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Thames Valley SME Growth 100 awards honour region's economic drivers

1 March 2023
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Thames Valley SME Growth 100 winners

The Thames Valley’s most active SMEs were honoured at the fourth annual Thames Valley SME Growth 100 awards. Prestige watchmaker Bremont hosted the event at its Henley-on-Thames headquarters, with Oxford BioTherapeutics a well-deserved double award winner.

The listing is published by The Business Magazine and has an annual campaign programme highlighting and celebrating the region's top 100 SMEs with turnover between £1m and £20m that have grown significantly in the past year. The listing is sponsored by Herrington Carmichael, Hicks Baker and Crowe, who worked together to meet with the awards finalists to discuss and decide collectively on the winners.

Before the award presentations, the 60 guests and finalists heard about Bremont's inspiring history from one of the company's co-founders. Established in 2002 by brothers Nick and Giles English and inspired by their father, Bremont brought its manufacturing to the UK in 2010 and in 2021 opened an impressive eco-friendly 35,000-square-foot manufacturing and technology centre located by the Thames in Henley.

Nick English, Co-Founder of Bremont
Nick English, Co-Founder of Bremont

Nick described their desire to bring watch making back to the UK, which was once one of the world's leading innovators and manufacturers of timepieces. The brothers' focus for Bremont is on UK manufacturing, supplying the military and in particular aviation, and on branding their watches for people with a sense of adventure.

The Thames Valley SME 100 Growth awards went to…

Workforce of the Year

Winner: Bridewell

Alistair McArthur, Herrington Carmichael (right) presents Workforce of the Year to Antony Young and Scott Nicholson from Bridewell
Alistair McArthur, Herrington Carmichael (right) presents Workforce of the Year to Antony Young and Scott Nicholson from Bridewell

“For us, it is always about getting the right quality of people. We have focused a lot on building our internal talent recruitment team that constantly maps out the best cybersecurity talent in the UK. When we interview people, if they are not quite right for us at the time, we keep in touch so if a role opens up we can bring them in. We focus a lot on learning and development, and we also recruit people who are ex-armed forces or on career transitions. We developed our company values in consultation with our staff and we all try to live by them.” Anthony Young and Scott Nicholson, Co-founders

Judge’s comments: “This was an incredibly strong category. Our winner has experienced a period of particularly rapid growth, hiring 15 people a month to now be a 200+ employee organisation. It was clear that the company values of ‘do the right thing’, ‘one team’ and ‘going above and beyond’ are key elements during the recruitment process and beyond, and it was this that gave our winner the edge.”

Finalists:

• Hawkins Group of Companies

• Walker Logistics

SME 100 Growth (below £10m)

Winner: FullCircl

Alistair McArthur, Herrington Carmichael (right) presents SME Growth 100 Award (below £10m) to Andrew Yates (centre) and Taylor Hart from FullCircl
Alistair McArthur, Herrington Carmichael (right) presents SME Growth 100 Award (below £10m) to Andrew Yates (centre) and Taylor Hart from FullCircl

“A lot of organisations were interested in buying us but then I had a call with a CEO at another company who I knew and we talked about working together as our businesses are complementary. So, one plus one equalled three. We have extended our value proposition for both sets of customers; we can cross-sell, upsell and focus on customer retention, as well as customer expansion and growth. We used the Entrepreneurial Operating System to bring the businesses together with a common vision and collective core values. There may be future acquisitions and we are also really excited about strategic partnerships we are working on, including with Google.” Andrew Yates, CEO

Judge’s comments: “Another very strong category, with those short-listed having a minimum of 15% growth during the qualifying period, which in a ‘normal’ year would be excellent, but with Covid-19 and Brexit headwinds thrown in makes it even more impressive. Our winner grew by an amazing 115% during the qualifying period and has grown since, too. Throw in an acquisition and a rebranding, and it has been a very busy past year or two for them.”

Finalists:

• Cherwell Logistics

• Craft Buddy

SME 100 Growth (above £10m)

Winner: Square Health

Stuart Weekes, Crowe (right) presents SME Growth 100 Award (above £10m) to Dr Bippon Vinayak and Monisha Vinayak from Square Health
Stuart Weekes, Crowe (right) presents SME Growth 100 Award (above £10m) to Dr Bippon Vinayak and Monisha Vinayak from Square Health

“Covid-19 had a big impact on the acceleration in adapting digital healthcare. It allowed us to mobilise huge amounts of resources across the UK and deploy them in areas of need. The UK has had to reinvent the delivery of healthcare and this was an open door for us. A catalyst was in people being able to access GPs when practices were closed and there have also been growing areas of healthcare provision, such as mental health services for younger people. We have been more-or-less doubling our year-on-year revenue. Our staff are the most critical part of the business and we have a culture of working hard, promoting teamwork and supporting each other.” Dr Bippon Vinayak, Co-founder and Monisha Vinayak, Commercial Director

Judges’ comments: “One of the fastest growing companies in our list, they have continued the rapid level of growth over the last year. By leveraging technology, they have quickly built solutions that complement and expand more traditional healthcare models. Their clear and focused vision and long-term client commitments suggest that we are only seeing the start of their success.” 

