Business of the Year Nominees 2023


Category criteria

  • The Business of the Year category is open to businesses with an annual turnover of more than £5 million.
  • Entrants should demonstrate outstanding success during their most recent full financial year.
  • Success can be judged on metrics ranging from exceptional growth and increased trading profit through to the development of services, developing staff, products or new production techniques.
  • The judges will welcome entries from businesses committed to corporate social responsibility.

The HEX Group

Business of the Year entrant

Staffordshire engineering and manufacturing company The HEX Group had another year of solid business results in 2022 so to reward staff it announced an above-inflation pay rise of 10% for every member of the nearly 500-strong team – an investment of more than £1.1 million.
2022 also saw a rebrand for the Hixon-based company which was set up by current CEO Martin Smith’s parents 40 years ago.
He said: “The decision to rebrand came following two years of diversifying growth and the desire to project a brand that better represented our broadening market offering and the business today.
“Despite the challenges this presented, we have had another fantastic year, reporting record numbers across the group divisions and taking on more staff than at any point in our four-decade history.
“The rebrand also presented a unique opportunity for assessment and reflection on the values and culture of the business.”
The HEX Group has a fully-accredited apprenticeship scheme that welcomes around 15 apprentices every year. It has recruited more than 150 apprentices since it was launched in 2010 with all graduates of the scheme offered a role with the company.
Employee wellbeing is taken very seriously. The HEX Group has opened two bespoke wellbeing rooms at group HQ and in September 2002 launched a Shout Up scheme where employees can discuss any problems anonymously.
Sustainability and the environment are also key themes for the company. It has a sustainability roadmap and has committed to being carbon neutral by 2037. Initiatives have already been adopted to improve waste management and recycling to reduce the reliance on landfill.
The business has committed to alternative energy sources and last year invested more than £600,000 into renewable energy, installing 1,770 solar panels. Solar energy now provides around 80% of The Group's power requirements on a good day.
The HEX Group has entered the Business of the Year category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

Reliance Medical Ltd

Business of the Year entrant

The UK’s leading trade-only manufacturer of first aid and medical supplies, Talke-based Reliance Medical is on track for a turnover of more than £30 million this year and has a new innovation that will remove the need for more than 3.4 million plastic bottles every year.
The company, which is on target for a £50 million turnover by 2025, also recently won an order to supply 20,000 lifesaving defibrillators for public buildings around the UK.
In late 2022 Reliance Medical launched Aura3, a range of 100% recycled and recyclable first aid kit boxes that will remove the need for the equivalent of around 3.43 million plastic bottles every year.
Aura3 is a first for the industry and follows other Reliance Medical eco innovations including design changes to ensure 40% more can be shipped in containers to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.
Set up more than 17 years ago, Reliance Medical Ltd employs 68 people in Staffordshire and a further 105 people its manufacturing subsidiary Reliance Medical Shanghai.
Thomas Pear MBA, Managing Director of Reliance Medical Ltd, said: “Reliance prides itself on leading the industry in terms of innovation and thought leadership, supporting and affecting regulatory and legislation changes. Our aim is to continue to grow UK sales and open new export and retail markets around the world.
“Our record-breaking order for over 20,000 AEDs means many more people will be able to easily access these devices - we are proud that each and every one will be there when most needed to save a life.
“2022 was one of our best years in terms of core product sales and at the same time, one of our most challenging, even considering the pandemic in the previous two years. It is down to the goliath effort of our people that we have been able to achieve such impressive results.”
The company has overcome considerable post-Covid supply challenges including a two-month lockdown in Shanghai coupled with industrial action in Felixstowe. As a result almost half a million items including first aid kits were produced in the UK.
In 2022 Reliance Medical opened offices in Ireland and New Zealand. It now has distributors in more than 40 countries and its reach grows year on year. 2022 also saw the company grow its sales on Amazon to supply the whole of Europe with first aid products.
It has a global reach but Reliance Medical is committed to giving back to the local community, including Chairman Andy Pear chairing the charity Ruby’s Fund which supports the families of children with special educational needs and disabilities.
It also regularly donates first aid supplies where needed around the world including recently helping the people of Ukraine and those caught in the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.
Reliance Medical has entered the Business of the Year, Growth and Innovation categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

