.

Prior to establishing FundOnion, James was a finance broker in London and a corporate lawyer (New York qualified), having worked both in private practice (Finance & Banking) and in-house (Oil & Gas and Mining).

James’ core focus is on finding new and innovative ways for SMEs to access funding across FundOnion’s panel of lenders.

Antonio Falco

The Sales Director

Having worked over the past 20 years as a business consultant specialising in sales and business development, his reputation to deliver results is clear to see. His role as The Sales Director means businesses rely on him to ensure that their sales teams are working to their optimum.

Antonio delivers hands-on management fulfilling the role by setting the strategy, the targets, the commission plans, training and motivation in order for the team to deliver the results.

Author of a new book ‘Stop Pitching Start Selling’ Antonio speaks at many events about how to create sales and effectively manage and develop a sales team. “I believe there are 3 key areas when it comes to Sales – The People, The Strategy, The Numbers – get them right and you have a winning formula” says Antonio Falco – The Sales Director

Jason Sinclair

Chief Operating Officer | Profile Resourcing Ltd

Jason is an experienced Executive Director, Management Consultant, and a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute with over 20 years in strategic executive and operational posts, including within Corporate Business, SME’s and within Higher Education.

His Experience spans HR, Employment and Resourcing/Recruitment Management within Corporate Organisations to SME’s, from Early Careers to Executive Hire level.

An Equality, Diversity and Active Inclusion Transformation Lead, with a focus on Executive D&I Strategy Development, Governance and D&I best practices in Recruitment lifecycle and Staff Development, Jason is passionate about all things People and supports a variety of Executives within FTSE businesses and growing businesses with their Business Culture and Inclusion Strategy journey, as well as Lecturing on Inclusive Leadership principles within a number of Business Schools at UK Universities.

Jason is currently COO at Profile Resourcing Ltd, Vice Chair of Board – MK Community Foundation and Associate Non-Executive Director at MK University Hospital.

Sanjeev Patel

Managing Director | PPP Capital

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

PPP Capital is an award-winning, family-owned Real Estate business specialising in mixed-use boutique Build-to-Rent developments that combine ground floor retail units with residential rental homes above.

PPP Capital owns & operates hundreds of properties in London and mainland Europe.  It invests strategically with a long-term horizon.  Operationally, it places particular emphasis on providing its residents with excellent customer service.

Prior to joining the business, Sanjeev worked in the Real Estate Private Equity industry in Los Angeles.

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.

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.

Ricky Allan

Chief Revenue Officer | Iliffe Media LTD

Ricky Allan is the Chief Revenue Officer for Iliffe Media Group, a family owned Media company responsible for 58 local newspapers, a number of Niche ‘Award winning’ magazines and KMFM Radio that serves Kent. Iliffe Media Group also has a news App and news on demand websites serving a large parts of the UK. Ricky started his media career in 1988 and has served regional press in six counties of the UK. Ricky is responsible for the launch of 17 local newspapers including the current weekly Newspaper of the year, the Cambridge Independent.

Sarah Ainslie

Director | Network Engineering Services

Sarah has been a passionate supporter of enterprise and skills development for over two decades. Her former professional career focused on representing the interests of SMEs at regional and national level, managing policy campaigns and building effective partnerships with decision makers, business and community stakeholders.

As an experienced business development project manager and consultant, Sarah has a reputation for delivering results. She is passionate about working with public and private sector clients to achieve strategic goals, designing workforce skills solutions and accessing funding to facilitate delivery.

She holds a Master of Arts in Regional Development, formerly co-founded a women’s Business Network and is a long standing charity Trustee.

Matt Roberts

Centre Manager | Capital Space LTD (Milton Keynes Business Centre)

Matt is an experienced Senior Business Manager with a 20 year career covering Leisure, Hospitality and Commercial Property. Since April 2018 Matt has been proudly leading a fantastic team as Business Centre Manager for Capital Space Ltd, Based at Milton Keynes Business Centre. The team pride themselves on providing the very best flexible Office, Studio and Workshop space for their customers on monthly rolling licence agreements. The Capital Space team also provides additional business support to SME’s with great meeting, virtual office and call handling services. Matt takes a keen interest in promoting sustainable business practices, and has trained in both Horticulture and Environmental Management.

