THE cream of Winchester’s businesses were celebrated after the toughest year most of them have ever faced.

The Winchester Business Excellence Awards were backed by the Daily Echo and Hampshire Chronicle, Winchester BID and Hampshire Chamber of Commerce.

Gavin Hunter, chief operating officer of the University of Winchester – which hosted the event – said: “It’s great to be here in person and to be able to celebrate and reward all the wonderful finalists this evening for their contribution to excellence in business.”

He commended the high number and quality of entries in this year’s awards. 

Bill Brown, editor and publisher of Newsquest’s titles in North Hampshire, introduced the awards and thanked sponsors.

“Without the support of our sponsors, the awards would not be able to recognise the achievements and scope of the businesses in the region,” he said.

Guest speaker was TV presenter and speaker Penny Mallory, the only woman to drive a World Rally car. She talked about growing up with a bipolar, alcoholic mother, running away at 14 and eventually achieving her dream of becoming a rally driver.

She now specialises in coaching “mental toughness”. “Your business success will not be down to your intelligence, your skill or your talent, it will be down to your mental toughness,” she told guests.

She is a descendant of George Mallory, who took part in three expeditions to Mount Everest and may have reached the summit. She quoted his words: “It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

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The overall Business of the Year title went to property and construction firm Ridge and Partners LLP.

Hampshire’s Lord Lieutenant, Nigel Atkinson, who presented the award, described it as “a company which, from humble beginnings, has experienced substantial growth in turnover and profits over the last 11 years”.

He added: “The management team has a clear business plan purpose and vision to ensure the company’s long-term prosperity.”

The Millennium Egg award for an outstanding organisation or individual was awarded last year to the late Ken McCartney, whose widow Mandy was at this year’s awards to see him honoured.

This year, the egg went to Bishops Waltham parish councillor Robert Shields for his contribution to life in the village. He asked guests to raise a glass to his wife Ruth.

Winchester City Council leader Cllr Lucille Thompson, who presented the award, said: “Robert shows what’s possible when the community comes together to support its high street’s recovery.”

She said of the event: “May I say how wonderful this evening has been and hopefully this is the start of being able to gather and celebrate all that’s great about our community.”

Winners were as follows.

Business Leader. Winner: James Poore, JPLD. Finalists: Ben Talbot, FatFace; Rebecca Smith, Open House Deli.

Social Enterprise. Winner: Unit 12 CIC. Finalists: ActiveMe 360, Bespoke Biking CIC.

Charity. Winner: Winchester Churches Nightshelter. Finalists: Citizens Advice, MHA Communities Winchester.

Large Business (sponsor: Paris Smith). Winner: Ridge and Partners LLP. Finalists: Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists Ltd, Diametric Technical Ltd.

SME or Independent Business (sponsor: Winchester BID). Winner: Toscanaccio. Finalists: Dybles Estate Agent, Sass and Edge.

New Business (sponsor: Dutton Gregory Solicitors). Winner: Earthian Zero Waste Shop. Finalists: Adventure 360findyourfreedom, ElectroClean.

Sustainable Business (sponsor: University of Winchester). Winner: Earthian Zero Waste Shop. Finalists: FatFace, Montezuma’s Chocolates.

Service Excellence. Winner: Arcana Hair and Beauty. Finalists: New Energy, Winchester Magazine.

Digital Innovation (sponsor: Winchester City Council). Winner: The Gurkha Museum. Finalists: Donater Ltd, Ridge and Partners LLP.

Business of the Year. Ridge and Partners.

Millennium Egg. Robert Shields.