MAXINE GORDON finds out what judges are looking for in The Press Business Awards – and discovers what it means to win one of the prestigious honours

THE Press Business Awards are in their 29th year and offer a unique opportunity to showcase the best innovators, leaders and entrepreneurs in our region.

The awards – which are free to enter – recognise the achievements of all kinds of businesses, large and small, across different sectors in York, North and East Yorkshire.

Sponsored by Talk Talk, winners will be announced at a black-tie awards ceremony at York Racecourse on Thursday, November 21.

Each entrant will have their story published in The Press and online – and can submit in a maximum of two categories (out of a choice of ten).

The deadline has been extended to Friday, August 16.

So what makes a great entry, and what's in it for the winners? To find out, we asked one of the judges to provide top tips on what they are looking for in an entry, and shared some thoughts from past winners on what picking up that trophy meant to them, their business and their staff.

What the judges say...

Anne Taylor, director of York-based web development company See Green, has been a Press Business Awards judge for the past two years. Here she gives ten top tips on how to write a winning award entry...

1. The Press Awards are an annual institution for York and a chance for the city’s businesses to blow their own trumpets. They’re free to enter, and writing a submission isn’t a huge task – but best of all, every entrant will be featured in The Press, so you’re getting some gratis advertising to boot.

2. Every business can slot themselves into at least one category, so take the opportunity to spend an hour on a submission, and you never know, you might just win! And what better way to reward your team than a night at a swanky awards dinner at York Racecourse?

3. Judges spend a lot of time reading submissions, and the more engaging you can make your story, the better.

We want to hear about your struggles, your successes, how wonderful your team is, how you’ve expanded, how long your family business has been going.

4. Don’t, however, be tempted to elaborate on the truth – keep to the facts and let them do the talking.

5. Consider the key points that you want to get across – you’ve got between 700 and 1,000 words for each category you enter, so use it wisely and don’t go over the limit.

6. At the other end of the spectrum the most mediocre submissions I’ve seen are sparse on details, and well under the word limit –your submission should be bursting with pride and packed with information, not seem like a half-hearted effort.

7. Quantify your statements. Show, don’t just tell – don’t simply make statements about being the biggest, or best, or leading in your field, back up your claims with proof, with real-life examples.

8. We don’t know what you don’t tell us – make sure that you write with the assumption we know zero about your business. Some things may seem like common sense, but make sure you get everything you can into the submission. Look at the points under each category of the type of thing we’re looking for in an entry, and consider them again when you’ve finished writing your submission.

9. Make sure you write your submissions offline and then paste it into the entry form on The Press website – that way you’ve got a copy for other awards, or for next year, to refer back to, and avoids you losing your work if something goes wrong while you’re submitting.

10. Check, check, check – a submission shouldn’t be riddled with spelling mistakes and typos, so just take another five minutes to read though your entry, or better still get your most pedantic colleague or friend to read through and give feedback.

Finally, whatever the outcome, see the process of compiling an awards entry as a valuable exercise, letting you spend some time reflecting on your business and your team, and enjoy seeing your story in print.

Good luck!

What the winners say...

York digital technology company Netsells, winners of Small Business of the Year 2018

Netsells fought off stiff competition in this category last year, impressing judges with its development from a small group of six university friends to a digital agency holding its own among some of the biggest in the North of England. Clients included Uber, Virgin, Hiscox, BBC, Jaguar Landrover and Leeds University, while turnover had increased by more than 500 per cent in just two years, with figures forecasted to increase “exponentially” over coming years following a number of recent high-profile deals.

Bethan Vincent, marketing manager of Netsells, said: "There were a lot of strong businesses in our category, but strong competition is great to see. We work with clients globally but are not so well known here, so this put us on the map in York.

"Obviously, we used it in our marketing and social media and it was a great for staff too to know they had been recognised for the work they had been doing. We had a table at the awards ceremony on the night and a party afterwards. It is great to dress up and go to the ceremony, you feel like part of the community.

"The awards are a great showcase – and show that York is an amazing business destination.

"We have entered again this year: in the small business and business innovation categories. We think we have something great to shout about – we have done better this year, so why not tell people about it?"

Owen Turner, managing director of United By Design, York, won Business Personality of the Year 2013

The judges were impressed by Owen's involvement in educational projects, such as Young Enterprise, York St John University’s ACORN and Spark schemes and North Yorkshire Business and Education Partnership (NYBEP) and the mentoring and internship opportunities provided by the business. They noted that the business also contributed one per cent of its profits to environmental charities, including Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

Owen said: "It was massive to win this and I was very proud. It showed I was connected to the city and involved in a lot of things.

"Winning enabled some people who hadn't heard of us to hear about us, so it was great for exposure.

"It was quite unexpected! The person doing our PR really pushed for me to enter and I was very surprised to get down to being a finalist, never mind actually winning!

"I would encourage people to enter. The Press has been running these awards for a very long time and you can be very surprised by the outcome."

Roche Legal won Socially Responsible Business of the Year last year

Judges praised the team for taking their social responsibility seriously and being passionate in support of various charities. All its staff are Dementia Friends.

Managing director Rachel Roche said: "Winning a York Business Award has been incredibly positive for us.

"To be recognised as a socially responsible local business helps us to demonstrate that we are giving back to the very people who help our small business to thrive.

"It is testament to the importance of actively supporting local charities and communities for the benefit of us all and will hopefully encourage more businesses to do the same.”

The Press Business Awards - fact file

The awards are free to enter.

Each entry will have their story published in The Press.

Deadline is Friday August 16.

The awards night is on Thursday, November 21, at York Racecourse.

Headline sponsor is Talk Talk.

There are ten different categories, with an overall Business of the Year winner also.

Categories are: large business of the year; small business of the year; new business of the year; socially responsible business of the year; exporter of the year; family business of the year; business innovation of the year; employer of the year; business personality of the year, and retail, tourism and leisure business of the year.

Entrants can choose up to two categories.

Entry is online only via the website: