Getting down to business

This month sees the Times Business Awards Gala Night taking place on March 30. SO magazine gets a sneak peek behind the scenes as preparations for the evening get underway and reveals how you too can be a part of this fantastic social and networking event…


After months of entrants’ carefully honing their applications for the Times Business Awards 2023 and judges deliberating over who will make the short list for each category, the culmination of all that hard work takes place in the form of a glittering black-tie gala night on March 30 at Salomons Victorian Science theatre when the winners will be announced.

Over 200 guests are expected to attend this year’s Times Business Awards dinner and ceremony, which will be hosted by media personality Nick Ferrari, along with the Times of Tunbridge Wells newspaper and the event’s head sponsors Berkeley Homes. The evening’s welcome drinks will be sponsored by investment management company Brewin Dolphin.

This year has seen an unprecedented number of entrants for each of the ten categories which include two new ones for 2023. They are Charity of the Year and Green Business of the Year.

The Times Business Awards have been running since 2016 and have seen the likes of former MPs Edwina Currie and Michael Portillo, alongside Strictly’s Anton du Beke and Radio 2 DJ Ken Bruce hosting the event which has always been a sell-out event.

Entering – and also sponsoring – the awards, which is one of the area’s biggest social and networking events, has myriad benefits as many of our local business community have testified.

Gillian Palmer founder of The Finance Hub and the newly launched Property Hub on The Pantiles told us why she was committed to sponsoring the 26+ employees category.

“The reason I chose that category is due to admiration for the people who are building these companies and still – in these difficult times – are employing so many local people.

“As I have been in their position before, I understand the challenges, hard work and commitment it takes to grow and maintain a business of that size. These business owners are an inspiration to all of us.”

Last year Andrew Mann was named Entrepreneur of the Year for his company Clarity Homes & Commercial, which provides services and project management to the property industry. With Clarity now sponsoring the new Green Business award, Mr Mann explained why the category appealed to his firm.

“After winning the Entrepreneur of the Year award last year, I was keen to sponsor a category that celebrates progressive and proactive businesses,” he said.

“The environment is something we should all be concerned about, and it is something we try to address on every project as a responsible construction company.”

Eighteen years ago Craig Strong launched a new business in Tunbridge Wells that went on to become an outstanding success. Today he is sponsoring the Start-Up category of the Times

Business Awards. Cornerstone, as it is now known, ‘didn’t have a single client’ when it launched as Capital Currencies all those years ago.

Following a career as a trader and broker, Craig Strong founded the international payments and foreign currency management business focusing on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and had to build a customer base from zero.

“As a start-up, you have got no history. The principles are the same – of service and fairer

pricing – but we didn’t have a client base,” he said.

He believes that sponsoring the Start-Up award is both a gesture to other companies following the same path and a contribution to the local area.

Ed Willshire, co-founder of The Rum Company which started in lockdown 2020, is entering the awards in the Entrepreneur of the Year and Best Business 1-25 categories.

He and his business partner Tom Fantom say they believe Tunbridge Wells is a great place to start a company and operate from thanks to a number of initiatives including the shopping loyalty scheme the TN card.

“We are TN Card partners, and as such we reward local shoppers. The local events and hospitality sector are also a major factor in helping The Rum Company to get its small rum labels into customers’ hands. We have done a number of events locally over the last few years including The Pantiles Markets, Pantiles Gin Fest and Pub in the Park in Tunbridge Wells.”

We simply say cheers to that and good luck to all those business, large and small who have entered this year’s awards…



There are five Times Business Awards judges in total and they each come from a range of business sectors including accountancy and law as well as manufacturing, design, recruitment and retail.

They will each use their experience and expertise to tease out the best entrants in the ten award categories which this year include Best Family Business, Entrepreneur of the Year, Charity of the Year and Green Business.

Making up this year’s judging panel are:

Darren Austin Director of Synergee The chartered accountants and business advisors

Paul Fleming Tek Seating The design and manufacturer of specialist vehicle seating for the defence and commercial sector, and ergonomic office chairs

Pam Loch Founder of Loch Associates and chair of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Business Improvement District

Neil Simmons Managing director of TN Recruits agency

Simon Youden Store director of Fenwick in Tunbridge Wells and Canterbury

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