The event at Salomons Estate on Thursday (March 24) was hosted by none other than daytime and breakfast TV legend, Eamonn Holmes.
Eamonn treated the audience to his story of getting into broadcast journalism from a family which had never known such a career.
After he finished his journalism training, his mother told him: ‘You’ll go and get a job, a real job’, and he did – in the ladies’ underwear department of Primark in Belfast.
Being threatened over refunds which could be worth as little as 60p restored his ambition to follow his training and get a news job, even if he had to work in a pub five days a week to bring in an income for the family.
“My mother, I love her and bless her, but… no ambition. You guys—”
Eamonn told the audience— “you guys have got to be something extra. If you’ve got an ambition, if you’ve got a dream, tell someone about it.
“Let people know what you want, and you’ll be surprised at the opportunities that come your way.
“It’s hard to get in. It’s hard to get established. It’s hard to make a living,” he told the audience.
“If you’re here tonight, I applaud you.”
Guests also heard from Ian Alsop, General Manager at Lexus Tunbridge Wells, main sponsor of the event, before Eamonn was joined on stage by head judge Jo James OBE, chief executive of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, before the pair delivered the good news to ten businesses.
If at first you don’t succeed…
After two and a half years since the last Times Business Awards, and the small matter of a global pandemic, you would think we were starting again with a blank slate, yet time and again, the winners showed they had long memories – for both their past successes and their past near-misses.
Neill Thomas, of solicitors Thomas Mansfield, who won Best Business 25+ Employees, said: “It’s amazing. We’re very pleased. I’m actually shocked. We were pretty sure we weren’t going to win it, as we won one in 2019.”
Oliver Corkery of Corker Outdoor, the Young Business Person of the Year, was pleased to settle a score with the past, telling the Times: “We came to the awards in 2019, and it’s nice to come back again and win something.”
Meanwhile, a number of 2019 sponsors returned to make the category prizes possible.
Childrensalon remained stalwart sponsors of the Family Business of the Year category, while Thomas Snell & Passmore graduated from sponsoring Start Up Business of the Year in 2019 to Outstanding Business of the Year in 2022.
Handelsbanken gave its name to the Resilient Business category – new for 2022, to recognise imagination and grit in response to pandemic conditions – after supporting the Service Excellence Award in 2019.
Yet there are always new faces, as the Start Up Business of the Year category proves. Demonstrating the cycle of economic renewal in the area, there were nearly 30 entries from businesses which were under two years old at the closing date for entries, coinciding nearly exactly with the period of pandemic restrictions.
And the eventual winner, Jess Gibson of the TN Card, told the Times she was shocked to have beaten others in her category.
“I can’t believe we won this! There were so many deserving recipients in this category. The TN Card supports our local businesses, but all three of the other finalists opened during the pandemic,” she said.
Other finalists in that category were lumière, Manic Ceramix and TAW Hairdressing.
See the winners’ Roll of Honour
Awards Website: timesbusinessawards.co.uk
Photography: David Bartholomew © Times of Tunbridge Wells