Robust UK

Business of the Year entrant

One of the UK’s leading steel door manufacturers has set itself the ambitious target of doubling in size and achieving a £30 million turnover by 2030.
Longton-based Robust UK has already doubled its turnover since moving to its current site in 2015.
2023 is a year of major investment and growth for the firm which manufactures 25,000 door sets a year.
It’s currently building a manufacturing site in North Staffordshire as part of a multi-million-pound investment.
In November Robust UK is relocating from its current base in Sutherland Road to a £6 million pound production site at Lymedale Business Park, which will nearly double its size.
The firm has more than 40 years of experience in making bespoke steel door solutions.
Robust UK currently employs 150 staff but that number is growing as it is looking to recruit an additional 20 staff ahead of the move.
Robust produces around 400 doors per week from the current site and the investment in the new site will allow much higher volumes to be produced.
Managing Director David Lycett said: “It’s a really exciting time for Robust UK as this is just the start of a major financial investment in our future and our growth plans. We have been looking to move to bigger, better facilities for some time, but we wanted to find the perfect location not just to meet our manufacturing needs but the right location for our staff too.
“It’s not the first time we’ve moved. We actually started our journey from a factory in Tean when we were founded in 1997. We then moved to bigger premises in Cheadle as our business grew before moving again to our current home in Longton.
“Back in 2018 we invested £2 million into our existing site which allowed us to relocate the semi-automated production line from our facilities in Sweden to the UK, significantly increasing our production capacity.
“Five years on though we have grown exponentially and have literally outgrown our current site. The new facilities are going to be state of the art and will have enough space so we can continue our exciting growth plans for the future.
“The new world-class facility will be fully furnished with new equipment to ensure there is no loss of production between sites while moving.”
David added: “The company is in a really strong position and is consistently growing. As we plan for our big move this November and we continue to recruit there’s a real buzz about the company.
“We are extremely ambitious and have set ourselves some tough targets but with the team we have here and the plans we already have in place I am extremely confident that we will achieve them.”
Robust became part of the Novoferm Group, Europe’s largest entrance system supplier, in 2019.
Novoferm is part of the Sanwa Group, a world leading manufacturer of entrance systems founded more than 50 years ago. The group has around 9,000 employees and annual sales in more than 60 countries totalling more than €2.5 billion.
Robust UK has entered the Business of the Year and Growth categories of Staffordshire University Business Awards.

Nemesis Now

Business of the Year entrant

Nemesis Now creates licensed giftware, merchandise and collectibles, working with the world’s most iconic entertainment brands across TV, film, music and gaming to develop unique and exclusive products.
A proactive export policy has seen the company’s EU revenue increase by 113% over the last two years and its rest of the world revenue increase by 187%.
This has been achieved by replicating Nemesis Now’s already successful UK market but tailoring it to the intricacies of new export markets.
It has established its US entity, Nemesis Now Inc, expanded its warehouse capacity by 20% and opened a second Stoke-on-Trent base.
New and innovative online techniques have driven an increase in web traffic of more than 91% since 2020.
The website runs on 100% renewable energy and Nemesis Now is one of the first UK licensed merchandise producers to introduce plastic-free and fully recyclable packaging.
Employment in the business is continuing to increase both locally and internationally, with the headcount up 22% due to expansion. So far this year Nemesis Now has hired five new employees for brand new roles as well as several warehouse staff. New employment opportunities are set to arise from the opening of the US entity.
Managing Director Nick Chadwick said: “As a Managing Director, one of the most fulfilling aspects is witnessing the growth and development of individuals within the organization. Seeing talented people evolve and flourish into key and integral members of the team is truly a highlight.”
It may have a global presence but Nemesis Now is still very much rooted in Stoke-on-Trent. The company supports local charities and community projects including taking part in DJH Mitten Clarke’s five-a-side football tournament and for Christmas 2022 all annual corporate gifts were donated to Stoke-on-Trent foodbank.
Nemesis Now has entered the Business of the Year category of Staffordshire University Business Awards.


