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Great Rail Journeys scoops title in The Press Business Awards 2008
Steve Kimber, with Great Rail Journeys directors, back, Mark Taylor, David Gaster and Martin Johnson, and centre, Alex Robert and Keith Clark
CHOO CHOO power went on an express whistle-stop route to triumph in The Press Business Awards 2008.
Amid cheers and thunderous applause in the Voltigeur Suite at York Racecourse last night, Steve Kimber, managing director of York-based Great Rail Journeys, held aloft the ultimate accolade – the coveted John Guy Memorial Award.
Judges were hugely impressed with how in only two years the rail tour firm’s offerings had more than doubled from 63 itineraries to more than 130, with 120 office staff at St Saviourgate, and 160 tour managers working flat out to meet a constantly-growing demand.
It was the second time last night that Mr Kimber had mounted the winners’ rostrum. Great Rail Journeys also won Growth Business Of The Year – and it was clear for all to see that he was chuffed.
He told the gathering of more than 250 business people: “This award is for this year. Now our focus must be on next year – the same as everyone in this room. We have to energise our people to believe again that they can be heroes – that we have to get out again and climb that mountain and if we do, then we will be Reaching The Top.”
He was alluding to the theme for this year’s awards – the 18th annual celebration of entrepreneurial excellence in the region, namely Reaching For The Top.
Janice Dunphy of Creepy Crawlies play centre, Clifton Moor, was the only finalist who succeeded in “doing the double” by winning two category titles – the Women In Enterprise accolade and the Small Business Of The Year.
Judges hailed ex-teacher Janice as “a brilliant entrepreneur” whose acre area of fun for parents and children with 14-staff at Cliftongate Business Park was “constantly changing and expanding with innovative ideas”.
Paul Smith, the feisty ex-BA long haul flight attendant who founded Quartz Travel in Heworth Road, York, was declared the Business Personality Of The Year and described as “astute to the point of chutzpah”. He put his own flamboyant stamp on a business that raked in £2.4 million of sales as he expanded into Quartz Chaffeurs, Quartz Properties, Quartz Tours and the Colombian Experience.
Great Rail Journeys did not have it all its own way. It was pipped to the post by Redworth Construction when it came to the Large Business Of The Year title. The award winning Norton firm is enjoying the most successful year in its history, securing seven new contracts worth £26 million and its turnover on target to soar from £30 million to £40 million as its staff numbers swell to 55.
Urban Construction Interiors (UCI) of Escrick earned The New Business Of The Year title for what the judges described as its “all round entrepreneurship.”
Platinum Print, a previous finalist in the Think Green category, this time clinched victory. Judges praised the Harrogate print and direct mail firm’s efforts to quantify its overall carbon footprint and raw materials product and use it in its marketing and development. They were also impressed by how the company encouraged suppliers and customers to join in its green campaign.
Woodlands MS Resource and Respite Care in York was declared the Best Business And Education Link. The Centre, run by the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Great Britain, offers 400 respite places yearly for MS sufferers, both victims and carers.
Judges praised Woodlands for its recruitment of student volunteers, offering them the highest standards of educational experience.
Paul Ellis of the Skelwith Group, York was The Young Business Entrepreneur Of The Year. He started buying and selling property at 21 and now, at 29, heads up a successful multi-million pound group. He is the man behind the £100 million project to create the 303 bedroom five star Flaxby Country Club on the A1 near Knaresborough, work on which begins next spring. The Royal York Hotel earned the Progress Through People title for showing “an unerring commitment over a number of years to developing its people in an incredibly diverse range of skills.”
Awarding Erudine software company in Beckwith Knowle the title of Science & Technology Business Of The Year, the judges were “blown away” by the brilliance of the company which used some of the most talented programmers in the world to produce its pioneering software for mission-critical in areas as diverse as finance, defence and the railways and now employs 70 people.
And would you believe it? Yes, you would – The Japanese Shop in York and Harrogate was The Retailer Of The Year yet again. It won this category in 2004, when it was also Small Business Of The Year and winner of the overall title.
The Yorkshire Air Museum, at Elvington, triumphed as The Tourism And Hospitality Business Of The Year. It was described as “an extremely well-run organisation with ambitious plans that are a credit to Ian Reed, the museum director.”
First to take the title in a new category, Family Business Of The Year, was Harrison Signs of Clifton Moor. Judges were impressed by how unity between third and four generations from founder Charles Harrison had turned the company round from near disaster to thriving success.
Average is no longer good enough, warns CPP chief
The “decade of average” is over. That was the warning from guest speaker Stephen Kennedy, managing director (Northern Europe) of the CPP Group, one of York’s biggest employers.
From now on expect a much more polarised business world, “one not of averages with most doing OK, some doing great but not getting the credit for it and only a small handful failing. It is going to be much more about winners and losers.” He said he accepted banks, regulators and governments were going to have to play their part but he cautioned businesses against using the credit crunch as an excuse.
“Too much energy is being expended on what we cannot control and not enough on what we can and this will be our downfall.
“We are still and should be, a free market economy and we cannot expect intervention to gift us a way out.”
Lifetime achievement award for tourism boss
JOHN Yeomans, senior partner of York solicitors Harrowells, last night received one of the highest honours The Press Business Awards can bestow – The Lifetime Achievement Award.
He was clearly stunned as he received the accolade from Stephen Kennedy, managing director (Europe) of the CPP Group, the award sponsors.
“It is not often that you take the wind out of the sails of a lawyer and advocate.
“I am thrilled to receive this honour from my peers and the business community.”
He praised the awards which, he said, reflected the dynamism of the region’s economy and thanked those organisations which were involved in “delivering for the community in York” for giving him the opportunity to receive the award.
Mr Yeomans was described as “a man in the phalanx of the fight to expand tourism, lure in new businesses and present the image of York as a city where its professional community is every bit as good as London’s or Leeds’”
He is chairman of the new Visit York organisation which has woven all the stakeholders of the city’s tourism into one fighting force; also chairman of Ron Hills Memorial Trust; of the inward investment organisation York-england.com; and of York Professional Initiative, now known as York Professionals.
He is a trustee of York Against Cancer; on the strategy board of Science City York; and a board member of Venturefest York, which he helped to launch.
Then there is his membership of the York Business Education Forum and the Yorkshire Forward Objective 2 Performance Management Group as well as his presidency of the York Conservatives Patron’s Club.