THREE local businesses that rose to the challenges of the pandemic have been recognised with a new special award.
The first COVID-Resilience Leamington Business Awards, organised by Talk Business UK, were held as part of a virtual ceremony hosted by local DJ Kirsty Leahy from Noisegate Media Studio in Leamington on Friday night.
As well as a special performance from dance circus theatre company Motionhouse, the event featured a motivational message to businesses from Warwick and Leamington MP Matt Western, pictured right.
He said: “It is really unpredictable how the pandemic is playing out and I appreciate just how hard it is hitting our businesses. If businesses can’t be open then we must have the financial support for them to see them through this incredibly difficult time, particularly the hospitality sector.
“I really want to thank all the businesses which have taken this seriously and have spent so much money to get COVID-safe and adhere to Government guidelines at a time when the revenue hasn’t been coming in.
“Huge thanks on behalf of the whole community to all the local businesses whose response to the pandemic has been extraordinary and I was very proud to see just how quickly businesses galvanized. It is a real measure of our community what has taken place over these last few months.
“It is so important for all of us that these businesses are around next year and the year after. We depend on the prosperity of our businesses for the vitality and the jobs and so on but they are such a core part of what makes Leamington so unique.”
2020 Business Resilience Award: This award went to a business that has demonstrated determination and resilience throughout the pandemic and tackled challenges head-on.
WINNER: CJ’s Events, Warwick
CJ Events directors Carol Young and Jamie WalkerWhen the national lockdown hit in March, family-run business CJ’s Events Warwickshire took the decision to close its markets but, over a period of two months, the company worked hard on plans to return safely in line with Government advice, investing heavily in COVID barriers, signage and hand sanitiser stations and implementing policies and procedures, with the support of Warwick District Council.
And in June, CJ’s Events Warwickshire and Warwick Market were adopted by Central Government as a case study for how to implement a market’s safe return.
Their markets also continued to operate in line with the Government advice during the second lockdown.
Director and COVID-19 Compliance Officer Jamie Walker said: “We are absolutely ecstatic to have won the Business Resilience Award, this year has been a very tough one, one which wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Warwick District Council, BID Leamington, our whole team, traders and customers.
“Our whole business turned upside down during the announcement of the first lockdown, with all our events being cancelled. We’re immensely proud of what we’ve achieved over the past nine months and our business has gone from strength to strength despite the times we’ve faced.
“Winning this award highlights the appreciation of our hard work and this has ended 2020 on a high for us, we can’t thank everyone enough.”
Judge Sarah Windrum, CEO Emerald Group and CWLEP Board member, said this of the winning entry: “For the judges, the company that shone through was one that acted quickly when faced with adversity and when their business as usual had been turned completely on its head. They helped us keep our town safe and open with new COVID measures and their proactive approach to training meant that we could have the first UK market to reopen after the initial lockdown.
“They worked with regional stakeholders, led by a young team and it’s really inspirational to see what they have done for us. They’re also keeping us in good Christmas cheer as we stay within the tier 3 restrictions.”
Business Pivot Award: This category was open to any business that could demonstrate how they have ‘pivoted’ their product or service during 2020..
WINNER: Heartbreak Productions, Leamington
This outdoor theatre business of 30 years had to respond quickly to the realisation that their much-anticipated 2020 tour would not go ahead and so curated the following projects including sharing past performances for the small screen and launching a competition for young people to devise their own lockdown-themed story, some of which were adapted into short screenplays.
Emily Bennett, spokesperson for Heartbreak Productions, said: “Heartbreak is honoured to have received this award after one of our most challenging years to date. Every single finalist deserved to win and we are overwhelmed by the love and support we have received.
“We would be unable to continue to do what we love without the wonderful people behind us – thank you!”
Judge, Louise Richards of Motionhouse, said: “The theatre sector was truly decimated and everybody lost all of their work. Heartbreak Productions, which receives absolutely no regular funding, managed to turn on a pinhead.
“People underestimate the time and work that goes into the creations in the theatre world and to do all of that in such a short period of time and be so responsive and so opportunistic is the sign of a brilliant business.”
Lockdown Hero Award: This award recognises the Leamington business that has gone ‘above and beyond’ during 2020. The business may have provided products to vulnerable groups free of charge, offered their services pro-bono to struggling local businesses or individuals, or spread positivity during challenging times.
WINNER: Baabzi Takeaway, Warwick
Baabzi have been actively involved in their local community throughout the year, including meal deliveries to Warwick and Birmingham Children’s Hospitals.
The team also supplied nutritious meals to Helping Hands charity as well as raising more than £10,000 for the NHS Charity through food nights, a charity bike ride and skydive.
At the same time the business found ways to fund and supply keyworkers with PPE.
Owner Faruk Miah said: “All the finalists have done amazing jobs and we are all winners in truth. Winning this tonight is much welcome recognition of the value of local businesses and their essential contributions to overall wellbeing.
“What we did, we did purely because it felt like the right thing to do and we are proud to be a part of the community spirit. Watch this space because we have only just begun.”
Judge, Roger Scott, Area Director South Midlands for Lloyds SME, said: “Baabzi did a fantastic job working with others in the community, supporting the NHS. And what we loved is that personal connection with the town of Leamington but also that they wanted to give something back and that really touched our hearts.”
The bespoke awards were specially designed by Warwickshire College students Spencer Bronckaerts and Kodie Wood.
Jonathan Smith, of Talk Business UK, said: ”What an amazing evening showing what 2020 has taught us that we can overcome the challenges of Tier 3 and lockdowns and host great events online to recognise and celebrate all the inspiring achievements of the individuals and businesses of the region.
“Seeing the responses from all the worthy winners in each of the categories was emotional as we could see what this recognition meant to them and that hosting these special ‘Resilience Awards’ was the right thing to do.”
Nominations for the main Leamington Business Awards will open on January 21st 2021 when businesses have the opportunity to enter 12 categories: New Business of the Year; Business and Community Award; Customers Service Excellence Award; Young Person of the Year Award, Employer of the Year; South Warwickshire Achievement of the Year; Innovation of the Year; Outstanding Achievement of the Year; Independent Business of the Year; Property Business of the Year, Warwick District Charity of the Year and The People’s Choice Award.
A winner from all the categories will also be selected for the prestigious Judges’ Choice Award – Business of the Year.
Further details about the awards categories and how to nominate are available at: www.leamingtonbusinessawards.co.uk