Business of the Year entrant

The growth of Stoke-on-Trent based GivEnergy has been nothing short of exponential. Turnover has gone from under £1million in 2020 to in excess of a projected £100million in 2023.
Now the business that has only been trading for five years is ramping up its manufacturing capabilities at pace. It is building a new factory in Stoke-on-Trent that’s due to be completed in November, with plans for a second factory pending permission. The company has also bought a new factory in China to keep up with growing demand.
GivEnergy is innovating to end fuel poverty and empower energy freedom for all. Its battery storage systems allow customers to store green energy from renewables and/or from the grid via off-peak tariffs. They can then use that stored energy to cheaply and cleanly power their home or business, cutting both energy costs and carbon emissions in the process.
The company is also giving back by spending around £500,000 per year for the next three years on its not-for-profit business, GivEducation.
“We have the resource to act as a force for good, and we’re passionate about doing so,” said CEO Jason Howlett.
“It’s an exciting scenario: the more we grow, the more we give back to the community, the more we help build a sustainable future, and the more we help mitigate energy security and energy poverty concerns.”
GivEnergy wants to turn North Staffordshire into a centre of excellence for the renewables industry. As part of this, it’s giving back to the communities it serves through continued physical investment. For example, the company has recently brought life back to an abandoned three-story office in Newcastle-under-Lyme – purchasing the property and transforming it into a sustainable HQ that’s completely powered by renewable energy.
“As well as creating new jobs and opportunities for career progression, we also help get people into the work in the first instance, through apprenticeships and graduate schemes,” said Jason. “It’s about giving everyone a chance, no matter what their background.”
Now GivEnergy has entered four categories in the Staffordshire University Business Awards – Business of the Year, Innovation, Growth and Business in the Community.

TMT First

Business of the Year entrant

Staffordshire-based technology company TMT First is on track to grow its turnover to £58.5 million over the next few years by investing in people and processes.
Founded by Adam Whitehouse, who began with one shop in Longton, the company now has 144 employees and a 43,000 square foot headquarters in Newcastle-under-Lyme.
TMT First’s core business is the repair, refurbishment and recycling of technology, working in partnership with clients to build a more sustainable future for mobile technology.
“Keeping technology alive for longer is at the centre of everything we do,” said Adam.
“Through our commitment to quality, sustainability and customer service excellence, we strive to be the UK’s most trusted and respected company providing technology lifecycle services.”
Over the course of a year TMT First processes more than 200,000 products including phones, wearables, tablets and laptops for businesses as well as direct to the general public through its consumer brand Meelie Mobile.
The company is planning for continuous and rapid grow – its projected turnover for 2023 is £19.5 million rising to £26.5 million in 2024, with identified clients and initiatives that will deliver this growth.
Longer term, the five-year plan is to target 3.5 times growth from 2022 levels to deliver a revenue of £53.5 million. To deliver these ambitious growth targets the company is investing in both people and processes.
Environmental sustainability is integral to everything TMT does as the mobile phone industry is responsible for around one percent of global CO2 emissions. Extending the life of devices, rather than replacing them, creates a huge environmental benefit.
TMT First has entered the Business of the Year category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.


Business of the Year entrant

In the last year alone Woolcool has saved 2,103 tonnes of polystyrene from going into landfill, the equivalent weight of 21 blue whales or 525 Asian elephants.
The Stone-based natural packaging company has used more than 30 million kilos of pure sheep’s wool since it was founded by Angela Morris, a Staffordshire University alumni who is still CEO of the company.
“I am immensely proud of our 65-strong Woolcool team who together have created a unique two-time Queens Award winner and packaging industry leading B-Corp business,” said Angela, who has worked in the packaging industry for more than 40 years.
“Woolcool are pioneers of the sustainable packaging revolution. Over two decades ago we created a unique sustainable insulated packaging solution.
“Woolcool products are designed and manufactured in the UK. Our processes are flexible and cater for every size of demand, supplying our solutions into pharmaceutical and food companies across the UK and overseas.
“We are striving to give wool renewed credibility, along with other natural materials, in a world that has increasingly come to assume that science and manmade materials are the single answer to all its problems.
“At Woolcool we believe that natural materials, working together with cutting edge scientific technology, can create superior, innovative, and sustainable solutions that are good for people and the planet.”
Using natural materials to help change the world for the better, Woolcool is the founder, pioneer and innovator of the sustainable packaging revolution.
Today Woolcool is a pioneering, second generation, female-led, family business that harnesses the properties of natural materials to create environmentally responsible insulated packaging products with the potential to reduce plastic waste, thereby helping to address climate challenges.
Designed and manufactured in the UK using 100% pure sheep’s wool, Woolcool has grown to become the insulated packaging of choice for many leading UK and European food and pharmaceutical companies in the growing world of online ordering and delivery.
The company is entirely self-financed with no third-party investors, debentures, loans, bank overdraft or other financial arrangements. Woolcool openly supports Terra Carta, The Better Business Act and B Corp initiatives.
Last March Woolcool launched Hortiwool, a unique new multi-use product that allows gardeners to harness the properties of pure sheep’s wool. Hortiwool has been so successful in the UK garden industry that it won the sustainability category in the 2022 GIMA Awards.

