Spotlight on Leamington Business Awards COVID Resilience finalists

AS the finalists for the new COVID Resilience Leamington Business Awards were revealed last week, we take a closer look at each of the businesses which went above and beyond to counter the effects of the pandemic year. . .

2020 BUSINESS RESILIENCE AWARD: This award will go to a business that has demonstrated determination and resilience throughout the pandemic and tackled challenges head-on.

CJ’s Events, Warwick

Leamington Business COVID Resilience Awards 2020, Talk Business UK, CJ's Events
Jamie Walker, left, and team

When 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.

Jamie Walker of CJ Events, said: “It has been an extremely challenging year for us. Our team have worked around the clock, with the support from Warwick District Council to ensure our weekly markets and special Covent Garden markets in Leamington could remain open, and this has allowed over 40 local, independent businesses to continue to trade through difficult times, many of which have seen this as a lifeline for them and their business.”

“Being shortlisted as a finalist is overwhelming and really means a lot to us, this shows our hard work is being appreciated by many.”

Rhythm Time, Warwickshire

Leamington Business COVID Resilience Awards 2020, Talk Business UK, Rhythm Time
Rachel Turner of Rhythm Time

From a busy roll of 350 babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers attending music classes around the country, this business quickly adapted to pre-recorded and live Facebook sessions, despite furloughing most of the staff and dwindling numbers. Some of the videos were even hand-delivered by owner Rachel Turner who cycled around the area raising the communities’ spirits, dressed as a chicken and bee!

Online classes continued over the summer, including special Zoom sessions for Father’s Day and VE Day, as plans for a return to venues eventually started across the country. Rigid safety measures were put in place and new instruments had to be bought which could be easily cleaned but the depleted capacity coupled with increased outgoings led to redundancies.

Rachel said: “We are very excited and honoured to be a finalist! After a rollercoaster of a year, it is just very emotional for our hard work and resilience through lockdown to be recognised in this way. It hasn’t been easy some days to keep smiling and singing online but knowing we are bringing cheer and fun to our Rhythm Time families has kept us going!”

Get Cooking, Warwick

Anne Marie Lambert took her cookery workshops online free of charge, delivering around 40 Zoom lessons for up to 15 people between March and July, with an emphasis on sustainability and economical and easy-to-make recipes.

She also provided classes for local and national charities and a takeaway event to raise funds for local foodbanks, as well as health and wellbeing-focused workshops for businesses.

Leamington Business COVID Resilience Awards 2020, Talk Business UK, Get Cooking
Anne Marie Lambert in her kitchen

Anne Marie said: “I’m really honoured to be recognised for the resilience award among Leamington businesses.

“I have really valued the support from my clients and their willingness to embrace Zoom cook-alongs. It has been great to connect people of all ages in lockdown through food.”

BUSINESS PIVOT AWARD: This category was open to any business that can demonstrate how they have ‘pivoted’ their product or service during 2020, ie. adapted their offering for new or existing customers, thus allowing their business to survive – and even thrive.

Birtelli’s, Leamington

Leamington Business COVID Resilience Awards 2020, Talk Business UK, Birtelli's
Jim Biryah

Not just surviving but thriving, this artisan pizza business, launched by two brothers in 2017, reinvented its trading model during this year’s first lockdown by offering pizza kits alongside their takeaway menu option locally. Such was its success, it has now been rolled out across the country.

Leamington Business COVID Resilience Awards 2020, Talk Business UK, Birtelli's
Jag Biryah

They have also been helping companies to hold virtual socials with the use of video conferencing apps to make their own pizzas with the aim of building engagement in the teams in the virtual environment.

Proud founders Jag and Jim Biryah said: “We are delighted to have been shortlisted for the Leamington Business Awards Pivot Category. We are passionate about pizza made from authentic quality ingredients and are really proud we have been able to extend our reach to enable people across the UK to experience a Birtelli’s through our Pizza Kits.”

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:

Heartbreak at Home – Free shared footage of past performances edited for the small screen at-home viewer.

Tell My Story – A competition for young people to devise their own story based on the phrase ‘Escape from Lockdown.’ This project, with funding from Arts Council England, was able to offer the out-of-work Heartbreak actors an opportunity to earn again by adapting eight of the young people’s stories into 50-minute screenplays live-streamed to families at home.

Alice In Lockdown – Following an announcement that outdoor theatre could return, in July, Alice In Lockdown was written, rehearsed and set on the road in a matter of weeks, travelling to 24 socially-distanced  venues across the UK.

