Ulster Bank launches 2012 Business Achievers Awards

Start-ups, food & drink firms, agri-businesses, SMEs, social enterprises and all other companies called on to embrace popular scheme

Ulster Bank has launched the 19th Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards with a call to companies to embrace the full benefits of the programme – the networking, the development events and most importantly, the positive publicity it can bring.

Igniting the hunt for top achievers were: Ian Jordan, Ulster Bank; Thomas Hunter McGowan of IntertradeIreland; Barabra Ann Hitchens of last year’s overall winner TG Eakin; and Dr John Miller of Invest NI.

For the past three years, over a third of all entries to the Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards have been in the ‘Best Business Start Up’ category, which highlights the relevance of awards programmes, and the resulting profile, to new businesses, the bank says.

Categories including those for Innovation & Emerging Technology have also been increasingly popular, with many companies entering important categories for social enterprises and international businesses as well.

This year, Ulster Bank has added some new categories to celebrate the growing diversity and strength of the SME (small and medium-sized enterprise) sector – a Woman-Led Business category, a Best Established SME category, and a division into two separate categories of Agri-Business, and Food & Drink.

The awards, which are run in Northern Ireland in association with Invest NI, InterTradeIreland and The Belfast Telegraph, as well as Smallbusinesscan.com, are supported by organisations including the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, the Institute of Directors (IoD) Northern Ireland, and The Prince’s Trust.

Speaking at the launch of the awards at Riddel Hall, Belfast, Ian Jordan, Director, Corporate Banking Division, Ulster Bank said: “Almost nine out of 10 companies we surveyed told us that they enter awards for the PR and profile. For start-up companies, who made up a third of entries from Ulster in last year’s Business Achievers, the awareness of their business and its achievements that winning awards can bring is crucial.”

“To make entering the Business Achievers Awards even more worthwhile for start-ups, and other companies, this year we are enhancing the programme to include a new ‘Business Achievers Roadshow’, when companies can benefit from workshops, seminars, and networking, as well as the experiences of past winners.

“We will also be providing additional PR opportunities for companies who may not make the all-island final. Every day there are successes and positive stories in the business community and we want to highlight and support them,” he adds.

Ian Murphy, Director at Invest NI, said:  “Invest Northern Ireland is delighted to be associated with the awards again this year.  They are an important platform for recognising both entrepreneurs and businesses who have, despite a challenging economic environment, worked extremely hard to grow and boost their competitiveness, find new customers in new markets, diversify their product offering and take the necessary steps to secure their future position.”

Thomas Hunter McGowan, CEO of InterTradeIreland said: “InterTradeIreland is an organisation that continues to support small businesses, both North and South, in terms of innovation and cross border trade. We are delighted once again to be involved in these prestigious awards to help recognise the efforts of some of the best SMEs across the island. I would encourage local SMEs to enter this year’s Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards and to benefit from the fantastic support and assistance offered.”

In addition to the Ulster stage of the awards, Northern Ireland companies have been highly success in the All-Island Final. Comber-based TG Eakin was the overall winner last year, as well as the International Business Award winner. At the same awards, North West company Budget Energy won the Best Business Start-up category.

This follows successes the previous year for Belfast-based Andor Technology (Overall Winner and International Business Category winner), and North West firm BubbleBum (Best Business Start-up). Other Northern Ireland companies to meet with success at the all-island stage in recent years include First Derivatives and Mash Direct.

The 2012 Ulster Bank Business Achiever will receive a comprehensive prize package including a publishing bursary with the Irish Independent, business mentoring, a full service communications workshop, as well as much positive PR coverage at both the provincial and all-island stages of the awards through media partners the Irish Independent and Belfast Telegraph, as well as other media.

Ulster Bank’s Awards are open to all SMEs.   Businesses can enter at Businessachieversaward.com and entries will close on 28th February.

For full details and to enter, visit Businessachieversaward.com or find us on twitter @ulsterbank_BAA / #businessachievers. The Business Achievers Roadshow will take place in January and February,  and details will be made available at Businessachieversaward.com.