Therser UK

Business of the Year entrant

The UK’s largest thermal services provider, Burslem-based Therser UK, has seen its turnover jump from £5.9million to £14.1million in just 12 months.
The company, which was founded in 2009 and has around 70 staff, works with the likes of Rolls Royce and pottery firms.
It manufactures industrial kilns, furnaces and dryers and has been increasingly working on battery-powered kilns.
The company’s management team has more than 150 years of accumulative experience in the thermal sector and deliberately chose to site the business in the very heart of the UK’s ceramics industry.
Sales Director Matthew Pound said: “At Therser UK we strive to be at the forefront of new technologies and the latest standards. Our aim with our test kilns is to drive a greener future. Whether its electric or hydrogen, we will be able to offer our customers a better option for the planet.”
Therser has a head office in Walley Street, Burslem, a second Burslem site at the former Dudson potbank and a Meir Park site at the former Autobrite Direct premises.
It has also just opened the Therser Wellman Furnace and Alloy Division in Tipton after taking over Wellman.
Matthew added: “We have doubled our management and engineering personnel over the past two years in order to facilitate our growing order book.
“We have invested into our business and people and have been successfully awarded industry standards including ISO 14001, ISO 45001, ISO 9001 and I-Gas.”
Therser UK has entered the Business of the Year category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

JPR Group

Business of the Year entrant

Stoke-on-Trent based building services specialists JPR Group has seen turnover grow in the past three years from around £10m to an estimated £20m at the end of the current financial year.

The business, which was set up in 1972, has a workforce of around 130 and currently employs 20 apprentices across divisions including mechanical, electrical and plumbing, fire and security and data and telecoms.

A JPR spokeswoman said: “We are committed to investing in a rolling programme of training and development for all staff, both office and operatives, alongside the belief that our people are our best asset. Improving their skill base across our service offer along with ensuring their wellbeing has been and will continue to be key to our growth.
“This approach has helped to reinforce our reputation for innovation as multi-service contractors throughout the UK. We have a smart and energetic management who play to their individual strengths and specialisms supporting the workforce with the aim to increase excellence in service delivery and customer retention which in turn leads to sustainable business growth.
“Since the appointment of an experienced senior manager from the construction industry in 2020, we have seen a steady increase in acquiring larger contracts with the ability to deliver projects up to £5m, which has positively affected group turnover.”

Significant recent contracts include the Heathfield Development in Chell worth £3m; Adobe local student accommodation with a combined value of £1.7m; HMP Sudbury and Hatfield Prison both refurbishment and new build with a value of £4m; Spode Museum in Stoke, completed in early 2023 with a value of £60,000; Staffordshire University framework agreement with a £1m per year potential value and Network Rail offices in Stoke with a value of £2m.

JPR is committed to corporate social responsibility activities including a string of charity fundraisers, employing 99.9% of its staff from within ST postcodes and spending around £5m per year with local suppliers.
The JPR spokeswoman added: “We intend to be around for the next 51 years (and longer) offering industry leading exemplary service, valuing staff and clients and playing an active role in making Stoke-on-Trent a vibrant, inclusive and prosperous community.”

JPR Group has entered the Business of the Year category of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

SG Fleet UK

Business of the Year entrant

SG Fleet UK has experienced remarkable growth over the past few years.
The fleet services and employee car benefits company, which has a head office at Tunstall Arrow in Stoke-on-Trent, was named Fleet News Leasing Company of the Year for 2022.
The company, which has sister businesses in Australia and New Zealand, has grown across numerous metrics including fleet size and an increase in orders for its salary sacrifice product.
The salary sacrifice scheme now allows employees impacted by reduced salary periods, such as maternity leave, greater flexibility when leasing a car through their employer. SG Fleet is now the sole car salary sacrifice provider to the UK’s leading employee benefits consultant.
New products have been brought in to help customers through challenging economic times including a flexible duration fleet called Flexi Rent, secondary use of low mileage vehicles and measures to tackle tyre shortage issues.
Investment in technology and a commitment to innovation has included an increased investment in advanced systems, positioning SG Fleet as an innovator in car leasing and helping the company to stay ahead of the curve to meet evolving client needs.
Financial growth has been consistent over the past few years showing sound financial management and strategic decision making. The size of the team has also grown.
It recently secured its largest-ever client, a well-known estate agency brand with a fleet size of 3,000 vehicles, underlining its ability to attract and secure substantial contracts and establish strong partnerships.
SG Fleet has entered the Growth Award and Business of the Year categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards.

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