Keith Middleton

Director | Middleton and Clark Accounts

Keith is a Consultant at George Hay Chartered Accountants, having previously been a Partner in the firm for 20 years. He played an instrumental role in establishing the Letchworth office when it opened its doors in 1982 and he is still based there today. Keith will celebrate his 49th year working for George Hay on 19th August 2017. During his time with the firm, Keith has built an outstanding reputation upon providing tailored, sound and thorough advice to a substantial and diverse portfolio of businesses, including family owned companies and start-ups, as well as establishing himself as a familiar face and well-known name in the industry. Keith specialises in advising clients operating in the leisure and hospitality industries, encompassing hotels and the licensed trade. Outside of his role as an accountant, Keith is a long-standing treasurer of an investment club which has been trading in shares for over 20 years. Keith is a director on the board of biz4Biz, a Hertfordshire-based network for like-minded business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals and is also a member of the Hertfordshire LEP’s Skills & Employment Programme Board. In his spare time, though difficult to believe he has any, he can often be found out on the golf-course.

Sarah Graham FCIOB MIoD

CEO | Skills4Stem Ltd.

Sarah Graham 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.

Nicola O’Brien

Director | ID Card Centre

Nicola is a hands-on business owner who has worked hard to offer new propositions to the markets she works in and develop a talented team.

Since Nicola started to direct ID Card Centre’s marketing and business development, the company has grown into a group of businesses servicing clients from small, independent businesses through to firms that are household names. With an enviable list of awards, today’s ID Card Centre group includes:

  • ID Card Centre, the original company, which has a reputation for swiftly providing good-quality identity and access control products and providing independent technical advice. Clients include events companies, universities, colleges, local authorities, construction companies, financial institutions and even the MoD.
  • Reward-It is an established gift and loyalty solution business which helps retail and hospitality businesses increase revenue.
  • Plastic-ID, which has a five-star customer service rating on Trustpilot, excels at providing commercial and industrial properties with identity and access control solutions.

Nicola has built her vision: an environmentally conscientious group of businesses that welcomes and nurtures innovative people at all levels. Everybody, including apprentices, is encouraged to spot new opportunities, share ideas, extend and refine their expertise.

She will be looking for business ethics, growth and sustainability in award submissions.

Michael Chamberlain

Managing Director | Quantuma Advisory

Michael is a qualified chartered accountant (ICAEW fellow) and licensed insolvency practitioner. During his career, he spent over a decade working at the Big Four firms before starting Chamberlain & Co in 1998.

Chamberlain & Co was one of the leading independent firms of Insolvency Practitioners and Business Rescue experts in the UK, before joining forces with the national firm Quantuma Advisory Ltd in October 2022. Michael is now the Managing Director of the Yorkshire office.

Michael plays a key role in actively working to build strong relationships with both clients and colleagues, saving jobs, businesses and maximising value for all stakeholders.

Michael also has over 30 years of experience in advising, small to medium-sized enterprises, corporates, distressed investors and individuals in complex financial restructuring and recovery situations across various industry sectors.

Michael’s experience includes business turnaround, performance improvement, supporting accelerated mergers, acquisitions, disposals, and accepting formal insolvency appointments as, amongst other things, liquidator, administrator, receiver and trustee.

Michael is passionate about supporting entrepreneurs, SMEs, and business owners navigate the treacherous waters of commercial life. He has extensive experience across many diverse sectors as well as niche expertise in property investment and development, overseas trade, e-commerce and renewable energy.

Biswanath Patnaik

Chairman | FINNEST

Biswanath fondly known as BNP (initials of his name), is an accomplished serial entrepreneur, investment banker, legal counsel, and philanthropist. BNP is active across multiple sections with business interests in Finance, Healthcare, Startups, Solar Energy, renewable Energy, Real Estate, Home Appliances, FinTech, Manufacturing just to name a few. Apart from companies in India, through his investments he also has controlling stakes in several companies in London, Warsaw (Poland) Zurich, Singapore, UAE, Mauritius, Ghana and he is the member of Board in several companies in several sectors, among them few are stock exchange listed companies. Building on his vast network and business experience BNP is overseeing the expansion strategy of these companies in Asia, Middle East, Africa, GCC regions, Japan, Switzerland and United Kingdom. BNP is a serial donor to several foundations and NGO’s which deals with education, healthcare and upliftment of orphaned children.

Martin Spiller

Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship | Cranfield University

Martin is a passionate and highly motivated commercially focused chief financial officer, experienced non-executive director and Senior Lecturer in entrepreneurship at The Bettany Centre within Cranfield University’s School of Management.

He has a differentiated skill set being both a chartered accountant and barrister-at-law (non-practicing) with a proven track record of delivering real improvements in business performance across a range of sectors and business types and he has founded, built and exited two businesses of his own and a number as a non-executive.

Martin has spent the last 10 years working with high growth and venture capital backed companies, including making several angel investments and sitting on the investment committee of a leading SEIS and EIS investment fund and his specialism is helping entrepreneurial ventures to grow by providing strategic financial direction and skills.

At Cranfield Martin teaches on both graduate and executive education courses and his areas of focus are entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial finance with a particular interest in valuation methodologies for early stage and high growth companies

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