Winner: Ryan Atkins

Finalists: Angus Ashworth, Ashley Mason

RYAN Atkins was cited as “one to watch for the future” as he took the title of Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

The 22-year-old is a founding director of creative digital agency The Distance, which last year took home the title of New Business of the Year, and was a finalist in the 2013 Small Business of the Year category.

Based at York Science Park the business is now an 18-strong agency specialising in ecommerce, mobile applications and digital marketing, with growth already leading to a search for bigger premises.

Mr Atkins has played a leading role in helping to grow the company’s client base, which now includes everything from start-ups to multibillion- pound-turnover enterprises.

Since winning last year’s award the clientele has been bolstered further, and now the company has employed a further eight people across its three departments.

Mr Atkins was chosen a Young Entrepreneur of the Year after impressing the judges with his “raft of all-round business skills” that are “remarkable” for one who has only been in business for four years and is still at such a young age.

The judges said Mr Atkins has a clear vision for his businesses and works hard at recruiting high-calibre staff who share that same vision.

His main business, The Distance, is on target to achieve a turnover of £1 million in a nationally competitive market, with Mr Atkins determined to develop his business from its base here in York. Judges described him as certainly one to watch for the future.

Under Mr Atkins and its two other directors The Distance has taken on some of its biggest clients to date, including the NHS, Fera, Linda Farrow and a host of increasingly successful start-ups. Turnover is up more than 400 per cent and profit is soaring.

Mr Atkins said: “Our strategy thus far has been fairly simple, deliver exceptional quality and scale our commercial relationships with our clients, building on the success of the work we create for them.

“Handling the growth in a sustainable fashion has been this year's key challenge. Our next challenge is making our mark on York, where we intend to invest in a much larger new office.

“Our staff are incredibly dedicated and we intend to invest in that team and the culture to provide an inspirational, comfortable and productive environment to allow them to do their best work to date.

“In the next year, we will be looking to become Customer First accredited and achieve Investors In People status to ensure we maintain our 100 per cent staff-retention rate.”

Mr Atkins has been invited to speak at a number of industry events and has recently set up a private investment company, focusing on online retail business.