SMALL businesses are the backbone of the economy and in Hampshire their number continues to grow.

The county saw an increase in the number of new company formations during 2018, despite the challenges of political and economic uncertainty surrounding Brexit, recently published figures from the Inform Direct Review of UK Company Formations.

Those companies are still to new to enter the Small Business category of the Echo-backed South Coast Business Awards but next year they be ready to take up the challenge.

The Small Business Award section, sponsored by Hampshire Chamber of Commerce is open to companies with fewer than 25 employees and a turnover of less than £5 million, which demonstrates all round excellence in business.

Businesses must be trading for at least 18 months.

The judges will be looking for:

- Commercial success, growth and achievement.

- Future objectives for the growth of the business.

- Innovation and creativity.

Celebrating success is vital especially in the current time of uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

Maureen Frost, chief executive of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Small businesses are often overlooked when it comes to recognition so awards such as these enable all of their hard work to be appreciated and shared.”

Last year’s winners were Brightbulb, a web, design, branding and graphic design studio founded five years ago by husband-and-wife team Matt and Fiona Jeffrey based at Wooton Bridge on the Isle of Wight,

He said the firm’s success was built on “out-of the-box” thinking.

Last year’s judges said Brightbulb “mix creativity with professionalism which has seen their business grow significantly over the past two years with exciting plans in place for the future.”

Brightbulb had worked with companies on the island and some big name clients including Hugo Boss and Top Shop.

Matt said winning the small business award in 2018 had been a big boost for the company.

“For us it was a massive award because it was regional and showed we had a reach beyond the island.”

He said Brightbulb’s marketing strategy for this year had been based on their award success and engaging with more businesses on the mainland in Hampshire.

Matt said he would be encouraging other island firms to enter.

Since last year’s win the business has expanded and is currently in the process of taking on two extra full-time staff and has moved to a new office – four times the size of their old one – within their building in Wootton.

The awards are now open. Closing date for nominations will be June 3.

The winners will be announced at a gala awards ceremony at St Mary’s Stadium on July 11, which will be compered by public speaking guru Jeremy Edwards.

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