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Solent 250 Awards: winners for for 2022 unveiled

By Tim Wickham
30 March 2022
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The winners of The Business Magazine's Solent 250 Awards for 2022, recognising the top privately-owned SMEs and large corporates, has been revealed.

The Solent 250 Awards returned with a strong line-up of dynamic businesses scooping accolades across a broad range of categories. Winners from both 2022 and the postponed 2020 awards were honoured.

View the full Solent 250 listings for 2021 which shows the best companies by revenue in the region >>

A select group of invited guests attended the awards dinner at Southampton’s Harbour Hotel, along with representatives from the Solent 250 sponsors HSBC UK, RSM UK, Irwin Mitchell and CMA Recruitment Group.

Richard Thompson, Managing Director of The Business Magazine, said: “It's fantastic to see so many successful and growing companies here tonight.”

During the evening, guest speaker Mike Warren, Managing Director of Harbour Hotels Group, gave an insight into how the 15-venue hotel chain adapted to the pandemic shutdown and emerged stronger from it.

“From July 2020 when we re-opened we needed to reassure guests. We created the 'Safe Harbour' marketing campaign to give people the confidence to return to us and updated our website constantly with the latest Covid-19 advice. It really worked for us,” he said.

“Lockdown also showed us how important it is to communicate with our staff and keep them engaged.”

Warren added that the Group has seen a 22% post-pandemic increase in room sales and a 10% rise in dining covers.

Success, he emphasised, has been down to its people. “They are our greatest asset. We have lots of brilliant people, especially our junior staff who are our future."

Delayed 2020 winners receive their awards

Before the 2022 winners were revealed, the 2020 Solent 250 Awards winners were officially honoured after their moment of triumph fell victim to the first Covid-19 lockdown. Delayed congratulations and trophies went to:

International Company of the Year:  CT Automotive Group Plc

Exporter of the Year: Superior Seals

Growth Story of the Year: Imperial Car Supermarkets (Cazoo)

Leadership Team of the Year: Mayflower Theatre

Employee Engagement & Wellbeing: Lionel Hitchen

Family Business of the Year: Hall & Woodhouse

Ones to Watch: 23.5 Degrees

Next, it was time to recognise the 2022 awards winners…

Entrepreneurial Business of the Year

Winner: Double H Nurseries

“We changed our business model to tackle the challenge of the Covid-19 lockdown by building an e-commerce site. We previously had no consumer customers and it took seven days from deciding to go online to selling our first products. Marketing and PR helped to get the message across, we designed new packaging and set up courier relationships to get products to customers. There were lots of times when we thought it might not work but we had to do something. We've now opened a new packaging site at New Milton for e-commerce. Last year, we increased turnover by 30% and are targeting a 40% increase for the next 12 months. Online sales are currently about 10-15% and we want to increase this." Andy Burton, Managing Director, and Matt Thorne, Finance Director, Double H Nurseries

Finalists:

Harvest Fine Foods

Hobbycraft Group

Polystar Plastics

Climate & Sustainability Award

Winner: Barfoots

“We've been carbon neutral since 2010. A combination of things spurred us to do this, mainly an increase in sweetcorn production that produced waste husks and there weren't enough cows on the south coast to eat them all. We invested in an anaerobic digestor to take all our waste and generate power. The payback period was quite long but we invested in making the digestor more efficient and in doubling electricity generation to reduce the payback time. We also sell electricity to the grid. We are just about to commission a water treatment plant to collect water from our factories and production facilities so we can re-use it for irrigation. We look across our global supply chain to be more sustainable, for example, using sea rather than air freight, which is also a fraction of the carbon cost." Keston Williams, Technical Director, Barfoots

Finalists:

Hendy Group

Southern Co-operative

TJ Waste & Recycling

Business Culture Award

Winner: Lionel Hitchen

“Our culture is really important to us and took years to get right. We introduced a 'World Class Manufacturing Programme' that engages people, encourages them to have a say and means they know they can contribute and will be supported. We worked really hard at it and are at the point where everybody is happy, enjoys their job and loves coming to work. People are involved, engaged and empowered. If you get your culture right your growth targets will be achieved. Our culture means clients understand that we care about them – they get the vibe. And we are fair to our suppliers because their relationship and loyalty are important to us." Eva Agnew, CEO, Lionel Hitchin

Finalists:

Ascenti

Novatech

Williams

International Company of the Year

Winner: Europlacer

“We had our best ever sales year in 2021 which was slightly surprising coming on the heels of the pandemic and despite supply chain problems and staff shortages. That was down to our strong market presence in the US and China and new product releases that were well received. We also started a joint venture with a company in Kenya using an investment of Europlacer equipment so they could manufacture printed circuit boards in Nairobi. As far as we know, this is the first such facility in sub-Saharan Africa and it is serving new customers.” Julian Boardman, Group Finance Director, Europlacer

Exporter of the Year: Minerva Global

“The challenge for us during the pandemic was moving goods overseas as we faced supply chain issues, imbalances with the availability of containers, workers with Covid-19 and restrictions on vehicle movements. We are fortunate as we export all over the world and where some markets were quieter others stayed busy and also that almonds are a preferred foodstuff in many countries. We operate in diverse sectors where some benefited from the lockdown, like snack manufacturers. Improving sustainability across our supply chain has always been an important factor for us and we can see the trend growing on more traceability." Ellie Osman, Managing Director, Minerva Global

Finalists:

Clearvision CM

Stannah

Growth & Resilience Award

Winner for Growth: Outright Games

“We grew 73% over the period under review and our projections are to continue that trajectory. Our main customers, who include Sony Pictures, Dreamworks and Nickelodeon, are based mainly in California. Our growth is focused on growing our product range, which is currently 22 games globally, and driving close relationships with our clients. These relationships are our bedrock. We work very closely with client teams, talking every day, as it’s important to look after their brands.” Stephanie Malham, Chief Operating Officer, Outright Games

Winner for Resilience: RoyaleLife

“We have a lot of passion in our business, from board level, the senior management team and throughout our hard-working staff across all departments. Our growth and success come from believing in what we do and the solution we provide people. We’re in the fortunate position of being able to change people’s lives by offering them a new lifestyle in a detached, single-storey home with a garden and in a community of like-minded people. Resilience for us came from having a clear ambition and the drive not to be hold back. We had to contend with the property market slowing down and, on the development side, shortages of materials and manpower. We took the bold move to increase our marketing activity when other companies were slashing theirs, this paid huge dividends for our brand awareness and enquiry levels. The pandemic has hurt a lot of people and companies but it has also made good, well run businesses more efficient and stronger as a result.” Ben Smith, Marketing Director, and Jason Williams, Chief Operations Officer, RoyaleLife

Finalists:

A2C Services

Carrington West

Harbour Hotels Group