Technology Business of the Year and Business Innovation of the Year - PureNet

“One of PureNet’s main triumphs of the past 12 months was being presented with two awards at The Press Business Awards 2016.

“As an ecommerce agency we are absolutely dedicated to delivering innovation and ensuring our clients are at the forefront of their industry and these awards were an accolade to the hard work and dedication of the PureNet team.”

The company said another triumph was the launch of Ecommerce Personalisation Solution and winner of SaaS Solution of the Year, PureClarity.

“PureClarity is a pioneering ecommerce personalisation solution, utilising artificial intelligence and big data to deliver personalised site search, merchandising and email marketing to online retailers in one complete platform.

“One of the challenges that remains in the IT industry is a skills shortage. To overcome this challenge, PureNet invested in an apprenticeship scheme to create the developers and testers of the future whilst ensuring the company is giving back by supporting local, young and talented individuals.

“PureNet is pleased to say the company became an Apprentice Ambassador and Louise Watson, the first apprentice employed by PureNet, recently won ‘Apprentice of the Year’ at the York Apprentice Graduation and Awards Ceremony 2016.”

PureNet said it was on track to continue its growth in 2017, having expanded into a new office in 2016, giving more scope to increase the 55-strong team and its client base.

Its ambitions for 2017 include sharing the knowledge of its team members at local, and national events.

It also has has big expansion plans, aiming to continue expanding in to the US with PureClarity, and to extend its expertise into more ecommerce platforms to meet the needs and desires of every client and ecommerce project from mid-sized to enterprise.

Dr Paul Gibson, chief executive, said: “2016 has been a fantastic year and PureNet has received some fantastic achievements and awards. We head in to 2017 with big plans, the company will continue to expand with the team’s expert knowledge of ecommerce and portal development. We aim to continue to invest in our extremely talented apprentices and will ensure PureNet always remains a fun, exciting and innovative place to work.”

Socially Responsible Business of the Year - Autohorn

Uncertainty caused by the UK’s decision to leave the EU had an impact on vehicle hire firm Autohorn. “For example, the decreased value of the pound led to some difficult decisions when purchasing fleets. The majority of Autohorn’s vehicles are manufactured abroad, such as Mercedes Benz, BMW and Volvo, and there are concerns that product ranges will be smaller as a result of reduced buying power.”

But the company added: “Despite current economic uncertainty, Autohorn’s rental figures have continued to stay healthy throughout 2016.” This was down to the value afforded by a leasing agreement and Autohorn’s ongoing commitment to customer service.

Economic uncertainty also had an effect on fuel prices, with the price of diesel rising by about 10p a litre compared with last year. For an average fleet this could mean up to £4,000 in added costs, so customers may feel less inclined to increase their fleet sizes.

In 2014, as part of an ongoing commitment to social responsibility, Autohorn trialled ten “alternative powered vehicles”, and while there were a number of challenges associated with this decision the company was recognised for its responsible approach last year.

In May, it was approached by Go Ultra Low, a Government initiative which encourages the use of electric vehicles, and thanks to that and generally increased awareness ten to 20 per cent of all new customer inquiries relate to electric or hybrid vehicles. Autohorn has pledged to have a minimum of five per cent electric vehicles by 2020.

It said: “As part of their mission statement, all profits made by Autohorn are invested back into the city of York, whether this means servicing their vehicles in local garages or improving career opportunities for college students.”

The growing company aims to maintain its commitment by expanding into another base in the Clifton Moor area, bringing benefits to employees and having a significant effect on its carbon footprint. “Thanks to its location within easy reach of local car dealerships, vehicles will have less distance to travel and will avoid contributing to city-centre traffic,” it said.

Sales and operations director Scott Jenkins said: “2016 has certainly been a bit of a rollercoaster for Autohorn, but we’ve taken on every challenge and learned from it.” He look forward to developing even further in 2017, with the new offices and other local projects.

Employer of the Year - Little Green Rascals

The organic nursery’s founder and managing director, Vanessa Warn, said it was “absolutely fantastic for all the hard work of my team to be recognised” as it picked up four awards during the year, including our Employer of the Year title.

“We were delighted to be awarded an ‘outstanding’ rating by Ofsted for our site at Tadcaster Road in March 2016. We were particularly pleased with the comments made by the Ofsted inspector about the setting.”

These included that the leadership and management were inspirational, the staff were expert teachers, children “have a wealth of opportunities to explore and be creative both indoors and outdoors”, their emotional well-being is of utmost priority, all environments are highly stimulating, exceptionally well equipped and spacious and staff are significantly well supported.

“We felt that the comments above really captured everything that Little Green Rascals is about. My vision when we started the business in 2009 was to try and create a completely differentiated offering in what is a very tired industry.

“Our children are the most important people in our lives and their well being and development is absolutely paramount. We strive everyday to ensure we create the very best environment for our Rascals’ development and a place for families to connect, I’m so delighted to have achieved this with the support of an amazing team.”

The nursery was now working with City of York Council on the pilot of the Government’s latest initiative to offer 30-hours funded childcare.

Financial sustainability was an ongoing challenge for the business, as was recruitment. “Our ambition is to create a great working environment for our staff. We strive to make sure that they are supported by us as much as we possibly can and we look to provide this above and beyond the normal working day,” said Mrs Warn, adding it would continue to work with the likes of York College to bring more apprentices into the business.

“We’re very much on the lookout for new opportunities to extend Little Green Rascals’ reach. We think there are a few opportunities to do this in and around York and we’re also starting to consider expansion into other towns like Harrogate and Leeds,” she said.