Champagne corks were popping as businesses celebrated their success in the first ever East Lindsey Business Awards last month.
Top food producers, manufacturers, restaurants and tourist attractions from across the district gathered at Kenwick Park Hotel, near Louth, on Friday May 19.
Hosted by Radio Lincolnshire presenter Melvyn Prior, the event saw finalists go head-to-head in nine separate business categories, with winners being chosen by David Dexter, the deputy chairman of the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
Each award was presented either by an individual business sponsor, an executive board member or an official from ELDC.
The ‘Young Entrepreneur of the Year’ award was won by Sophie Watkinson, a community dance artist from Louth who founded the ‘do-dance’ business which specialises in providing creative, expressive movement and dance opportunities aimed at individuals and community groups between the ages of five and 60.
The runners up in the category were Megan Johnson from Louth, who owns the Potty About Pets shop, and Emma Smith, one of the two directors of the Skegness-based Chuckling Cheese Company. The award was sponsored by the Business Lincolnshire Growth Hub.
Accepting the award from Coun Steve Kirk, Ms Watkinson explained that she set up the business three years ago, with support from the Prince’s Trust, after returning to Lincolnshire following her university course.
She gave a ‘big thank you’ to the Trust for helping get her business off the ground, and joked that she could ‘probably’ teach the host Melvyn Prior to dance - while he very much disagreed!
In the ‘Excellence in Digital Innovation’ category, another Louth business - Root 2 Recruit - was victorious, ahead of the runners up, First Media and MJM & Co Ltd.
Root 2 Recruit, run by husband-and-wife team David and Judy Norton, gratefully received the award which recognised their ‘easy, effective and affordable’ offer to their clients. However, Judy could not attend on the night - as she was busy representing the company at another awards evening in North Lincolnshire.
The ‘Food Business of the Year’ award was won by Minting Park Farm, a family run mixed farm based in Gautby near Wragby. The runners up were Kirk Quality Foods and the Chuckling Cheese Company, both from Skegness, and the award was sponsored by Hyprotect Ltd.
In the ‘Excellence in Manufacturing’ award, MTAG Composites from Coningsby took first place, beating off stiff competition from Micronclean and Tong Engineering. The award was sponsored by chartered accounts and business advisers, Duncan & Toplis.
The ‘Visitor Attraction of the Year’ category was a tough three-way battle between Lincolnshire Wildlife Park in Friskney, the Gibraltar Point National Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre and the Claythorpe Watermill and Wildfowl Gardens near Alford.
The winner was Lincolnshire Wildlife Park, and founder Steve Nichols wowed the room with the fact that his park has the largest collection of parrots in the UK - around 2,000 - in addition to 11 tigers and a whole host of other exotic creatures.
Steve said: “I cannot express how honoured we are to win the award. I am proud of our expert animal handlers, maintenance staff, admission and booking administrators and catering personnel, all working together with drive and determination to make the experience at Lincolnshire Wildlife Park the best it can be for all of the animals - and each and every customer who visits us.”
The ‘Independent Retailer of the Year’ award was won by First Clothing which has been trading in Horncastle for over 12 years and offers a range of designer brands including Joules and White Stuff. They held off competition from Buckets Animal Feeds and Tack Store from Louth, and People First Mobility from Skegness. The award was sponsored by chartered accountants Clark Hearsey.
The ‘Exporter of the Year’ category was won by Shelton Sportsturf Drainage from Horncastle who beat Woodhall Spa-based Househam Sprayers and Spilsby-based Tong Engineering to the top spot.
A Shelton Sportsturf spokesman told the audience that the business was ‘growing year on year’, and had diversified into the agricultural market in the last couple of years - but added that the sports side was ‘very much’ a key part of the business.
The ‘New Business of the Year’ award was scooped by Crofts Estate Agents which was established in Cleethorpes in 2005 and expanded into Louth’s Market Place last year. They finished ahead of Skegness businesses Click Ink and the Chuckling Cheese Company.
A Crofts spokesman explained that the business had been innovative in providing a range of online and offline options for their customers, including video tours and touchscreens in their office windows.
He said: “We’re always ready for change, and we’re usually the first to do it”.
There was strong competition in the ‘Best Place to Eat Category’ - with all three finalists based in Louth.
Michelin Guide restaurant ‘14 Upgate’ and the Brackenborough Hotel Lounge Restaurant were both worthy finalists but the award was won by The Ranch Steakhouse and Grill, the popular ‘Wild West’ style restaurant based in Queen Street.
Owner Oliver Crossland expressed his surprise and gratitude and paid tribute to the two other ‘fantastic’ finalists.
He added: “I guess people like eating steaks and burgers, with cowboy hats on, and listening to American rock music!”
The evening was enjoyed by all businesses and guests.
Following such a successful inaugural event, it is expected that the East Lindsey Business Awards will now become an annual event.
• The associate sponsors were Shelton Sportsturf Drainage Ltd and Tong Engineering, and the media partner was Johnston Press.