Finalists:

• Bridewell

• Cyberfort Group

Owner-Managed Business of the Year

Winner: Craft Buddy

Stuart Weekes, Crowe (right) presents Owner-Managed Business of the Year to Dino and Gary Wadhwani from Craft Buddy
Stuart Weekes, Crowe (right) presents Owner-Managed Business of the Year to Dino and Gary Wadhwani from Craft Buddy

“I had worked for our father’s arts and craft business that imported goods from India and Gary had worked for a DIY chain where he gained experience sourcing products from China. We combined our knowledge to establish Craft Buddy. Our licenced product ranges with major brands began almost by accident when Disney visited our stand at a trade fair in Birmingham in 2020. We retail through a range of channels, including online, direct to consumers, to trade and distributors, and through TV shopping. We aim to continue on the same growth trajectory as we build the brand and get in front of more consumers.” Dino and Gary Wadhwani, Co-founders

Judges’ comments: “A strong group of family and owner-managed businesses made judging very difficult. Our winner impressed with their passion and commitment in a challenging sector. Their pragmatic and timely strategies alongside a genuine bootstrapped approach is an ideal lesson in how to navigate the myriad channels of retail. What was started by two brothers in their aunt’s house is now winning new customers in over 30 countries with their innovative brand and licence portfolio.” 

Finalists:

• Cherwell Laboratories

• Hawkins Group of Companies

• Square Health

Tech Company of the Year

Winner: Oxford BioTherapeutics

Dominic Faires, Hicks Baker (right) presents Tech Company of the Year to Lindsey Hudson and Ben Thomas from Oxford BioTherapeutics
Dominic Faires, Hicks Baker (right) presents Tech Company of the Year to Lindsey Hudson and Ben Thomas from Oxford BioTherapeutics

“Our business is about identifying new ways to tackle cancer and working with major pharmaceutical companies to develop therapies. We use a lot of technology in our approach, including mass spectrometry and analytical biochemistry. What drives the company is the passion we all have for what we do. We are striving for the same thing: to help cancer patients who don’t have other methods of treatment available to them.” Ben Thomas, Senior Director, and Lindsey Hudson, Director of Business Development & Partnership Alliance

Judges’ comments: “An exemplary business in its field, specialising in immunotherapies for cancer, with significant rates of success and continued business growth in recent years, they scored highly across several award categories. Their advancements in using technology to innovate ‘T cell therapies’, harnessing immune cells to help cure cancer, are industry leading and quite remarkable.”

Finalists:

• Bridewell

• Cyberfort Group

Resilience Award

Winner: Shorts Group

Giles Blagden, Hicks Baker (right) presents the Resilience Award to Gary Short and David Guest from Shorts Group
Giles Blagden, Hicks Baker (right) presents the Resilience Award to Gary Short and David Guest from Shorts Group

“We are always diversifying our business and the Covid-19 pandemic led us to add more services, like the provision of portable toilets and staff welfare offerings. We jumped into this market and growth here continues. We listen to our customers and our people as we expand. One of our biggest challenges is recruiting and retaining staff as skip and plant hire, along with waste collection, is a very hands-on business. One way we do this is through the apprenticeship scheme we set up six years ago. We also maintain strong links with our community, for example, with local rugby clubs. Many of our employees’ children play sports and we feel it is important to support the next generation. It’s an approach that is in the DNA of our family-owned business.” Gary Short, Owner, and David Guest, Finance Director

Judges’ comments: “A strong owner-managed family business, who have successfully grown and diversified their operations since the pandemic, while maintaining very strong links to each of the local communities in which they operate. They have overcome both internal and external challenges to refine and maintain their core business, while also developing multiple new service lines to complement their customer offering.”

Finalists:

• BMG (Business Moves Group)

• Country Estates

Special Recognition Award

Winner: Oxford BioTherapeutics

Double winner: Richard Thompson, The Business Magazine, (right) presents Special Recognition Award to Lindsey Hudson and Ben Thomas from Oxford BioTherapeutics
Double winner: Richard Thompson, The Business Magazine, (right) presents Special Recognition Award to Lindsey Hudson and Ben Thomas from Oxford BioTherapeutics

“The company has almost doubled its revenue and number of employees since 2020. One of our drugs is currently in Phase 1 clinical trials and doing well. We are really excited to see what the next year will bring in terms of helping cancer patients. We are involved in another 17 partnered programmes with pharmaceutical companies and we have two clinical molecules in a partnership with a major pharmaceutical company that are progressing well in the clinic. We are starting to see efficacy with patients as well, although it will take at least four years to get a drug to market.” Ben Thomas, Senior Director, and Lindsey Hudson, Director of Business Development & Partnership Alliance

Judges’ comments: “Leaders in their field developing life-changing ‘T cell therapies’ that help identify and target cancer cells and map their interaction with the T cells that help form our body’s own immune response – they are making truly ground-breaking advances on the pathway towards curing cancer. This company’s ground-breaking achievements make them a very worthy winner.”

TV SME Growth 100

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