Leamington Business COVID Resilience Awards 2020, Talk Business UK, Heartbreak Productions
The Heartbreak Productions team

Executive Director Maddy Kerr said: “Heartbreak is delighted and honoured to be chosen as a finalist for these awards.

“We hope that the lovely people of Leamington come through this difficult time and we can all come together and celebrate the town’s achievements soon.”

Acorn Academy Coaching, Leamington

Leamington Business COVID Resilience Awards 2020, Talk Business UK, Acorn Academy Coaching
Rachel Baker

When the pandemic brought an abrupt standstill to her work, health and wellbeing coach Rachel Baker pivoted to offer online coaching which has enabled her to widen her client base internationally.

She also collaborated with Warwickshire County Council on a successful wellbeing support and coaching program for their keyworkers as well as launching free Facebook forums for both health and social workers and the general public.

She is currently in the process of developing a digital download, as well as a physical pack of cards that focus on helping people make positive changes in their lives by managing stress and anxiety and building resilience and optimism – and pledges to continue her online sessions going forward.

Rachel said: “I am overwhelmed and over the moon to be a finalist. This town has been my home for many, many years so I am excited, proud and honoured to be recognised in this way. Thank you to all of my clients, friends and family who have supported me and Acorn Academy Coaching throughout this very bizarre year.”

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.

The Barn Kitchen, Leamington

Far from just sitting out lockdown, owner Kelly Isles and her team, immediately set to work in preparing more than 75,000 meals for NHS staff in Warwick, Rugby and Coventry hospitals.

They also raised £7,500 to support their cause, even reaching into their own pockets to the tune of £3,500, and were supported by wholesalers Booker UK who donated surplus food.

Their selfless efforts over a period of 106 days have already been recognised through a series of other awards, including Pride of Britain and Lorraine Kelly’s Heroes.

Leamington Business COVID Resilience Awards 2020, Talk Business UK, Barn Kitchen
Kelly Isles and her team

Kelly said: “All our staff worked for free volunteering thru out the lockdown. The true community spirit shone thru and we pulled together not apart during COVID-19.”

Goode Construction and Landscaping Group, Leamington

Leamington Business COVID Resilience Awards 2020, Talk Business UK, Goode Construction and Landscaping

Owner and founder of Goode Construction and Landscaping Daniel Goode, was quick to step in to help a local care home by offering his time and skills to create a sanctuary area for residents and health workers, even allowing one resident to venture outside for the first time in seven years!

He also created a video and fundraising page, exceeding targets – and changing the lives of even more people, with plans to also continue his charity efforts throughout next year.

Daniel said: “I am extremely humbled and very appreciative of the nomination. I have put a lot of time and effort into this project to ensure it would bring some light and sunshine into an environment where it is needed most. I truly hope it has offered a place of rest and recuperation for patients and key workers.

“I will hold this nomination very close to my heart and it has certainly added fuel to our fire with our future plans benefiting local residential communities.”

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.

Leamington Business COVID Resilience Awards 2020, Talk Business UK, Baabzi
Faruk Miah, centre, and the Baabzi team

Owner Faruk Miah said: “We are lost for words and humbled at making it as finalists for this truly wonderful award. It’s an honour and a pleasure to share and serve during very trying and testing times.

“Lockdown has been difficult for everyone, especially the vulnerable in our community. We as a team are deeply grateful for being considered.”

Established in 2014, the LBAs champion and celebrate the work of local businesses, individuals and organisations while also raising vital funds for local charities, culminating with, pandemic willing, a glittering black-tie ceremony next year.

The COVID-friendly interactive event will be broadcast live online from Noisegate Media Studio in Leamington on December 11th, hosted by local DJ and professional event host, Kirsty Leahy and featuring a special message from Matt Western MP for Warwick and Leamington.

The nine finalists will each receive an Awards Night Hamper at home containing food, drinks and goodies to help make the night extra special for everyone.
The judges are Mark Ashfield, MD for chartered accountants and financial advisors Harrison Beale & Owen; Sarah Windrum, CEO Emerald Group and CWLEP Board member; Louise Richards of Motionhouse dance circus production company and Roger Scott, Area Director South Midlands for Lloyds SME.

Leamington Business COVID Resilience Awards, Talk Business UK, Jonathan Smith

Sponsors include HB&O, Lodders solicitors and The Box Factory but more are invited to get onboard by contacting Jonathan Smith at: or He is also interested in hearing from businesses willing to donate items for the award hampers.

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:


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