The Winchester business Excellence Awards are off to a flying start.

Winchester based estate agents Penyards have announced their sponsorship of the inaugral awards open to small and medium-sized businesses in the local authority district of Winchester.

The awards office, run by North Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, has been inundated with calls requesting the application pack necessary for entry to the competition. The awards are open to organisations with fewer than 200 employees and entries are spread over six categories:

* The Hampshire County Council New Business of the Year Award

* The Winchester City Council Award for Business Excellence through People

* The Dutton Gregory Award for Business and Education in Partnership

* The 365 Finance Award for Business in the Community

* The Condor Office Solutions Award for Service Excellence

* The Small Business of the Year Award

Barbara Bryant, chief executive of North Hampshire Chamber of Commerce and Industry said: "Businesses across the district are set to benefit from their participation in 2003. The awards offer local companies the opportunity to focus on their achievements and build competitive advantage. Entering the competition is relatively straightforward and the rewards for the winning companies are substantial.

"Winners in each of the six categories will receive a specially commissioned Business Excellence Awards trophy, framed certificate and a suite of Canon office equipment worth £2,000; as well as high profile publicity and recognition of their outstanding contribution to local enterprise."

The competition is organised by founding partners Hampshire Chronicle, Leepeckgreenfeild, North Hampshire Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Winchester City Centre Partnership.

For more information and an application pack contact Joanna Cassey or Dawn Gear on 01962 841000.