THEY are the categories that honour exceptional vision, leadership, and innovation.

Nominations are now open for the Southampton Young Entrepreneur of the Year and Small Business of the Year at this year’s eagerly anticipated South Coast Business Awards.

Those shortlisted will be invited with a host of the region’s business chiefs to a glittering black tie event at the Grand Harbour Hotel, Southampton, for the awards ceremony on Friday, July 11.

The Daily Echo-backed event, which has been organised in association with leading law firm Trethowans, aims to raise standards, encourage competition and recognise business excellence.

The annual awards ceremony is being run in partnership with Business South and Destination Southampton.

Last year the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year award went to Clearvision, while the Southampton City Council gong for Southampton Young Entrepreneur of the Year was scooped by Tomasz Dyl of Gottabe!.

Hampshire Chamber of Commerce deputy chief executive Maureen Frost said: “The South Coast Business Awards have been growing year on year and the volume and quality of the entries has improved each time.

“It’s a real stamp of quality and external recognition and it does a lot to improve staff morale in the companies that are recognised.

“We are really looking forward to this year."

Southampton City Councillor Matt Tucker, Cabinet member for economic development and leisure services, said: “I am inspired by the outstanding talent that we have in Southampton, especially when it comes to our young entrepreneurs who continually push the boundaries of possibility and strive so hard to be the very best in their fields.

“The high calibre of entrants last year gives me great expectations of the quality we can expect from 2014’s entries.”